Over the last year, we have been faced with a reality where change and uncertainty have become part of our daily lives. The comfort which we previously found in routine and peace of mind has, for many, been replaced by a feeling of lack of control, often leading to anxiety.
The Collins English dictionary defines “anxiety” as: “a state of uneasiness or tension caused by apprehension of possible future misfortune, danger, etc.; worry.” The goal to ease this anxiety would thus be to bring about greater relaxation and to achieve mindfulness.
Mindfulness has become quite a buzzword in psychology and it is something I prescribe to my patients (and myself!) daily.
So what is mindfulness? In a nutshell, it is “living in the moment” and containing your thoughts within the present, rather than the past or the future.
I find that distracting myself from the “what if’s” is really effective in controlling any anxiety I experience. Patients have also reported it assists them with expelling negativity and helps to gain a sense of control.
Mindfulness exercises focus on your five senses.
An exercise I recommend to a lot of my patients is a senses exercise in which focus is given to your five senses in order to guide your mind to the here-and-now. At the end of a challenging day, something like a nice long bath could help you do just this. Play some instrumental music on your phone, turn off the lights and light a scented candle. Add some bubble bath or bath salts to the water. And while you lie there,
really focus on your five senses, giving them more attention than you normally would.
I’m a thinker and perfectionist and I’ve realized that any feeling I feel, is generally preceded by a thought. For me, the key to easing anxiety is therefore to focus on influencing what happens in the “space” between a thought and an anxious feeling. This is however easier said than done and it takes a lot of practice. A statement I often say to myself and that I share with my patients is:
“Just because a thought exists, it does not mean it is true”.
We need to stop catastrophizing and thinking about the worst case scenario. It is a lot healthier to approach things we do and think about more realistically and less emotionally.
In the evening, when you are winding down and heading to bed,
end your day with positivity, rather than negativity.
Over the years I have noticed that the majority of my patients affirm themselves negatively rather than positively. End your day with positive affirmations such as: “You’ve got this, just focus on one thing at a time”, instead of “I can’t do this anymore”. Look back at your day and think about everything you are grateful for, whether it be your cup of coffee in the morning or a call you got from a friend.
Another great technique is to write down what is making you anxious.
Have a notepad and pen ready next to your bed or use a memo on your phone. There is so much power in releasing your mind of thought and transferring it to an external space. The next day you can review what you jotted down the night before and it is surprising how often when viewed the next day, the same thought which caused so much anxiety the night before, doesn’t seem to be too bad after all.
If you are still having difficulty falling asleep,
you can consider initiating some breathing exercises and progressive muscle relaxation.
My patients love these as they are quick and easy and you can make the exercise as short or as long as you need. The mind-body connection is often stronger than we realise.
After practicing some or all of the above techniques, you will hopefully be able to “redefine” what anxiety means for you, where evenings are a precious time in which you are able to unwind from your day and go to sleep feeling calm, in control and tension free.
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