Stress and anxiety seem to be reaching almost epidemic levels in our society. Here are a couple of my favourite tools to help deal with overwhelm, stress &/or anxiety. Both can be done in a matter of minutes and are simple and effective.
Reduce Anxiety with the Staircase to Relaxation Technique
This is a visualization and can alter the mindset by picturing or imagining a beautiful, relaxing, peaceful scene. Don’t worry if you feel you’re not a ‘visual’ person and you don’t get a clear picture in your mind (many of us don’t). This exercise will work in the same way, if you just get a sense or feeling that you are walking down the steps and then are in your special place.
How to do it;
Make yourself comfortable in a place you won’t be disturbed for a few minutes and close your eyes. As you breathe in and out, spend a few moments focusing on your belly rising and falling as the breath enters and leaves, without changing or forcing the breath in any way.
Now imagine that you are standing at the top of a flight of ten steps leading down to a special place of relaxation. This could be somewhere you’ve been before or just somewhere you want to imagine, but somewhere where you feel peaceful, happy and relaxed. Perhaps it’s a beautiful beach, a scene in nature, a cosy room, or it could be somewhere you imagine would be the most relaxing place you could possibly be in.
As your breathing slows down naturally, just imagine on each outbreath taking a step down your staircase, holding onto a rail if you feel you need to. As you slowly descend, count down from 10 to 1 on each outbreath, looking forward to the scene that awaits you at the bottom. With the final step imagine stepping into your relaxing place.
Use all of your senses to create as vivid a place as possible. See the colours, shapes and quality of light. Hear any sounds that add to your sense of relaxation. Notice any smells or tastes that remind you of calm. Notice how your body feels in the place, whether it is warm or cool, notice sensations like sand under your feet on the beach or a warm, soft blanket in your cosy room.
Imagine sitting down in this place for a while. As you notice the different aspects of the scene, notice the relaxation spreading through your body, perhaps from your feet to your head. Notice how your mind has also quietened.
When you are ready, you can imagine leaving your scene, drifting back up the stairs, counting back from 1 to 10 and walking back into the room. Open your eyes and have a stretch. Notice how you feel. Know that you can return to your peaceful scene whenever you need to, it’s there waiting for you in your mind.
Relieve Anxiety or Fear with the Backward Spin Tool
Anxiety and fear can be felt as a physical feeling in the body. Normally it’s a feeling of movement and usually it’s moving too fast. Often it can be a spinning feeling that keeps repeating within the body. This tool is useful for helping you to move out of a fearful or anxious state of mind and into a more positive and helpful state.
How to do it;
Locate where you feel the anxiety moving in your body and notice which way the feeling ‘spins’. You can use your hands to model the direction of the spin.
Next imagine that you can move the spin outside of your body. Imagine it still spinning in the same direction but it is now outside of you.
Once it is outside of you imagine reversing the spin in the opposite direction (and the movement of your hands if you’re using them).
Now imagine bringing this spin back into your body, rotating in the opposite direction. Notice how it feels different. Imagine adding some laughter to the spin (this starts to release ‘feel-good’ hormones in the body and changes the feeling even more). Notice how you feel calmer.
These techniques are so simple but people report immediate relief and a mind shift when using them. They are taken from a couple of great books I use and recommend;
49 Ways to Think Yourself Well by Jan Alcoe & Emily Gajewski.
The Anti-Anxiety Toolkit by Melissa Tiers.