Do you worry all the time? Does worry and fear affect your health and how you live your life? Combining medications, as millions of people do, may not be as safe as once believed. So, are you ready to practice a few simple techniques to quiet your mind, calm your adrenals and remember how it feels to be relaxed, tranquil and happy?
There are lots of things we all can do, beginning right now to silence the mind’s chatter and calm the spirit. Most of them don’t cost us anything but time and devotion. You simply need to do them regularly. Most of us know that prevention is the best medicine. These Seven Steps can be used as prevention by supporting balance for the mind and spirit before worry causes pain or serious illness. And, they may also be practiced right along with a treatment program.
1. Breathe deeply. Take about ten minutes or more every day to quiet the mind by focusing on your breath. You may try five minutes upon awakening and five minutes just before you go to sleep. Or you may prefer the shower or waiting in line to breathe deeply for a few minutes. Wherever you find a few moments in your day, just close your eyes, relax and focus on your breath.
Let your attention follow your breath; slowly in…; slowly out…; now breathe out just a little bit more. Rest a moment. Breathe in. Repeat. Listen to your body. Stay present. Whenever a thought from the past, future or the outside world slips into your consciousness, acknowledge it, agree to ‘deal with it later’ and bring your attention back to your breath. Quietly In… Out… In… Out… Relax. Breathe deeply from deep in the belly.
Whenever you find yourself in a stressful situation and things begin to feel overwhelming, try practicing this or another breathing exercise. Breathe in and out; breathe out just a bit more. Breathe in again. Now you’re better equipped to respond to whatever was compounding your stress level.
2. Feel gratitude. Express your gratitude often; to yourself; your loved ones; your Creator; to those who offer you their assistance throughout your day; to everybody and everything that impacts your life. Feel the emotions that accompany true thankfulness for all that you have right now.
Practice this acknowledgement of gratitude every day. If you’re in a particularly stressful situation, do it often throughout your day and you will notice how quickly things begin to shift.
Twenty-six years ago, when I was six months pregnant with my first daughter, I arrived home to find it surrounded with firefighters, blackened, with a few wisps of smoke still swirling from the door and windows. The surrounding ground with drenched. I had lost everything in there, but even in that moment, it felt like it was somewhat insignificant in the bigger picture of life. I just kept rubbing my tummy and mumbling “It was all just stuff; I have what’s really important to me.” I must have said this, mostly to myself, at least a hundred times over the next few days. I also felt grateful for my friends and loved ones, for strangers who reached out to help, etc. This strong sense of gratitude got me through this very difficult situation.
3. Smile as often as you can. When we smile and laugh, we produce the very chemicals that make our brain and nervous system feel happy and calm. Smiles are infectious, so if we smile more, so will those around us. We’ll all feel better. The more worried, stressed, anxious and depressed we may be feeling today, the more important it is for us to smile frequently.
When you’re feeling particularly worried, force yourself to smile. Really stretch that smile into an exaggerated grin. Hold it a few moments, and repeat. See if this helps you to cope with your current situation.
The following is a brilliant case for smiling throughout your day, excerpted from the Universal Tao Center website article “The Inner Smile”.
‘A deep inner smile spreads like a relaxing elixir making us receptive to transform negative energy into positive. Conversely, a scowl suppresses our immune system by increasing stress, contracting channels and blocking energy. Research by French physiologist Dr Israel Waynbaum indicates that facial muscles used to express emotion trigger specific brain neurotransmitters. Smiling signals happy healing hormones such as ecstatic endorphins and immune boosting killer T-cells whereas frowning triggers the secretion of stress hormones. Smile therapy actually lowers the stress hormones cortisol, adrenalin and noradrenaline and produces hormones which stabilize blood pressure, relax muscles, improve respiration, reduce pain, accelerate healing and stabilize mood. If you’re feeling down, the stress hormones secreted with a scowl may increase blood pressure, weaken the immune system, increase susceptibility to infections, and exacerbate depression and anxiety.
But what if we don’t feel like smiling? Can we fake it till we make it? Though a heart-felt smile has a deeper effect, even a surface smile tricks the brain into releasing happy hormones according to facial biofeedback research. And the more we smile, the more we want to smile, concluded a study where people allowed to smile found cartoons funnier than those suppressed from smiling by holding pencils in their lips. This is because each time we smile we reinforce happy neural pathways that fire more spontaneously with each subsequent use. Self-love smiling circuits then release healing nectar and self-hate messages release poisons that breed disease according to Taoism.’
4. Laugh frequently. It’s pretty hard to feel miserable when you laugh. If you’re stressed and worried, try going out to a club to enjoy a comedy show or a really funny play. Read the funnies, watch comedies and tell (good) jokes. Laughter, like smiling, increases endorphins, which increases a sense of well-being and seems to offer a natural pain killing ability. Laughter is shown to strengthen immune health, the cardiovascular system, helps us think more clearly and improve memory, and release physical and emotional pain. Pretty funny, aye?
5. Think good thoughts. Good thoughts help us to allow for goodness to flow about wherever we are. When a negative thought enters your mind, first stop it; then switch it around to a positive take on the given topic. When we’re stressed, anxious, withdrawn and in pain, the negative thoughts can flow like water from the tap. But just beginning the process of positive thinking allows for a break in pain and illness and gives us a sense of calm and more balance.
This can be a challenging process when we have been severely worried and anxious for awhile. Years ago, when my older daughter was a teenager, I found myself sleeping poorly and worrying about her well-being all the time; literally all the time. My mind raced from one fear to another; on and on. As part of my spiritual practice, I took on the assignment of transforming those worried, negative thoughts into calm, positive thoughts. I read that this may take a week or more to complete. It sure did! I found this process very empowering, and I worked to create positive thinking with each and every negative thought. It seemed to support my health on many levels, but it took me about eight months to finally feel that I was thinking positively nearly all the time.
If you are feeling stressed and get anxious more easily these days, you probably have a long string of fearful thoughts, like the endless loop tape, that begins upon awakening and may or may not shut off when you go to sleep. If this describes you, I urge you to try the exercise.Cchange your thoughts and begin to think more positively, one thought at a time. Every time you have a negative or fearful thought, rearrange it to become positive and kind of heart. Remember to breathe as you switch out those dark thoughts. You will likely find it difficult at first, as I did. But stay with it. The benefits are rewarding.
6. Move your body. Exercise daily; ideally for 30 minutes or more. The Mayo Clinic states: ‘Some evidence suggests that exercise positively affects the levels of certain mood-enhancing neurotransmitters in the brain. Exercise may also boost feel-good endorphins, release tension in muscles, help you sleep better and reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol. It also increases body temperature, which may have calming effects. All of these changes in your mind and body can improve such symptoms as sadness, anxiety, irritability, stress, fatigue, anger, self-doubt and hopelessness.’
Start where you are. If you’re not up for a 30 minute workout yet, start with six or ten minutes and every day, add a minute or two to the length of your workout until you reach 30 minutes daily.
Don’t overdo it, though. Excessive exercise can put too much stress on the heart, arteries, and glands, using up energy and putting our nervous system at an increased risk of breaking down.
7. Give back, or as I prefer to say it, pay it forward, often. Serve your community, your family and don’t forget to nurture yourself. If you have children, volunteering in your community is a wonderful way to spend time with them, and you’ll be building a strong foundation of character that they’ll take with them into adulthood.
Help an elder in your neighborhood, read to young children in a local daycare or neighborhood youth program or take on the big business polluters in your region. Whatever feels right to you, go on out there and help someone in need. Even small gestures done as often as we can make the time for make a huge difference in our own lives and in the world.
Be sure to care for yourself, too. Don’t be a martyr. We can care for our loved ones most effectively when we have also nurtured and pampered ourselves. I hear parents and caregivers often say that they don’t have the time to nurture themselves, or they just can’t afford to. I understand this well. But we really can’t afford not to, financially and with our time. Take a walk, a soothing bath, a much needed vacation or just buy yourself flowers every week.
If you are a caregiver who rarely takes care of yourself, please visit this wonderful blogsite: Intensive Care for the Nurturer’s Soul. You’ll be glad you did!
If you would appreciate some powerful and inspirational reading to continue to help relieve you of worry and fear, please check out any of the books written by Thich Nhat Hanh, such as Peace Is Every Step, or by H.H. The Dalai Lama, such as An Open Heart.
Have a good day!Home | Back to top--^