In this week's blog Kim from Seventh Heaven shares her top tips for reducing anxiety and stress...
Small methods, life changing results, implemented to a daily routine
In this blog I am going to focus on Anxiety & Stress, a global epidemic actively touching so many humans on our planet! Both Anxiety & Stress are the origins of illness and dis-ease in the body, when not living in harmony. Our bodies are super smart and have a way of speaking through illness in order to make us pay attention and become aware of what is going on from within.
Many of those reading this are, I imagine, living on the green isle of Ireland, either North or South. Our island contains major levels of stress from the ground up. It's an island of inactive volcanic rock mixed with a history of famine, invasion and war, all of which is trauma. My belief is that all of this has a detrimental and genetic effect to our energetic frequencies, not to mention the pressures of today's society, technology and this increasing illusion that we need to "keep up” and “perform".
Firstly, we need to understand how to identify anxiety & stress and does it apply to each of us?
MY PERSONAL EXPERIENCE
Up until last year, I spent most of my life living with anxiety, never truly identifying patterns of behaviour as anxiety & stress because it was all I'd ever known from the age of four years old, my conditioning was to "get up and get on with it".
Growing up, fear and trauma locked in at a very young age. Experiencing a somewhat turbulent childhood meant constantly living in "fight or flight" mode with my adrenal and cortisol levels on constant high alert in order to deal and cope with signs and moments of danger.
My teens were spent in living with an invisible illness that no doctor believed was real until getting diagnosed at the age of 22 with Endometriosis. Endometriosis literally took over my twenties more than my teens; 11 operations, several false menopauses and copious levels of HRT to shut down my reproductive system and give it rest. So, you guessed it - more anxiety, more stress, and an increasing resilience to keep going and battle through it. In 2008, the Endometriosis cleared completely simply because I started changing my attitude towards it all. I switched from medication to no meditation, did some energy healing then started yoga plus refused any further surgery. Life got significantly brighter & better, my thirties have been a total breath of fresh air.
All of the above meant that I was super sensitive; in the past I was afraid of flying, deep water, dogs, driving, being in large crowds, too much noise, and mostly just being afraid to be myself, as anxiety has a big impact on self-esteem. PTSD was rife and the anxiety created a heightened sensitivity to everything around me. Total adrenal overload.
Last year the "Get Up and Get on With It" came back to bite me, yet this time things came to a head. Life challenges were coming at 100 mph via all directions, so anxiety and stress raised their ugly heads again - this time it literally "floored me". A scary stage in my life, yet with many positive, transformative outcomes and the most enlightening life lessons, I decided to take six months out from teaching and work on myself full time for a change.
Today I can gladly say that I no longer experience anxiety or stress on a daily basis - or in fact, I barely experience it at all. A massive statement for me to acknowledge, let alone share out to the masses.
Now, I'm not saying my life did a miraculous u turn in one year where anxiety cured itself over that period. It has taken years of self work and self healing. Last year was the penultimate phase of my life – when I realised that this "Get Up and Get on With It" was utter BS. My body said ‘enough!’ as she couldn't keep going anymore, so this was my time to heal once and for all.
Over the years my journey towards healing was probably done arse about face; firstly, I underwent relaxation techniques, meditation, healing and yoga and only latterly worked on the origins of anxiety. With hindsight, it would have been easier the other way around, yet my belief is that everything is meant to be and I wouldn't change a single thing.
I’m sharing my experience with you to "keep it real", to not be afraid of opening up and deliver an authentic voice when talking about a topic that I have first hand knowledge of. We need to be comfortable in saying out loud "It’s OK to NOT be OK" and “It's NOT OK to NOT be OK".
Like many of my wellbeing industry colleagues, I am happy to admit that I am far from perfect and by no means super-human. Even with years spent gaining qualifications & skills for teaching myself and helping others to relax, breathe etc, my biggest learning came from the recognition of anxiety in itself and the social patterns behind it, not the tools to I had built up to help cope and ease it.
I feel the epidemic of anxiety & stress has spiralled beyond control, and I’m increasingly seeing it among my students and clients, hence speaking out. We need to talk more, be upfront and raise awareness, not only for ourselves but for our colleagues, loved ones, friends - and most importantly, the children of future generations. First, we must connect to ourselves for healing (if applicable), then reach out to others.
This is my experience, and I am grateful for everything that's occurred in my life to shape the person I am today. Each of us are unique and different, we each react or tolerate to anxiety & stress in different ways.
WHAT ARE THE SIGNS
There are several layers to Anxiety & Stress and the two often occur simultaneously. Below I list some of the emotional, mental and physical identifiers. Some of these symptoms are so subtle as we can become accustomed to living with them for decades. Stress can be silent and quite hard to detect.
Emotional & Mental
- Poor concentration & decision making
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Feeling out of control, or losing control
- Difficulty or inability to "quieten the mind" with racing thoughts
- Constant worry of what others will think
- Constant worry about everything (what if attitude)
- Low self-esteem which factors self-critique, worthlessness, hopelessness
- Isolation and avoiding others
- Low energy & increasing fatigue
- Nervousness and shaking
- Chest pain & tightness and rapid heartbeat
- Tunnel vision
- Headaches (tension)
- Upset stomach, including diarrhoea, constipation, and nausea
- Stiff joints, pains, and tense muscles
- Frequent colds and infections
- Low immune system
- Loss of sexual desire and/or ability
- Continuous ringing in ears (tinnitus)
- Cold or sweaty hands and feet
- Excessive sweating
- Dry mouth
- Clenched jaw, grinding teeth
OK, SO WHAT'S NEXT?
The first step in dealing with anxiety & atress must start with you, recognising the signs and taking action.
None of us are handed a rule book on life (that would be too easy), instead we learn from situations and surroundings so that our little brains during childhood can perceive and react to the world around us. Life is all about patterns which leads into frequency and vibration. Anxiety & Stress are vibrations and it’s up to us to change those frequencies to create a harmonious symphony to life.
Although, imagine if we did have rule book on life? What might it tell us? Here’s what I think it might say:
· Life doesn't have to be hard, keep it simple
- Don't resist change, its inevitable
- Find contentment in what you have right now
- Be the best version of you, for you, not for others
- Congratulate your achievements
- Know that it's ok to fail (look at positively as a life lesson, not failure)
- Surround yourself with those who inspire you, not pull you down - this includes family members!
- Daily self love and compassion
- Know it's ok to say NO
- Sit with your fears and work through the illusions
- Do what makes you truly happy
- Embrace the moment
- Know that things will pass, whatever the situation
- Talk to your inner child, it's always there
- Live in the NOW
- Most importantly....have fun with everything you do!
7 METHODS TO REDUCE ANXIETY & STRESS
Easy to say, right? But when we’re stressed, just breathing is not so easy. Physically our diaphragm tightens, we hunch over and make this muscle and the psoas muscle tighter resulting in the lungs being unable to breathe at full capacity. Our chest and abdomen muscles also tighten, and these play a major role in allowing us deep long slow breaths to calm the body and mind, when relaxed.
We suggest. Take a few moments every day with regular periods to sit with deep breaths, fully aware of the slow and paced inhale and exhale. Ensure your exhales are longer than your inhales. When stressed, we tend to breathe only from the upper chest. A deep relaxing breath should come from the abdomen: belly-ribs then up to chest.
Whether you do this exercise in the shower, or in your car driving to work, maybe even sitting at your desk, (and most importantly with exercise), remember that your breath is there wherever you go too!
What can we say! Mother Nature is the biggest healer we have and how blessed we are as she's all around us. Nature gives us everything we need and more.
We suggest. Trees are literally part of our life exilir, they convert carbon dioxide and water into oxygen using the energy from sunlight. We cannot live and breathe without them. They are our main source of energy and life force. Pretty awesome to hang off, sit under and even hug, yes hug! A lot of healing properties and qualities come from trees.
Equally getting our feet onto the grass, natural water or sand. They all have a healing and grounding effect on us, along with taking active walks or climbs in nature can help too.
The Ocean - Sea water is full of ions (healthy negative ones) which our bodies absorb to deliver more oxygen. When by the sea our body’s natural energy gets infused and lifts, making us feel more energised and relaxed. Often, people with sleep disorders and even eczema are recommended to get into the sea or walk along the beach by doctors.
MEDITATION & YOGA
Meditation, the powerful tool to heal from within. This is where all the answers lie. Nothing outside can gives us anymore answers than what we already 'know" from the self.
Neurotransmitters fire signals to our parasympathetic nervous system allowing our body to produce more serotonin and oxycontin - the happy hormone chemicals tell the body it's OK and safe to relax. Long term Meditation reduces anxiety and stress which overall improves our health and wellness.
Yoga is a meditation in itself but with many benefits, we are moving stagnant energy within our bodies, meditating with movement whilst using our breath to increase the flow of blood and oxygen through the body and releasing energy that is of a negative tone.
The practice also increases flexibility, helping bones and joints to release any stiffness, eliminating anxiety and stress; yoga is also an overall mood booster and sleep enhancer, so what’s not to love?!
We suggest. When we take time 10-20 minutes to close our eyes, move inwards to a space of quietness, stillness for some self-realisation - this strengthens and eliminates any doubts or worry. Equally 20 minutes daily of yoga will have a great impact on anxiety and stress too.
As you read this, you are very likely using a phone, tablet or desktop. With our phones usually glued to our hand or in our pockets, taking time to completely unplug for a certain period of time away from technology can be significantly de-stressing.
We suggest. If desk bound, take 5 minutes to get up and walk around the office periodically, away from computer screens to move the body, clear the mind and just spend some time in active breathing.
Take the phone out of the bedroom at night and give yourself a wind down period before going to bed away from the phone.
Change the "blue screen" to night mode on all devices, blue light gives devices their brightness on our and when reduced will aid against keeping brain to stay alert which can lead to long term insomnia and depression.
Ensure you get enough! Simples.
We suggest. Give yourself a time to wind down at night, no coffee or caffeine, eat lightly before bed (some say at least 4 hours before bed) and ensure your space is a technology free zone - and that includes a TV.
Technology pollutes the air with electronic smog which leaks into our body’s energy system and plays havoc with our frequencies and vibrations, upsetting the body’s natural harmony.
Journaling is a very cathartic method for releasing and transferring thoughts from the mind. View journaling as moving storage files from one place to another, a mind dump. When we take time to create To Do lists, express thoughts, feelings, dreams onto paper, it instantly stops the cycle of self-perpetuating thoughts. It's also a great way to set goals, once you transfer thought to paper, it becomes an action, before you know it with universal law of attraction, the action becomes your reality!
BE STILL, DO NOTHING
How many of us can read this and say, I do this? Be Honest. Being still is probably one of the most difficult tasks for humans. Some time spent doing absolutely nothing but relaxing - with no phone, chores, TV and kids – can be difficult. Being still is quite the task, but if we could manage this for a for a least one hour in our day, it's actually refreshingly appetising. It’s a fantastic method for letting the mind rest as well as the body.
We suggest. Some restorative yoga is a great. Viparita Karani/Legs up the Wall pose is a super one to try. Prop some pillows under the buttocks, add some wheat bags onto the belly, place a blanket across the upper body and an eye mask over the face then give yourself 30 minutes with your legs up the wall. This simple pose has amazing benefits to help depression, calm the mind and ease anxiety and fatigue.