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Turning Anxiety into Excitement:

How do we turn anxiety into energetic engagment? A layer of our anxiety is adaptive, informative, there are things to worry about and care for. In order that our awarness of our anxiety not compound our dread, we have to utilize all the skills developed in therapy over time (freedom, lines of flight, creativity, untangling, and novel possiblies of living), but also the utilize more immediate tools to address anxiety directly. Here are a handful of such tools that that I have found powerfully succinctly and effective, which will help you grow in your capacity and confidence to lower your anxiety. This will serve to give yourself the opportunity to use your awareness to shift from tangled preoccupations to liberated aliveness, to turn anxiety into excitement, dread into engagement:

Breathing:

Regulated breathing helps calm the nervous system and research has shown that it a regular practice (morning and evening over a month or so) can have lasting impact on your ability to cope with stressful situation. If you can, practice when you are calm and in a safe space, as well as as-needed when feeling anxious. Note the depth and length of your breathing before and after and during times of duress. The following meathods have the added atvantage of counting in your mind, which limits the minds reactivity and helps relaxation take over you body and your mind. If you feel that you have difficulty retaining your attention or become short of breath and more anxioud, hum while you exhale!

 

Square (Box) breathing. Instruction found here. 

4-7-8 Breathing. See the video below by Dr. Axe. 

 

- Humming. If you do not conenct or don't feel good with the numbered breathing excercices, try the following: take 3 deep breaths. On the exhale, hum and consistent tone. You can choose any tone you like but don't change it mid exhale. Try to find the tone that creates a pleasant resonant frequency, a feeling of vibration, in your chest.

- Anuloma Viloma Pranayama - Alternate Nostril Breathing

This technique can be used to calm the mind in a similar way to 4-7-8 breathing. Follow the instructions in the video below and when you feel that you understand the technique you can use a shorterned version in times of need of breathing in for 4, retaining for 7, and breathing out for 8. 

 

Progressive Muscle Relaxation:

Complement breathing excercies with this full body system of contraction and relaxation. Find insturctions here. The goal of Progressive Muscle Relaxation is to go through your body, from toes to head, and teach each muscle group the sensation of relaxation by contracting and relaxing each group 3 times. Set aside 15-20min a day for this excercise

A few tips:

- Most importantly, take special notice of the sensation of contracting (into a fist) and relaxing your hand! When you have practiced the full series for a while you will find that you can initiate an almost full relaxation of your body just by contracting and relaxing your hand 3 times. You can then use this in situations when time or circumstances do not allow for the full practice, such as in meeting, exams, on the train, etc.

- For your comfort, make sure to stretch shoulders first (3 times) and then stretch your arms down (3 times); and similarly, contract/relax your nape and only then your head. In this way you will end up lying down in a more comfortable position.

- Practice on a hard surface, such as a yoga mat or floor. A soft mattress will not allow your body to fully relax. 

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