When we have anxiety often one of the first things to suffer is our sleep. It may be difficult for us to drop off to sleep: we ruminate, toss and turn. Or maybe you have no problem dropping off, but wake suddenly at 3 am with an anxious thought and are then unable to return to sleep. However, the good news is that if we can improve your sleep quality, deep sleep reduces anxietylevels.
The not-so-good news
Research from UC Berkeley in the USA shows that one sleepless night can increase our anxiety levels up to a whopping 30%.
The good news
They also found that deep sleep reduces our anxiety.
Something as simple as getting better quality sleep could help reduce your anxiety levels. How awesome is that!
“Deep sleep had restored the brain’s prefrontal mechanism that regulates our emotions, lowering emotional and physiological reactivity and preventing the escalation of anxiety,” Eti Ben Simon, postdoctoral fellow in the Center for Human Sleep Science at UC Berkeley.
So when do we get deep sleep?
In each sleep cycle there are several phases to sleep (see the image below) and we go through these cycles approximately four times in an eight-hour period. However, we only have two cycles of this deep sleep (stage 4) which has this anxiolytic (anxiety-relieving) effect.
How do I get more deep sleep to reduce anxiety?
Try this simple Evening Mind Clearance technique as you lie in bed (3 mins)
There are 3 simple steps to this Evening Mind Clearance technique created by Siimon Reynolds. So as you lie down in bed preparing for sleep, we’ll use the power of positive thinking to reduce anxiety:
Create a list in your head of things that you are grateful for.
Forgive anyone who’s annoyed you today (or before).
Visualise tomorrow going really well. Really picture your day ahead going swimmingly and having a great time. (I’m usually asleep before I get to this point, so my big tip is to turn the reading light off before you start this!)
Avoid alcohol to get more deep sleep
“Booo” I hear you say. Sadly, although it might make you feel more relaxed initially, that glass of Rosé is a depressant and a sedative. Sedation is not the same as sleep. Alcohol lessens both REM and deep sleep. Which means less of that protective anxiety-alleviating effect.
Avoid caffeine after 1pm
It’s a stimulant. Preferably we want our body and mind to calm down in the afternoon and evening.
Have a regular routine
Get up and go to bed at the same time, even on weekends.
Give your body time to wind down in the evening. Favour gentle exercise and stretching in the evening. Avoid vigorous exercise before you need to go to sleep.
Keep your bedroom cool
Keep your bedroom cool. (Easier said than done in a Queensland summer. TIP – wrap a freezer block in a towel if your ceiling fan isn’t cutting the mustard. )
Dim the lighting and reduce blue light exposure
Keep your lighting dim in the evenings to promote natural circadian rhythms. Especially avoid fluorescent lights because they inhibit the release of melatonin (which makes you want to sleep).
Avoid blue light from technology at least 2 hours before you go to sleep. The blue light affects the release of melatonin. Read more about blue light and sleep here.
If you would like to ask me what Counselling or body psychotherapy is all about, I offer a FREE 20-minute discovery session by phone/skype for new clients. You can also book this online by clicking the button below.
Why I get you to move and breathe in your session: the neuroscience
Have you ever wondered why I invite you to move or breathe deeply in your session? Have you questioned how it makes you feel better? With my training in both body psychotherapy and dance-movement therapy (as well as the more conventional talking therapies), it makes perfect sense to me. However, a new client said to me the other day “I thought I’d try something a bit woo woo” which made me chuckle inside. So in order to dispel the woo woo “I’m going to have to science the sh** out of this” as Matt Damon’s character said in the Martian. Read on to find out the neuroscience behind why I get you to move and breathe in your session:
Your brain experiences the world through your body
You experience the world around you via your body. Sound, images, sensations, smells via your sensory organs. Is it a threat? Or is it an opportunity?
When you feel anxiety or depression you feel physical symptoms in your body as well as thoughts and emotions. Your body is responding to something in your environment, whether it is actually there in front of you, or just being thought about.
For example, with anxiety you may feel a racing heart, the pressure in the centre of your chest, dizziness, and maybe even a separation from the rest of your body. With depression you may feel a total lack of energy in your body and a desire to withdraw.
There is no separation between mind and body
Historically Western medicine has followed the philosophy that diseases of the mind are separate to diseases of the body. This all started with French philosopher René Descarts in the mid 1600’s. Eastern medicine takes a very different view and thankfully, 400 years later, we are now coming around to a more integrated view of the body and mind.
What affects your body affects your mind. And your thoughts and emotions affect how you hold your body. There is no separation between dis-ease of the mind and dis-ease of the body.
Your body remembers (not just your brain)
What we normally think of as memory (images, facts, figures) is what scientist call our ‘explicit memory’ and is dependent on written or oral language. But there is another kind of memory, the implicit memory which is unconscious. For example, remembering how to ride a bike (you don’t consciously get on and thinking to yourself, I put my right foot here and my left foot here and push… you just get on and do it automatically).
Both the explicit and implicit memory are intricately linked to our sensory nervous system. How you stand, what you are touching, what you can smell, hear or see. So by changing how you stand and what you are doing with your body we might invoke old memories to surface from your subconscious.
Your somatic nervous system and the soft tissues of your body are like a storehouse of the history of your life.
We are creatures of habit and what we do every day becomes our reality
Your body ‘braces’ in preparation for a perceived threat and that over time this bracing becomes habitual. Unconscious muscular contraction occurs over time and becomes a habitual, adaptive pattern in the body, leading to altered posture and movement.
By bringing awareness to posture and creating a movement that differs from the habitual patterns, we can help bring to consciousness any unconscious beliefs and withheld feelings, and start to lessen the contraction of your muscles.
To change your mind we need to move your body
To understand WHY you feel like you do we’ll be using the newest part of your brain (in evolutionary terms), the prefrontal cortex. We’ll talk and use mindfulness techniques.
But to make a CHANGE we need to engage both your mid-brain, the limbic system (which controls instinct and the basic emotions (pleasure, anger, fear) and drives (hunger, caring, sex, dominance), plus your brain stem (movement, breathing, touch).
We recalibrate your nervous system from the bottom up. To do that we use movement, breathing, music, vocal and physical expression.
“Top-down regulation involves strengthening the capacity of the watchtower (medial prefrontal cortex) to monitor your body’s sensations. Mindfulness meditation and yoga can help with this. Bottom-up regulation involves recalibrating the autonomic nervous system, (which as we have seen, originates in the brain stem). We can access the ANS through breath, movement or touch.” Bessel van der Kolk in ‘The Body Keeps the Score’.
Just by changing your movement out of the habitual, it will allow previously withheld information to surface from your implicit or explicit memory.
Movement helps you to explore your inner reality. We find the authenticity of ourselves through movement: a sense of moving ourselves and being moved by the unconscious.
By increasing the range
of movement in your body we increase the range of psychological or emotional
possibilities in your life.
So there you have it….
I’ve explained the neuroscience behind why I get you to move and breathe in your session, but we’re all unique beings and there’s a lot we still don’t know or understand about the body and the mind. So maybe there’s a bit of woo woo in there anyway!
If you would like to learn more about the science behind what I do, I would suggest these books as a starter:
If you are interested in delving deeper into this I would recommend:
How to deal with unpleasant thoughts and feelings – How Sean Connery gets me to the gym on a monday morning
We humans have evolved to do whatever we can to avoid pain, whether it’s physical, emotional or psychological. Obviously avoiding physical pain is a good thing. However, sometimes we behave in unhelpful and unhealthy ways in order to avoid unpleasant thoughts or feelings. For example, making yourself super busy in order to avoid feeling something. Smashing a tub of Ben & Jerry’s after a breakup to ‘eat’ your feelings. Or avoiding social situations that make you feel uncomfortable.
In psychological terms we call this behaviour “experiential avoidance”. I do it myself. We all do it to some extent because it’s a totally normal human behaviour. If it’s not excessive or it’s not really hurting you, it’s ok. But if it’s affecting your health or keeping your life ‘small’ in some way, then it’s unworkable. In which case, it’s probably a good idea to look at how you can stop these unpleasant thoughts and feelings from having so much sway over your life.
I have unpleasant thoughts and feelings every Monday when the alarm goes off for my early morning PT session. I’m guessing you may have similar thoughts. When the alarm goes off my first thought is “Oh gawwwwd I’m so tired. I need to stay in bed. It’s too early to exercise – I’ll hurt a muscle because I’m so tired and stiff. Ugh I’ll get all sweaty. It’s too far”. (Cough… It’s a 10 minute walk princess …)
The truth is that when I’m there I love it and I feel GREAT afterwards. My trainer is really knowledgeable and he doesn’t shout commands at me (unlike other trainers who didn’t last very long). He’s also hilarious and my unofficial dating advisor. So why the resistance? Why the melodrama every Monday morning?
Quite simply, I’m not a natural early riser and a very vocal part of me wants to stay in bed. I want to stay in a place of comfort. I want to avoid the unpleasant thoughts and feelings about having to get up, get sweaty and get out there when I could stay under the covers and snooze.
As I’ve said, these kind of avoidance strategies are ok if they work and they aren’t too costly in one way or another. But if I listened to those thoughts and stayed in bed it would affect my waist line and my muscle mass (very important for us ladies over a certain age). And I’m pretty sure my PT would get fire me as a client, which would mean no Dating High Command.
To do this, I replay the uncomfortable thoughts over and over in my head using the voice of a famous person/character. My favorite is Sean Connery. You can borrow him if you like.
“Och I’m going to get so schweaty” said Sean, over and over. It makes it sound a little silly and I smile a little. The thought has less power over me. I don’t get so anxious about it and I get out of bed! (If I’m honest it also sounds a little bit pervy when Sean says it).
Here’s how you can do it for yourself:
An easy de-fusion technique for unpleasant thoughts and feelings
Pick an unpleasant thought or feeling that’s been plaguing you.
Say it over and over in your head silently for 10 seconds.
Notice how you feel having done this. How much do you believe the thought (how ‘fused’ are you with the thought?). How does it make you feel emotionally? And what sensations can you feel in your body.
Pick the voice of a well-known character or actor. Someone you can really ‘hear’ speaking in your head. (Run out of ideas? What about: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Marilyn Monroe, Miss Piggy, Donald Duck, Dr Sheldon Cooper, or even that hideous Trump person).
Say the same unpleasant thought or feeling over and over in your head in their voice for 10 seconds.
Again, notice how you feel having done this. Do you feel any differently in your body? Does the thought or feeling have more or less power over you?
It’s important to understand that we’re not trying to avoid or ‘tolerate’ the unpleasant thought or feeling. These thoughts are going to keep popping up into our mind and that’s not something that’s under our control. But what do have control over, and what we’re learning to do, is to ‘accept’ these unpleasant thoughts and feelings. To allow them to have less power over us.
We can do this in therapy with any unpleasant feeling or thought. A particularly common one among my clients is “I’m not good enough”. Not a particularly helpful thought, and probably not true.
Through different ACT techniques we can help you unhook from these unpleasant thoughts and feelings. And in doing so, help you stop avoiding situations or people where this thought might pop up. Helping reduce the amount of experiential avoidance in your life. Helping you live a BIGGER life.
If you’re feeling unsure, or want to ask me what Acceptance and Commitment Therapy or somatic psychotherapy is all about, I offer a FREE 20 minute discovery session by phone/skype for new clients. You can also book this online by clicking the button below.
“A problem shared is a problem halved” goes the old English saying. I heartily agree with that one. This is not just because I’m a psychotherapist and I know that just talking to someone about your problems can be enough to help you feel better; but because I’ve had my own personal experience of this recently.
I have entered the world of internet dating. (Shudder). I was finding it overwhelming, demoralizing and down right depressing. However, I found that sharing the stories of outrageous untruths and appalling coffee dates with my own therapist has helped me cope better with it. My resilience has increased and I’m hanging in there. Talking to someone can really help you carry on through tough times. So I’m going to share them with you too. A problem shared…..
A few of my friends have met their partners online. So I know in theory that it can work really well. It’s just I’m having such a vile time of it because apparently in the online dating world it’s perfectly normal to be a complete liar pants and not even blink when you’re caught out.
I’m hoping to meet someone who shares my core values and blah blah you know the drill. But it turns out the gentlemen are not entirely honest in their profiles and it’s beginning to feel like a futile endeavour.
Every unwanted advance from a Sexagenarian bikie without a basic command of English grammar or high school certificate, makes my self-confidence erode even further. “Is this all I’m worth?” a snide little voice inside me says. What exactly do they think we have in common? A shared passion for Ballet?
I went on a date last month with a gentleman to a rather nice bar in James St. During the date he asked: “Would you mind if I just went outside and bummed a cigarette off someone, I’m trying to quit at the moment”.
I was confused not just because I wouldn’t normally agree to go out with a smoker – it’s one of my deal breakers – but because as he walked away I could see that he had a full packet of cigs in his trouser pocket. Liar liar, pants literally on fire.
Last week I went out for a delicious Turkish meal with a not-so-delicious gentleman. His profile said he was 46 and the photographs seemed to tally. However, in person he seemed substantially older that the photos.
I like to give people leeway on the first date – nerves and all that – but when he started talking about his grandchildren and his recent colonoscopy I realised that he was probably nearer 66 than 46.
As he relayed the intimate details of his rectal procedure over stuffed vine leaves, I plotted an elaborate plan to flee. (I didn’t though… I’m too polite, and the humus was amazing). But seriously, who talks about a colonoscopy on a first date? People let’s keep the conversation away from your ‘date’ on a date!
At times this whole endeavour feels frustrating and futile. However, sharing the tales of hilariously awful dates with my therapist makes it seem more a comedy than a drama, and I have the energy to persist and wade through the pond life. Her support gets me through.
And I think that’s what it’s about. Reaching out for help when you need it so that you can keep going, even when the going gets tough.
So if you’re having a tough time with online dating, or anything else for that matter, give me a call and share your woes. As they say, a problem shared is a problem halved.
P.S. People please stop lying on your dating profile. We’re going to find out when we meet you in person. So just cut it out smoky pants. 😉
If you’re feeling unsure, or want to ask me what counselling or body psychotherapy is all about, I offer a FREE 20 minute discovery session by phone/skype for new clients. You can also book this online by clicking the button below.
A friend of mine created the excellent campaign “It’s ok to say” (if you don’t feel ok). It’s about letting people know that you have anxiety and/or depression so that you’re not going through this alone. But with the news of women in Hollywood speaking up against Harvey Weinstein, it got me thinking about other matters we don’t speak up about: bullying, unwanted attention, loneliness, abuse or things that scare us.It’s time to speak up and get some help.
There is so much we don’t say. And so many reasons why we don’t. Fear that we won’t be believed. Second-guessing ourselves (‘maybe I did something to create that situation …?’) Fear of rejection, isolation, loosing our job, or being ostracized. But people it’s time to tell someone. It’s time to speak up when something’s not ok.
I once had to speak up at work about a man who had showered me with unwanted attention on my morning commute in London. And I’m so glad I did, because it short-circuited his campaign of lecherous advances.
For days I had unsuccessfully tried to avoid this guy on the little shuttle train from Clapham Junction to Olympia. He worked on the floor above me for a different company, but I saw him every morning on that commuter train and the walk to the office.
He seemed oblivious of my increasingly not-so subtle body language: putting up the Metro newspaper in-front of my face to physically block him out, wearing earphones and avoiding eye contact. At night-time I had to walk for 30 minutes across Clapham Common on my own and I was terrified he would follow me across the dark, empty parkland. I had even stopped going out at lunch on my own in case he was waiting for me. Yet I told no one.
He finally got the message on the day that I waited until he had gotten onto the train and then ran along the platform and ducked into another carriage. When I got to work there was a barrage of emails from him to my work account starting with the words “Never have I been so offended….”
Until then I hadn’t told a soul. Not my friends, not my flatmates, not my co-workers. I’m not sure why. Perhaps because I wasn’t sure I wasn’t making a mountain out of a molehill. I remember also feeling embarrassment and shame. Surely I should be a big girl and fix this by myself.
One of my male co-workers must have seen my face because he asked me what was going on. I explained and showed him the email. He asked if he could reply on my behalf. I said yes. Before I knew it he had typed “F… Off” and pressed send. I was petrified of the repercussions. What would this man do now that I had been so direct? Nothing it turned out, because he was a creep who shriveled the moment I stood up to him.
With my colleague’s encouragement, I told our HR person. They talked to his HR person and started an inquiry. Within 24 hours they found out that he had harassed every female in his firm with the exception of the PA to the CEO. And he was newly married (poor woman). A’hole.
No one had spoken up before. It took my complaint for them to come out of the woodwork and talk to each other. He ended up being fired from his job and we were free to catch the train in peace.
We’re all terrified of being rejected, harassed, laughed at even. But if you speak up, there’s a chance you can help yourself and maybe others. So speak to someone. Tell someone if you’re not ok. Tell your friend, a family member or a work colleague. Or find someone neutral and non-judgmental like a counsellor. Just make sure you speak up.
If you’re feeling unsure, or want to ask me what anxiety counselling or body psychotherapy is all about, I offer a FREE 20 minute discovery session by phone/skype for new clients. You can also book this online by clicking the button below.
Tonight I saw a post in a Facebook group of which I am a member along the lines of the following: “Has anyone been successful with marriage counselling? We’re not thinking divorce, just looking for something to help us get through the repetitive, cyclical, blame game, same arguments over the years that never get resolved and fester until the next time one of us gets angry. I don’t want to end my marriage, I’m trying to save it.”
Over the 20 odd years that I have been practising as a specialist family lawyer, I have encountered many clients who have never been to counselling. I always ask clients whether or not they had counselling for their relationship issues, but sadly, the answer is often no. This is something I’ve never been able to understand. If your marriage is on the verge on the breakdown and going to counselling to deal with your relationship issues gave you an opportunity to save it, why would you not try counselling?
It’s actually a legal requirement for family lawyers to recommend separating parties attend counselling. However, by the time they come to see us, the damage is often done. On more occasions than I can remember, I have had female clients come to me and when I’ve asked them the question about counselling, their response has been along the lines of, “My husband refused to go.” The other response has been to the tune of, “He said that I was the one who need counselling, not him or us.”
But the post I saw on Facebook tonight was not about counselling at the end of relationship. It was about a woman saying, “Hey, no marriage is perfect. We have our ups and downs just like anyone else but there’s a recurring theme here with some relationship issues and I’d really just like to deal with it so that we can move past it and just get on with things.”
This, of course, is the kind of thing that the Americans do. Anyone who’s seen an ongoing programme like Sex in the City (now I am showing my age) knows that every second person in New York City has a ‘therapist’. It is about dealing with problems in our lives and relationship issues as they arise, not waiting for a wound to fester. If your spouse won’t go to counselling with you, them why would you not go to counselling on your own? It’s not a sign a weakness or that there is something wrong with you. It’s about getting strategies to deal with relationship issues, how you might raise those with your partner in a constructive way and what to do if those issues are not resolved. Going to a counsellor does not make you ‘mentally ill’. Rather, it makes you someone who has insight into your own functioning and has a desire to be the best possible person, parent and partner you can be.
If you do separate, then counselling is just as important and is something I encourage for all my family law clients. Divorce is one of the most stressful life experiences you can have. Everyone goes through a cycle of grief. Some handle it better than others. The ones I have seen handle it best, are the ones who go to counselling. They have an outlet to talk about what is going on and an unbiased ear. Family and friends are well-meaning during a divorce, but they can’t give you the independent perspective that a counsellor can.
Those who love you may also grow tired of hearing about your heartbreak or the issues you are having with your ex. Why not preserve those relationships as positive, to help you move forward, and save the angst for counselling?
One of the dangers that arises is where separated parents find themselves headed to the Family Court. The relationship between them has become so toxic that they cannot talk to each other. Invariably, there is underlying emotion driving this.
Family law clients who have been deeply hurt or betrayed – for example, if there has been an affair can be so consumed by anger, jealousy and pain, that they are blinded by it. They cannot see past those emotions and create a relationship with the other parent that sees them headed straight towards the Family Court. Those clients who work in counselling to get through those emotions and move forward, are most likely to avoid the Family Court.
Similarly, family law clients dealing with a narcissistic or high conflict ex, can benefit from counselling to obtain strategies on how to deal with that person.
You do not have to ‘go it alone’ if you are having relationship issues. Ending a long term relationship is a big step and counselling can only assist with the decision making process.
If you are separated, then counselling can offer valuable insight and assistance, and help you avoid the Family Court.
We know that exercise make us healthier. It has the benefit of lowering blood pressure and reducing your risk of diabetes. But it’s so easy to NOT do it, right? Especially as it’s getting so cold and the sofa is so comfy. But there is a much more important reason for exercising than fitting into those skinny jeans. Exercise is literally medicine for your mental health. So why not think of exercise as therapy for your mind.
Exercise boosts your mood, releases those feel-good endorphins and improves your cognitive performance (see this article by JC Miller and Z Krizan for the science). It also helps you to replace lost energy, or let go of excess tension from your body.
I like to think of exercise as ‘movement therapy for your mental wellbeing’.
How do you know what kind of exercise your body needs? First you need to tap into what feels good for YOUR body and your MIND. Try out different things. You’re unique so find out what YOU like doing exercise-wise and what your soul needs. There’s no point forcing yourself to go to the gym if it bores the living shizz out of you.
Here are some suggestions for exercise as therapy for your mind:
If you’re feeling depressed it’s likely you’re in a low energy state. What would be good here is to build up more energy in your body by moving it and by taking big breaths. Trouble is, when you’re feeling depressed and your motivation is rock bottom, it’s hard to actually get off the sofa. Why not call a friend and get them to take you there?
Here are some ideas for depression-busting exercise:
The most accessible exercise for those us with functioning lower limbs. Even if it’s just 5 minutes. You’ll get your circulation going, you’ll breathe in some fresh air and maybe even get some Vitamin D. And many more benefits besides these.
I advocate going with a friend, because not only will it give you some social interaction, they’ll also help you keep going when you really just want to hide away in your nest.
Get yourself to a gentle yoga class – Yin Yoga would be perfect. Don’t let your ego take over – listen to your body – stay away from the more strenuous classes like Vinyasa until you’ve got more energy in your system.
The breathing techniques (pranayama) from Yoga are also fantastic for getting more energy into your lungs. You’re literally pumping yourself up with energy from the inside.
Bust out your inner Carmen Miranda/Antonio Banderas
My top pick for depression is Latin dancing. You’re out there mingling with other people instead of sinking into your aloneness and you‘re getting exercise without having to resort to lycra. You don’t have to go there with a partner or friends. The majority of people go on their own and you may even make new friends.
You also don’t have to be already a dancer. Everyone starts as a beginner. Some with two left feet. And there’s no prerequisite to be skinny. Some of my favorite dance partners are more on the cuddly side.
Dancing is so good for you the Victorian Government has written about the benefits:
Those clever peeps at No Lights No Lycra have created a free app called Dance Break. Once a day it will randomly take over your phone and sends you a song to dance to in the middle of the office/school/street. Go to http://dancebreak.com.au/ Or download the app for free from the App Store or Google Play Store.
When you’re anxious you’re in a state of fear. That constant rumination (going over thoughts in your head again and again) causes the release of noradrenaline and cortisol into your system. Being in a constantly hyped up state is bad news for your poor over-worked adrenal glands and the cocktail of emergency hormones isn’t too crash hot for the rest of your body either (they’re meant for emergency use, not every day). Additionally, constantly being in a fight or flight state chews up a lot of energy.
You need to ground yourself in the present. Anything that slows you down and reconnects you with your body and the present time is worth a go.
Try Yoga, Pilates, Tai Chi or Chi Gung. Restorative yoga is perfect for the over-stressed nervous system. Again the breathing techniques will bring more energy to your body and replace that depleted energy store.
I advocate doing something to release the pent up tension in your body – especially an activity where you get to use your breath and voice to help release that tension. Try boxing or martial arts. Make a racket and unleash the tiger!
But then on the flipside, you also need to calm your nervous system. So once again, walking, yoga, pilates. Anything that calms you. Massage is fantastic. Laze in a float tank even! Or lie on your back and gaze up at the stars. Whatever it takes to calm you down.
So whatever you do, do something that appeals to you. Keep trying new things until you find what works for you and make it your personal exercise as therapy for your mind.
I hope you found this article helpful. Please share it.
Exercise as therapy for your mind and body was last modified: September 26th, 2017 by Sarah Tuckett
This Emotional Survival Guide to Christmas has been written to help you navigate difficult emotions over the ‘silly season’.
Whether you are feeling anxious, stressed, lonely, sad, or suicidal even, here are my tips for getting through the next few weeks:
1. Anxious? Put your head down towards the ground
Are you freaking out in advance about family visiting? Are you breathing 5 billion breaths a minute? Is your throat tight? Is your chest feeling constricted? Are you feeling like you’re going to implode?
Find a quiet space and hang the top half of your body down towards the ground.
Give it a go and notice how heavy the top half of your body feels as it bows to the forces of gravity (a complete opposite to how ‘spacey’ and disconnected your head feels when you’re anxious). How your diaphragm is more relaxed. How your throat is more open.
It’s really hard to have anxious thoughts when your head is upside down. Give it a go. I dare you!
2. Catastrophizing? Ask yourself: “Is that really true? Or am I exaggerating?”
When we’re stressing out, it’s easy to catastrophize. “OMG if I don’t get the meal PERFECT the Monster-in-law’s going to sit there with that smug “I knew you wouldn’t be able to pull it together” face and .. and… and…. “
We create stories in our head before they’ve even happened. But is that really true? Is it likely to happen? Or are you exaggerating?
Ask yourself that very simple question and see if you can stop the BS in its tracks.
3. Angry? Bash a punchbag/cushion/have a toddler tantrum on your bed
I’m not kidding. If you hold all that rage down, you risk it leaking out at inappropriate moments. One snarky comment about the turkey can totally ruin Christmas lunch believe me.
4. Comforting yourself with food? Put the mince pie down.
Find other ways to comfort yourself. Here’s my personal Lemon Day list of things I can do to comfort myself instead of reaching for the ice-cream. Have a printed-out list stuck on your fridge door to stop you instantly reaching for the mince pies.
But then again, it’s Christmas … maybe a couple of mince pies isn’t too bad. (Just stay away from the clotted cream).
5. Stressed? Earth yourself: get grounded and breathe
Are you running around at a million miles an hour to get everything done? Is your house in a state of upheaval because of visitors?
STOP for a minute.
Take off your shoes.
Walk outside and focus on the sensation of the grass beneath your feet. (Even if your lawn is less ‘deliciously springy Sir Walter’, and more ‘Bindi-Cobblers Pegs scrub’ – find somewhere pleasant to stand and focus on the sensations beneath your feet. I particularly like warm concrete in the early evening for example.)
Now breathe…. Go on, give me a big sigh on your out-breath.
Let all that stuff go for a minute…
Focus on what you can feel in your body.
It’s just you and the ground. Everything else is irrelevant for a moment.
‘Earthing’ isn’t just for hippies. Focusing on the physical contact with the ground will bring your awareness out of your head and down into your body. We’re grounding you. It brings you right into the present moment and makes you feel 100% less stressed.
6. Lonely? Reach out to people you are emotionally close to
Whether you’re single or in a relationship, loneliness can strike hard at this time of year. Reaching out to anyone is good, but reaching out to people that you have a close emotional relationship with is preferable because they understand you/get you/speak your language.
So reach out to your close friend(s). And if the first person on your list doesn’t pick up, leave a message and then call the next person on your friend list. Keep going till you get a real live person. Tell them how you’re feeling and ask if they want to hang out.
Right about here is where your inner depresso may spark up and say “But they’re busy with their family. They won’t want to see me”. Don’t listen to him/her.
These people are your close friends. They know you. They LIKE you. Do you think they’d want you to be all on your own feeling bad?
Call them up. You never know, they could be feeling exactly the same way as you.
And if you really don’t want to tell a friend? Call a helpline. They’re not just for people who are feeling suicidal – they’re also there to help people who are struggling. The numbers are listed below.
7. Suicidal? Call a helpline (no matter what time of day or night)
This is where I’m going to be a little firm with you. Some part of you wants to live because you’re reading this message. So I need you to reach out and tell someone how you’re feeling.
Tell your friend, a family member, your GP. Call a helpline. The people on the end of the phone at these helplines want to help you. They want to hear your story (no matter how boring you might think it is). They’re trained professionals.
If you want to find out more about my Services or the benefits of psychotherapy or counselling, feel free to have a peek around my website.
I’ll then be taking a break to recharge until 18 January 2017. I have a network of psychologist and psychotherapist pals in Brisbane who would love to help you whilst I am away. Give me a call to talk about finding someone to help you.
An Emotional Survival Guide for Christmas was last modified: December 13th, 2018 by Sarah Tuckett
When life gives you lemons do you make lemonade or do you reach for the ice cream? I have been known to do the latter when things go really downhill. Sometimes you just need a bit of sweetness in your life, but then I regret it the next day. However, there are other things you can do to make yourself feel better that don’t involve a delicious combo of fat and sugar.
I’ve created a list of my own ‘Lemon Day’ strategies and put it on the fridge for when it is needed:
1. Walk outside and get fresh air into my lungs
2. Take off my shoes and feel the connection with the soft grass under my feet.
3. Play with my animals for 5 minutes
4. Walk by the sea and get great big gulps of fresh, salty air into my lungs
5. Drink a big glass of water in case I’m dehydrated
If you ever suffer from anxiety, whether it’s just low level worrying and rumination or a full-blown panic attack, you know that it’s not a pleasant sensation. As a therapist I give people strategies to help with anxiety. Here’s my favorite pose: the waterfall.
When I’m feeling anxious I feel my chest constrict, my breathing becomes shallow and my thoughts are racing a million miles an hour. I repeat conversations or scenarios over and over again in my head. Each time I think these things my nervous system releases more hormones keeping me in flight or fight mode, preparing me to swiftly evade grizzly bears. However there are no bears. Just my thoughts. The quickest way to help myself out of this state of anxiety is to tip over and put my head upside down in a pose called the Waterfall, bringing my energy back down into my body, grounding myself and letting go.
When you do this pose you’ll notice two things:
It’s really hard to have anxious thoughts when your head is upside down; and
You feel much calmer when you’re earthed into the floor like a lightning conductor.
Here’s how you do it:
Find a quiet space and take off your shoes
When you’re feeling anxiety there’s a tendency to loose contact with your body, so feeling the floor beneath your feet is going to anchor you back into your body. i.e. ground you.
2. Stand with your feet hip width apart, toes slightly inwards
(That’s your ‘real’ hip width not the wishful thinking width). Probably around two hand spans apart. Making your toes turn inwards slightly will stretch some of your glute muscles.
3. Bend forward and touch the ground with your finger tips
Slowly bend forward until you can touch the ground (bending your knees as much as you need to in order to touch down). Make a little claw with your fingers and use them to anchor yourself down into the ground. There should not be any weight in your hands.
4. Let your head and neck hang loosely
This is a pose of surrender; of letting go. Do a few yes and no movements with your head to release the tension in your neck and then just let it hang. When I do this pose I feel like my body is melting down towards the ground like a candle.
5. Breathe in and sigh out
Breath in through your nose and sigh out through your mouth. Letting go of everything.
6. Search for the sensation of vibration
What we’re aiming to do in this pose is let go in your muscles and in your mind. We’re asking your mind and your muscles to relax and melt into the floor. So we’re going to search for the sensation of your muscles letting go. This feels like little vibrations up the back of your body. It’s the opposite of having your muscles locked-up for strength. Keep your knees soft (off-lock). (All you yogis out there – this is different to Uttanasana – you’re aiming for softness not a hard stretch). Slowly straighten and bend your legs to find the place where your legs slightly vibrate. Once you’ve found the place, just breathe into it. Breathing in through your nose and sighing out through your mouth. If you don’t feel any vibrations, make your out-breath longer (it’s often hiding there). And if you’re feeling adventurous you can gently lift your heels off the floor and bend and straighten your legs.
7. Hang out down here for 1-5 minutes
Depending on how much time you have, whether your nose clogs up upside-down, or whether the phone rings. Just hang out down here as long as you feel you want to. Always come up slowly so that your blood pressure can equalise.
8. Don’t worry if you don’t feel any vibrations at first
When I was first taught this pose I hung out there for 10 minutes willing my body to let go. I had anxiety about the fact that I couldn’t do the pose “properly”! My muscles were really flexible from years of yoga and dancing, but my mind was more rigid. It wasn’t until I softened my mind that I felt the vibration and relaxation. There’s no competition, just let what happens happen and enjoy the peace and quiet.
For more information on how I can help with anxiety please have a look at my Anxiety page or have a look at my Services page which tells you all about the different techniques I use to help you recover (counselling, mindfulness and body psychotherapy).
If you would like some help with anxietyplease feel free to give me a call on 0450 22 00 59 or book online.
The waterfall – a pose to help with anxiety was last modified: September 7th, 2017 by Sarah Tuckett