Many of us have experienced stress in our lives, whether it be going in to an important exam, waiting for someone important to call you back, or the first day at a new job.
Sometimes small concerns and worries can spiral and quickly consume our waking thoughts. Over 2 million Australians suffer with anxiety and this can manifest in many ways, including headaches, neck and back pain, insomnia, IBS and panic attacks.
Here are a few simple steps to help you regain a sense of control over your mind and body and bring stress levels back to normal.
1. Control your breathing
When your body is under stress, your breathing becomes more rapid and shallow. To control your breathing, focus on making your out breath longer than your in breath (breathe in for a count of 5 and out for a count of 7, or whatever is most comfortable for your normal rate of breathing).
2. Breathe into your belly
It is important to breathe into your abdomen, so place your hand on your stomach and ensure that it lifts as you fill your lungs. This will help to balance the levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide in your blood and reduce levels of stress hormones
3. Use Peripheral Vision for relaxation
Focus on a spot directly in front of you and slightly above eye level. Continuing to look at this point, allow your eyes to relax and start to take in what’s either side of the point, widening your vision and taking in as much as you can in the corners of your eyes.
Peripheral Vision activates the parasympathetic nervous system, the part of your nervous system that calms you down.
4. Relax your jaw and your shoulders
Concentrate on relaxing your jaw and your shoulders, which in turn will allow relaxation to flow throughout your body. Our jaw and shoulders carry most of our tension when at stress, so releasing these will encourage a state of calm.
Anxiety keeping you awake at night?
If anxiety is leading to insomnia – either through an inability to fall asleep, or waking and being unable to fall back to sleep – here are some steps to follow:
5. Set a bedtime routine / ritual
Go to bed at the same time each evening, avoid electronic devices and stimulus for 30 minutes prior to sleeping
6. Unload your thoughts
Keep a notepad at the side of your bed and prior to settling for sleep, write down your concerns, thoughts and actions and set them to one side to deal with in the morning
7. Use positive self talk
The Law of Attraction means that if you think ‘I’ll never get to sleep’ then that’s what will happen. Instead, say to yourself ‘I will have a comfortable sleep which will allow my body to get the rest that it needs’. Not everybody needs 7-8 hours of sleep a night, so take the pressure off achieving this.
8. Take time out of the equation
Set an alarm (if you have to), but put your clock out of sight so you stop monitoring time awake or asleep
9. Use Peripheral Vision to relax back to sleep
If you do wake, use Peripheral Vision to relax your mind and body and return to sleep