Look for the calm within yourself
Updated: Sep 12, 2020
Finding a moment of peace and clarity sometimes feel unattainable. It’s something searched for and often illusive. But moments can be found, nurtured and nourished.
We find ourselves in very uncertain times. Our usual ways of being have been challenged and we don't have a certain sense of when things will begin to feel more stable. It is not unsurprising that as a result, people are feeling more anxious than usual.
It is important to remember that feeling #anxious is normal. Most people will feel anxious at times, especially whilst coping with stressful events or change. Particularly when they have a significant impact on your life. We can feel anxious when we perceive we are under threat in some way, real or imagined.
Anxiety can be experienced through our thoughts, feelings and in our bodies. If you feel caught up in your anxiety and that it is getting in the way of your living a healthy or happy life then counselling could help you. Reach out and contact me and we could arrange a first session to discuss how it could do so. However, here are 4 strategies to look after yourself, and to begin to nurture and nourish your calm.
It sounds too simple right? But, there is a lot of evidence that suggests that we don't breathe correctly. And, research shows that it is most effective technique to reduce anxiety and anger, to bring #calm. It disrupts the flight or flight response that is initiated during heightened states of alertness.
In breathing here, the idea is taking long, deep calming breaths, to disrupt what is likely to be quicker, shallower breathing when we are feeling anxious. So what do I mean long, deep calming breaths? I'm sure some of you have even tried this and found it to not be effective! There are a variety of different techniques, but one I have found most effective is 1:2 breathing.
The technique requires you take a deep breath in (ideally through your nose but many of us don't do that) on a tempo count of say, 4 seconds. Filling up your lungs all the way to your diaphragm, and then begin to exhale at a tempo twice as long as your inhale. And, repeat this at least 5 times, continuing until you feel calmer.
I find for my clients that this mindful state of breathing can help slow the racing of the heart and encourage calmer breathing when anxiety is built up. Other techniques may be taking a deep breathe in, holding it for a few seconds and then releasing, or placing your hands on your chest and stomach and working on establishing an exactly matched tempo of inhale/exhale.
It's important that you try a number of different exercises and find what works for you. However, what is important is practicing these techniques when you are calm, so that accessing them during the moments you need them is more habitual. A top tip for this is to create some check in points through your day where you run through a cycle or two of breathing in this way. I suggest:
When you first wake up
When you first get to work
After you've parked your car somewhere
After your shower
Find a few times in a day that work for you as check-in points and practice, nurture your breath.
5-4-3-2-1 Grounding exercise
This grounding exercise works by encouraging you to be mindfully aware of what is happening around you. It uses your senses to connect you to the present, as you name each thing out loud. Start with trying to check in with your breathing, but pay attention throughout the exercise to how your breathe is impacted.
5 - LOOK: What are 5 things that you can see around you?
For example, you could say, I see the rug, I see the cup, I see the picture frame.
4 - FEEL: What are 4 things you can feel on you or around you?
You could move around if you wanted to touch anything specific, but try staying seated if you can at this point.
For example, you could say, I feel my feet warm in my socks, I feel the firmness of the ground under my feet, or I feel the softness of the chair I am sitting on.
3 - LISTEN: What are 3 things you can hear around you?
For example, you could say, I hear the sound of traffic outside, the fan oscillating, my foot tapping.
2 - SMELL: What are 2 things you can smell?
You should move, or pick up things, if you can't smell anything immediately, otherwise think of 2 of your favourite smells.
For example, you could say, I smell my perfume on my wrist, I smell the coffee down the hallway.
1 - TASTE: What is 1 thing you can taste?
This one might not be the easiest but if you really focus, can you taste the toothpaste from the morning? the sandwich from lunch? If you can't taste anything, consider naming something you would like to taste in that moment.
This technique is also something you practice mindfully everyday. Take a few minutes in the day to just be aware of what is around you - during your first morning drink, as your eating lunch, just as you go to bed. Find when works best for you.
Have a Grounding Object
This one is similar in some ways to the 5-4-3-2-1 technique, in that it uses a sense, touch. The idea is that you have an object, that you hold and bring your full focus on. It could be any number of things, but usually something small and portable.
Maybe it reminds of you of something important to you, or stimulates positive memories or feelings. It could be a necklace on your neck given to you by someone important, a key ring that reminds you of home, a pebble from the beach holiday you went on with your family. Something you can carry with you or leave on your desk at work.
This can be object you tell yourself you can touch when you are experiencing anxiety or frustration. Something you can focus on to help calm your thoughts, and feelings. Feel its edges, its weight, its temperature and if that changes with your touch.
In my #counselling room I keep a number of Himalayan Salt Stones for this purpose. They have interesting shapes and textures, and respond differently at different times. Focusing on these or your own objects can be a calming exercise. A moments reprieve in a fast paced world, a practice you can create a habit around, by mindfully touching and reconnecting with the memory or experiences it evokes.
I am by no means suggesting I am an expert on this! And, I'd recommend seeking #expertadvice if you find that this helps you, and you want to explore it in more detail. But, there is some basic practices that you can implement that may help you feel calmer.
Pressure Point Extra-1 (Yin Tang)
This pressure point is located at the midpoint between your eyebrows. Doing acupressure on this point can help relieve stress and anxiety.
Sit back in a comfortable position.
Place your right thumb or forefinger between your eyebrows
Apply pressure in a circular motion on this point for 5 to 10 minutes. The pressure should be gentle and shouldn’t cause discomfort.
Pressure Point Heart-7 (Shenmen)
This pressure point is located on the inner wrist crease, towards the little finger (ulnar) side and about one-fifth of the distance across your wrist.
Sit back in a comfortable position.
Feel for a hollow at the base of the pisiform bone
Place your right thumb on your left wrist
Apply pressure on this point for 2 to 3 minutes. The pressure should be gentle and shouldn’t cause discomfort
Repeat by placing your left thumb on your right wrist.
You can do acupressure on this point several times a day, or as needed.
All of these are just tools to assist with emotional concerns like stress and anxiety. There are many more tools to empower you to feel more in control. The NHS apps library also has a number of apps that you might find helpful.
If you feel that you might need additional support, consider contacting me for a first session and we can discuss how counselling might also help.
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