Music has the ability to soothe our soul like nothing else. Your choice of soothing music has the ability to reduce your anxiety, make you feel calmer and happier. Here are four ways in which music calms your anxiety:
1. Listening to music impacts your nervous system and the neurotransmitters your brain sends out
Listening to calming music reduces the levels of cortisol and stress hormones in your body.
Music has been shown to have a greater effect on calming your anxiety than relaxation techniques and anti-anxiety medication in scientific studies (2014 and 2017). And all you have to do is listen!
Music has even been found to have had an anti-inflammatory effect on the body (which is a risk factor for lots of diseases and health conditions).
2. Music soothes your heart
When you are feeling anxious you will often feel your heart racing. Music helps to slow your heart rate and decrease your blood pressure. (Read more..)
3. Listening to your favorite songs releases dopamine which makes you feel happy
Yup, the same ‘happy’ neurotransmitter that is released when you are doing pleasurable activities (e.g. food, sex, drugs), is released by just listening to your favorite song. So maybe step away from the chocolate and put on your favorite song. (Yeah no…. That’s never going to happen…). Find out more…
4. Singing along slows your exhale and this reduces your anxiety even more
Now that you know that music really can reduce your anxiety, I hope this inspires you to put on your favorite music whenever you are stressed or anxious.
For more breathing, movement and rest techniques, hop on over to the Resources page.
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 for new clients. You can also book this online by clicking the button below.
Sounds can either delight or irritate the nervous system, which in turn has an impact on how we feel, think and behave. Last Thursday a car parked in my street had the alarm going off every 5 minutes from 10am until they picked the car up after work. By the end of the day I was grumpy and frazzled. The constant blare of car horn had bored into my nervous system, setting me on edge (a sympathetic nervous system response). This unpleasant experience led me to search Google scholar for articles on the impact of music on the nervous system.
The Impact of Music on Anxiety and Depression
Heaps of research has been done on the impact of music on anxiety and depression:
In a 2014 review of 63 scientific studies, Fancourt and co. found that not only did listening to music decrease the blood pressure, levels of cortisol and stress in your body, but it had a GREATER EFFECT than anti-anxiety medication and relaxation techniques.
Let’s think about that for a minute. Listening to your choice of relaxing music is more effective than medication! All you have to do is listen… Pass me the earphones STAT!
How does music do this? Apparently listening to the music you love releases Dopamine, the ‘feel good’ neurotransmitter that impacts our thinking, feeling and behaviour. See the research here…
But it’s not just about feeling good emotionally. The impact of sound on your nervous system impacts
other systems in your body.
The Impact of Music on Your Body
Music was found to have had an anti-inflammatory effect on the body (which is a risk for numerous diseases and conditions). See the research here..
It had a beneficial effect on anxiety, blood pressure, breathing, heart rate, sleep and pain in people with Coronary Heart Disease. See the research here..
And it had beneficial effects on anxiety, fatigue, pain and quality of life for people with cancer. See the research here..
So choose the sounds you listen to carefully….. Think about the impact of music on the nervous system.
Feeling stressed or anxious? Put on your favorite music and see if it makes an impact.
If you work in a stressful environment, why not use noise-cancelling earphones?
What sound do you use as your alarm? A friend of mine listens to the sublime, silky sounds of “Samba da Bencao” by Bebel Gilberto. Imagine waking up to that instead of a beep. How chilled would the start of your day be?
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.
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: July 10th, 2020 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: July 10th, 2020 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: July 10th, 2020 by Sarah Tuckett