Updated: Mar 26, 2020
In this time of such uncertainty, especially for those actively serving in the thick of the crisis; anxiety can become a constant thread throughout our days and nights. If you are like me, the anxiety ebbs and flows and often it is only when it really attacks my sleep that I am reminded to start to listen. And when it amps up, it always has a message for me. Usually a message that I am not taking good care of myself; physically or emotionally or both.
What is Anxiety?
Anxiety is our nervous system's way of telling us that something is too much, too fast or that something feels unsafe. Anxiety has a clear purpose in that it alerts us to situations where we would be well served to hold a more heightened awareness using all of our senses. But in our world of constant stimuli or in times of deep stress, we often key that awareness up and never take steps to give our sensitive nervous systems a chance to dial anxiety back down! That is chronic anxiety and that is the real anxiety problem!
So how do you find space to relax that chronic anxiety within a daily pattern of life that is unpredictable and feels non-stop, like the world we are living in right now? How do you titrate your own nervous system so you can get relief and release in the safe moments, thus freeing up the cortisol spikes for the times you really do need the hyperawareness? By taking moments to remind your nervous system that you are safe.
How do I reduce my anxiety?
Finding moments to reset into a relaxation/parasympathetic response which lowers your cortisol and slows your heartbeat and blood flow. One of the easiest ways is an exercise that is a 5 senses check-in. The best part of this check-in is that you can do it anytime, anywhere and as for as briefly or as lengthily that you desire. breathe deeply and step into curiosity and ask yourself the following questions.
1. What do I see around me?
Move your eyes all around your space. Look below you, look above you and look side to side, turning all the way around if possible. Colors, objects, movements, creatures, people, nature? What sight I am drawn to the most? Be still and observe that preferred sight for 4-6 breaths.
2. What do I hear?
What do I hear in the space directly around me? What do I hear in the distance? What is the furthest sound I can hear? What is the loudest? What is the softest? What sounds the most pleasing? Be still and listen fully to the preferred sound for 4-6 breaths.
3. What do I feel around me?
What is the temperature of the air? Is it damp? Is it dry? Feel the sunshine or the breeze. What is under my feet? What does that feel like? Touch the ground if possible, feel the sensation on your fingertips, on your palms. Feel your skin, notice what your hands feel like, your face, your hair. What feels the best? Be still and sit with that preferred feeling for 4-6 breaths....really feeling the sensation.
4. What do I taste?
What flavors can I taste in my mouth? Is it dry? Is it watering? Trace your teeth with your tongue. Stick your tongue out and taste the air. Recall your favorite taste/food and be still recalling that taste for 4-6 breaths.
5. What do I smell?
Smell the air around you. Pull up a piece of grass or a plant or flower and smell it. Smell if there are deeper smells below the more obvious scents. Can you smell smoke or animals or water or a fragrance. Smell your skin, notice its scent. Smell your clothing or anything around you that you notice. Select your most pleasant or interesting smell. Be still and focus on that smell for 4-6 breaths.
After you complete this check-in take a few moments or minutes to feel your body, starting at your head and all the way through your feet. Put your hand on your heart until you feel your own heartbeat. Breathe deeply.
Practice Makes Perfect!
Congratulations, you have just reminded your body that in this one single moment you are safe. You have just given yourself a nervous system/chronic anxiety break and reset. You can do this over and over until it becomes a habit. You can do it day or night. You can do it alone or with your coworkers, your partner, or your kids. Play with it, get curious.
Its a time out for our nervous system and can have a profound effect on reducing our chronic anxiety. As well as a wonderful reminder of the pieces of the world going on so beautifully all around us, even in the difficult times. Be well.
Kelley is an LMSW and Life Coach who practices Nature Based coaching, Equine Assisted Life Coaching and traditional therapy in the KC area. Kelley has a Masters of Social Work from the University of Missouri-Kansas City, a Life Coaching certificate from the Martha Beck Institute and an Equine Coaching certificate from the Koelle Institute. Kelley works is the owner of Joy, Fun, Live Coaching and is the Equine Assisted Coach for The Battle Within.
Learn more at JoyFunLive.com
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Born from a group of veterans and first responders seeking to overcome Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). With a holistic set of evidence-based tools and training we provide warriors with lifestyle changes needed for long-term healing. This rich community of fellow warriors provides the ongoing support needed to develop these skills into healing habits that affect the mind, body and soul.
Learn more at TheBattleWithin.org