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Aerial photography Anxiety Dealing with a Crisis Distress Tolerance letting go of fear Stress

7 Anxiety Relief Techniques That Work

How to Quickly Reduce Stress in a Crisis

Take a moment to look at situations in a stable, rational way and adjust your perspective. Instead of investing your emotions in anxiety and stress, stop, pause and direct your responses to be calm and solution focused. Accept reality without fatiguing or exasperating yourself. Radical Acceptance is an anxiety relief technique to accept reality, even when it’s challenging and downright painful. During my work as a Registered Psychiatric Nurse and Counsellor, I teach others to learn necessary habits needed to relieve stress and anxiety, and maintain healthy mental health habits. The human condition has an ability for joy, love and happiness, but we all face challenges, disappointments and uncertainty along the way as a part of our life journey.

Take Charge and Shift Your Mindset

In this complex and unstable world we need to have tools. Our prehistoric brain highlights fear, anxiety and negativity and works against us. Take charge through daily practice of re-framing thoughts and shift your mindset. Productive thinking boosts self-esteem and puts the clutter of negative thoughts in the trash where they belong. Our primal survival instincts get triggered, scanning in our environment for danger. Then we scare ourselves with irrational fear thoughts such as if the worst came true we would fall apart. We think when we go through a trauma or loss we are alone, but this is not true, our primal nature is to support one another with compassion. Use that same skill to have self compassion towards yourself. This lowers cortisol the stress hormone, and increases resilience during stressful events.

Acknowledge Painful Feelings

Recognize fear thoughts and replace them with safe and comforting thoughts by firmly directing your mind. Change and loss is natural and can lead to personal growth. Uncertainty can mean you’re on the right track and are opening yourself to new opportunities. When you use your imagination during a tough change or painful event to see the good and imagine that you’re creating something better in that space, you are changing the neural pathways in your brain. Acknowledge difficult and painful feelings as they come up and know this will change.

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where stands in times of challenge and controversy” Martin Luther King

Focus on How This Change Brings You a New Perspective

A challenge is an opportunity when you look at it with a brand new perspective. If you are going through a tough change, find the good that came from it. When you visualize a positive outcome and move forward, it does not mean you erase the memory from your mind. You are now focusing on how this change brings alternative possibilities. It may have given you the gift of wisdom, knowing you’re resilient or an increased understanding of yourself. Acknowledge the fear and the courage it took to move forward. Looking for the good does not negate what happened to you. With your eye on a positive outcome you can gain perspective, and this will shift you into a better state of mind.

Develop True Grit During Tough Situations

When you put pressure on yourself to achieve a goal, your brain does its best to step up to the changing conditions. By changing habits, for example, you are perturbing the equilibrium of what was normal. Instead of going into high anxiety after a change, practice calming skills such as deep breathing, which connects you with your vagus nerve. Your reactive brain wants to go back to being the same and fear drives it. Welcome personal growth challenges under pressure to develop resiliency and develop a sense of true grit when the going gets tough. Train yourself to stay calm with forward moving energy. This provides stability during a sudden change or threat in your environment. You can learn how to be productive even during a crisis. This is something that takes practice as our brain is reactive. If you allow it to overreact with challenges, the flood of cortisol and adrenaline can deplete your energy. 

Put the Challenge into Perspective with Others

As humans, we can reassure and support others. Engage your community with empathy by putting things in perspective, as this regulates emotions. Respond compassionately to somebody in distress. Without getting anxious with them respond with caring and connection. If you dive right in and become upset with them experiencing negative emotions, this can cause overwhelm. Respond with genuine warmth and concern expressing compassion. Sometimes bearing witness to their pain with empathy is all that someone needs. Put the challenge into perspective and offer decision-making skills. With practice you can nurture other people in their time of need by offering them the gift of your wise self with your supportive words. Helping others with warmth and compassion releases the neurotransmitter oxytocin, which is a hormone that promotes feelings of love, bonding and well-being. 

Persistence,Courage and Strength

We need determination and endurance in life. Sometimes we need to tolerate pain and frustration, and during this time we need persistence and courage. Practice feeling strong by ignoring past hurt, perceived failures and let downs. Forge ahead and stop giving power to the past. Redirect yourself and focus only on the positive goal you wish to accomplish.

The Heart is the CEO

Remember that the heart is the CEO, and can quickly bring you to a state of ease. Instead of trying to master your worry thoughts ruled by the cognitive part of your brain, learn to re-calibrate to a belief of safety and refuge through regulating your heart rhythm. In my experience, this is the deepest and most permanent way to feel better. When you do heart focused breathing, you put your heart in a coherent state with thoughts of joy, love, appreciation, gratitude, compassion and forgiveness. This is a higher level of thinking which puts your heart rhythm in a smooth even wave. If you stay in a lower level state of anger, despair and anxiety your heart rhythm is in an incoherent state or in a jagged wave which can cause stress-related disorders.

Shift Out of Your Primal Fear State

At any point in time we are in our primal fear state which is the fight flight zone of the sympathetic nervous system or we are in the healing and powerful state of the parasympathetic zone of the nervous system. This means we connect with the benefit of the restorative vagus nerve. Our primal brain limits us with fear, insecurities, doubts, worries and anxieties, as this is the cognitive part of our brain which is a lower level state. When we are overthinking things and getting into a worry loop, this can be mentally draining and effect health. At any point in time we have the choice to shift out of this primal fear state into the higher and healthier state of our heart’s intelligence, connecting with joy, creativity and inspiration.

Call to Action

1) Make it your personal challenge to stay calm despite misfortune and set an intention that you are strong and serene. This prevents our amygdala or our emotion centre from irrational over response. Accept life’s uncertainty and develop a calm response pattern overtime. Stay solution focused and calm when waters get turbulent in life. Equanimity takes training and practice, as our primal brain is normally reactive to keep us safe from harm.

2) Find music with a strong rhythmic beat. Music is a right-brain exercise, where nonverbal creativity, intuition, and perception live. Immerse yourself in a challenging and creative project. Distress and stress are a left-brain activity with solving mental tasks, problem solving and analyzing. The left brain can get fatigued, stressed, and strained. Engage your right brain with creativity to relieve distress.

3) Have compassion for others and use this same skill to have self compassion towards yourself. Treat yourself with kindness and understanding. This lowers cortisol the stress hormone, and increases resilience during stressful events. Compassion releases the neurotransmitter oxytocin, which is a hormone that increases well-being.

4) Sit where you can be uninterrupted for 3 minutes. Close your eyes and visualize yourself calm through mental rehearsal. Imagine what a composed person looks like and have an image of yourself as calm. The breath has both emotional and physical benefits. Oriental meditators believe breathing is the secret to longevity as it eases the strain on both the heart and vital organs. Learn to breathe and stay composed during unpleasant events and emotional upset. Easy, rhythmic breathing patterns can get you through challenging times.

5) Ride the wave with 4×4 breathing until the distress has passed. Breathe in for the count of 4, hold for the count of 4, exhale for the count of 4, hold for 4. Comparable to a wave, the emotion will appear intense, reach its peak, then pass and dissipate. 

6) Seek and find positive experiences for brain health, even in the middle of hardship and pain. Wonderful facts are still around you, even when life is difficult. With practice this builds strength, resilience, and boosts feel good brain chemistry such as serotonin. This benefits brain structure and health.

7) Whenever you are in your monkey mind with your thoughts are racing out of control understand that you are in a primal state and notice your negative inner dialogue. Say to yourself “OK, I am in a primal unhealthy state and I am now going to my powerful higher level state.” Put your hand on your heart, do heart focused breathing and know that your higher level of intelligence lies in the intuitive voice of your heart. Remember, your heart provides wiser counsel than the inaccurate primal chatter of the brain when under stress.

About the Author

Kim co authored the #1 Bestselling book Emotional Intelligence: Mental Health Matters, which provides a set of supportive tools and inspiring stories to help women conquer negative influences, harness the power of psychological wellness and thrive emotionally.For more information go to:

https://www.awomanofworth.com/kim-mowatt

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Anxiety Dealing with a Crisis Distress Tolerance happiness letting go of fear

How to Deal With Anxiety, Overwhelm and Frustration With One Fast and Effective Tool

The Key to Being Strong During This Challenging Time With COVID 19

The key to being strong in the face of adversity is to practice mindfulness by taking a step back outside of the situation and look at it as a quiet observer. Heartmath Quick Coherence Technique gives you a tool for that pause during this challenging time with COVID 19. When you jump into the problem, you are in a much less effective state to deal with it, than if you take a step out of it. Much stress can be prevented by practicing pause and calm. Pausing before responding to situations gives us a chance to be in charge, rather than be in a stressed out and reactive state, worse having a panic attack. Rushing, we can miss inner signals to pause when needed. Our mental and emotional energies can jam with anxiety, frustration or overwhelm and it is more effective instead to pause, and ask our heart’s intelligence what perception would give us inner balance and clear direction. I have found that when you learn non-reactivity without being carried away or swept away by external difficult circumstances you find wisdom instead.

By Regulating Your Heart Rhythm You Can Relieve Anxiety

Remember that the heart is the CEO, and can bring you to a state of ease, so instead of trying to master your thought process ruled by the cognitive part of your brain learn to re-calibrate a belief of safety and refuge through regulating your heart rhythm. In my experience this is the deepest and most permanent way to feel better, and one of the best ways to manage anxiety. When you do heart focused breathing you put your heart in a coherent state with thoughts of joy, love, appreciation gratitude, compassion and forgiveness. This is a higher level of thinking which puts your heart rhythm in a smooth even wave. If you stay in a lower level state of anger, despair and anxiety your heart rhythm is in an incoherent state or in a jagged wave which can cause stress-related disorders.

“Don’t let your mind drown out your intuitive voice, train your subconscious to be positive by using the hearts intelligence” Steven Redhead author of Unleash the Power of Your Heart and Mind”

  1. Put your hand on your heart and focus your attention there.
  2. Imagine your breath is flowing in and out through your heart.
  3. Focus on the photo of this beautiful bunny and breath in the feeling of love into your heart.
  4. Once you have shifted into a positive feeling, sustain this emotion by continuing to do heart-focused breathing. http://www.heartmath.com

Stop The Worry Loop

At any point in time we are either in our primal state which is the fight flight zone of the sympathetic nervous system or we are in a healing and powerful state of the parasympathetic zone of the nervous system which means we are connected with the healing vagus nerve. Our primal state is limited with fears or insecurities, doubts, worries and anxieties, as this is is the cognitive part of our brain which is a lower level state. When we are overthinking things and getting into a worry loop, this can be mentally draining and affect health. At any point in time we have the choice to shift out of this primal state into the higher and healthier state of heart coherence, connecting with joy, creativity and inspiration.

“And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.” Antoine De Saint-Exupery author of “The Little Prince”

Call To Action:

Whenever you are in your monkey mind with your thoughts are racing out of control understand that you are in this primal state and notice your negative inner dialogue. Say OK I am in a primal unhealthy state and I am now going to my powerful higher level state. Put your hand on your heart, do heart focused breathing and know that your higher level of intelligence lies in the intuitive voice of your heart.

Kim co authored the #1 Bestselling book Emotional Intelligence: Mental Health Matters, which provides a set of supportive tools and inspiring stories to help women conquer negative influences, harness the power of psychological wellness and thrive emotionally.For more information click on the photo or go to:
https://www.awomanofworth.com/kim-mowatt

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Anxiety Distress Tolerance Healing letting go of fear

Understanding Your Primal Freeze Response to Stress and Overwhelm

Freeze Response to Stress

There was an abrupt disconnect during the escalating emergency surrounding Jenna. It trapped her in a muffled silence, where everything else went on without her, and she froze. It had happened to her before, but never on her job as a paramedic. She had made sure of that, taking light volumes of sedatives that eased her usually anxious mind. 

“The detection of a person as safe or dangerous triggers neurobiologically determined pro-social or defensive behaviours.Even though we may not always be aware of danger on a cognitive level, on a neurophysiological level, our body has already started a sequence of neural processes that would facilitate adaptive defense behaviours such as fight, flight or freeze. ”

Stephen W. Porges, The Polyvagal Theory Neurophysiological Foundations of Emotions, Attachment, Communication, and Self-regulation

Someone was screaming her name. The voice bounced off the cold walls of her mind, muffled and drawn. Her hands were shaking. It was the only thing she could see. Her fingers, a supple glow and vivid contrast to the young man lying pale and limp against the white bed.

“Jenna!” Her mind snapped, and she rejoined the present. Loud alarms screamed from the surrounding machines. She was one of the two paramedics on that ambulance. This was an emergency. The teenager convulsing in the bed before her needed to be stabilized, now and not later. He was writhing, limbs flailing, cracking the stretcher underneath him, despite being restrained by her colleague.

“What’s wrong with you, Jenna! You just zoned out!” Her coworker and paramedic friend screamed.

Jenna had always known something was wrong with the world out there. Something wrong with its loud and demanding personalities that she avoided. But that question made her switch perspective. Maybe the problem wasn’t out there, perhaps the problem was within her. She loved her work more than anything. She was always primed in her white uniform, reciting every procedure mentally in her mind before arriving on scene. And then, suddenly, like a released spring, her mind started disassociating and freezing during urgent work situations.

It terrified her. 

She stayed up that night with her knees drawn to her chin, her mind unraveling, replaying the horror that had unfolded in that ambulance. The disappointment on her coworker’s face remained with her, as she went over and over in her mind. The disgust and confusion in their faces etched in hard lines. She sat staring at her thoughts jutting out crazily in all directions. Her pale face stared at the wall as her doctor took her blood pressure. “I will put you on six weeks stress leave. First responders can suffer from symptoms of PTSD. I know of a ranch with horses run by a Registered Psychiatric Nurse and it would be the perfect therapy for you.” She wrote the note for the stress leave and the name of the ranch, and gave Jenna a caring smile touching her shoulder. Relief washed over her, as she needed time to heal. Jenna went home and quickly packed her riding clothes to spend one month at Chrome Heart Ranch to work with the Wise Women on Horseback program.

The Dorsal Parasympathetic Response

 This is a primal response that keeps us frozen to survive when we feel death could happen. We have this response to keep ourselves alive until we can fight or flee again. This response also has the potential to have us feel disconnected, hopeless and spaced out. Heart rate and breathing might also decrease. Some people may not speak, have a constriction in the throat, or crawl into bed not wanting to move. 

The freeze response is your coping mechanism when an event in front of you overwhelms you and it paralyzes you with fear. In seconds you know that you can either defeat the frightening event or run from it, but if not the experience can send the person into a state of freeze which can be full collapse,dissociation, or a more partial freeze such as an inability to think clearly or access words or emotions, or to move parts of the body. This can be momentary or short term.

When stress is very great, the sympathetic nervous system automatically goes to our primal fight-or-flight response. It can happen in response to the threat or the perception of a threat. Either fighting or fleeing can resolve the stress. If neither is possible nor successful, the sympathetic arousal can get so extreme that it is too much for the body to handle, leading to a state of a freeze response.

Some of my clients, have had extended freeze episodes after a traumatic event. An unwanted trigger or reminiscing over a painful event had led some to shut down sometimes for months at a time. Therapy, however, helps the nervous system regain its healthy balance and with help from a professional, climb out of the state of being disconnected. This trust-based compassionate relationship builds inner strength, and gradually resets the nervous system and helps regain a feeling of safety.

“Practice self-compassion and experience the priceless feeling of emotional safety.” Amy Leigh Mercree, The Compassion Revolution: 30 Days of Living from the Heart

Kim co authored the #1 Bestselling book Emotional Intelligence: Mental Health Matters,which provides a set of supportive tools and inspiring stories to help women conquer negative influences, harness the power of psychological wellness and thrive emotionally.For more information go to:
https://www.awomanofworth.com/kim-mowatt
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Anxiety Dealing with a Crisis Distress Tolerance letting go of fear Mindfulness

When in a Crisis,Try These Four Steps That Work Quickly to Keep You Calm

“Sometimes there is no time to wait for the sea to calm down! If you have to reach your target, let your voyage start and let the storm be your path.” Mehmet Murat Ildan

Kim co authored the #1 Bestselling book Emotional Intelligence: Mental Health Matters,which provides a set of supportive tools and inspiring stories to help women conquer negative influences, harness the power of psychological wellness and thrive emotionally.For more information go to:https://www.awomanofworth.com/kim-mowatt

Julie Blackwater’s legs were going like pistons, a pure celebration of speed on her morning run. She pumped through the burn in her thighs, keeping her pace to the rolling tunes of rock music. The sun was high overhead; the heat pressed all around her. She gradually slowed to a stop and stooped over panting. Her muscles hummed, tingling as she stretched. Sweat was heavy on her lids, she swiped at them, and flicked her wrist to check her temperature on the screen of her smart watch. She blinked. She was burning up, hotter than the usual. As her breathing gradually dropped to normal, the adrenaline quickly dying out, her senses took in her surroundings. The air was different. She sniffed it, noticing a pungent scent. Her eyes strobed the area as her mind struggled to place it. 

The first alarm went off in her head, when she realized her eyesight was hazy. It felt wrong. She keened her vision and picked out the feathery wisps of smoke. Smoke on a summer’s day? She downed the last contents of her water bottle. The cool liquid quickly disappeared down her dry throat, doing little to quench her thirst. She frowned down at the empty container. 

Her gaze swept wildly a second time, coming up short of an explanation until she spun to the east. A few yards away from where she stood, a thick wall of smoke slowly crawled its way towards her, its ghostly mass swallowing trees as it hovered closer at a steady pace. The sight rooted Julie to the spot as her thoughts blanked, her frantic nerves struggling to piece reasoning.

Without thinking, she burst into a quick run in the opposite direction, climbing up a slippery slope on all fours until she had gained a few meters above level ground. She paused to glimpse back at it, and that was when she saw it, above the tops of the trees, a blazing wall screamed towers of thick smoke into the sky. The blood in her veins curdled, the shock pinning her in place, but only for a moment. 

She cautiously swept a scanning gaze around her, realizing that the wall of fire stretched down south and beyond view. How had she missed it, she thought to herself, snatching the pods from her ears. The crackling of the burning forest and the roaring of the fire surrounded her hearing at once and the pulsating flames, though a distance away, beat sweltering waves of heat towards her.

 Stress is a very distinct feeling in the body. We can get hijacked with an unexpected crisis along with a torrent of concerns with worry and regret. Emotions are natural and part of being human. However, when we remain in our emotional mind, upsetting circumstances and negative states can break away on us like a colt out of control galloping for home. When we have overwhelming emotions, just like the horse bolting out of control, they can take charge. Don’t clear away painful emotions, but  shift them, and remain solution focused. When something unexpected happens, acknowledge that emotional shock wave that you’re feeling in that moment. You have earned the right to say WHAT! Are you kidding me? You must become aware of what you’re feeling before you can let it go. Acknowledge it, but don’t park yourself and stay there. It doesn’t hurt for you to take a pause, take a step back, and objectively and cleverly find a solution.

This doesn’t mean that you’re just suddenly all together and over the situation, and it doesn’t magically erase what happened, but by bringing a  different perspective this now refocuses your mind. The Reticular Activating System (RAS) is the brilliant google of the brain. When you focus on a solution, ideas that you may have never thought of before will pop up, sorting and filtering through data on information that you are zeroing in on. In Julie Blackwater’s case, she needed those solutions for her very survival.  This newfound strength and understanding is not a perfect science, but you always know that when you take a step back and trust your RAS as well as your heart’s intelligence, you will be OK. Despite the pain, accept that there are always things beyond your control and that you can make some room for what could be an opportunity in looking at your life differently. This insight may not happen overnight but be patient with yourself, as sometimes ideas take time to show up.

“Change the Changeable, accept the unchangeable, and remove yourself from the unacceptable”

In Julie’s case she was in crisis and there was no time for contemplation as the only option was for survival and to forge ahead with creative ideas. When we look at what crisis has happened, sit with some acceptance of it and not try to change it, anxiety lifts. By letting go of wanting things to be how you want them to be and free yourself of controlling events, you’ll spend more time focusing on what you want rather than what you don’t want, and feel lighter and happier. Take a good hard look at what happened and problem solve on what you can do. Immediately let go of what you can’t control about it, and take a giant step back outside of the problem, knowing that you are in the drivers seat with your RAS at your side.

Four Steps to Use in a Crisis:  STOP

S: Stop: look at the situation

T: Take a giant step back in your imagination outside of the problem.

O: Observe your feelings, put your hand on your heart and name the emotion. This gesture reduces the stress response in the body.

P:  Problem solve, by using your RAS which is the reliable google of the brain, and seek 1-3 solutions. Sometimes you have to think outside of the box.

I invite you to share with me in the “Leave a Reply” section at the very bottom of the page your experiences, and how you creatively problem solved through them.

 

 

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Anxiety Horseback riding Horses letting go of fear

How to Flip the Switch and Powerfully Move Forward Despite Fear

“A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions”  Oliver Wendell Holmes

I felt a menacing uncorked adrenaline as my horse Remington pirouetted under me. He was a bucking bundle of pent-up energy. Turning the reins in a circle, was my only exertion of control over him. Beads of sweat gathered under my helmet as nervousness wrapped around me like a wet rope. I could feel his sculpted muscles straining, as his hooves trampled the grass under us, quivering like a coiled spring. My body hummed with the excitement; senses tuned in to interpret the beating waves of beastly body language pulsing through the saddle.

Beside us, in a relaxed pose, was my endurance riding partner Georgia. Her body was poised athletically as she cruised upon her horse. Her horse pranced high with fixed long smooth strides that spoke of refined horsemanship. His fountain of jet black mane danced in the breeze, as he gleamed spotless in the morning sun, his nostrils flaring. Now and then, he would flare a sneer with his nostrils at his opponent. It drove Remington wild.

Both horses were two worlds apart but yet had perfect timing when riding together even though very different from each other. Remington was a 16 hand Anglo Arab horse with every vice imaginable. He took sharp gigantic trots with an attitude to match. Georgia’s mount was a stunning National Show Horse who looked like Black Beauty, and yet somehow both horses trotted together in perfect synchronicity during their training together.

The Helldiver Endurance race was about to begin. There was a feverish pitch in the air, a mix of sweat and fear, all the horses on high alert. The pause was endless. 

Earlier that day,  Georgia and I had both been up at the peaceful quiet of 4:00 am in our gumboots. The horses were relaxed and munching on their Timothy hay, nuzzling each other as the best of friends, and we fed them beet pulp, vitamins and electrolytes. Now, I could feel the high octane oozing off Remington, and he was ready to go. I saw my partner was ready, her Boz saddle was equipped with red saddlebags, water bottles and a red bandana.

Cinching up my girth, Remington was twisting his neck wildly, not wanting to wait a moment more. After my last safety check, it was time. The breath in my chest was held tight and my fingers were clammy through my leather gloves, the thoughts in my mind frozen in time. I knew once Remington took flight; I was a passenger humbly aboard, and there was nothing but the wind, the reins and the trails ahead. There was no turning back until the end of the race.

That morning I feared being in control of this wild and unpredictable horse, a lightening bolt of power with massive forward motion. I learned valuable lessons from all of our horses, but Remi taught me the most about fear. He was cantering on the spot like a raging dancer, challenging my will, wanting to launch, but I held him back with all my might, afraid. When I relaxed and loosened the reins, and worked with his energy, we both flew in forward motion with ease and in sync. It was a beautiful rhythm to experience.

I symbolize this moment as a metaphor for life. When you hold yourself back in fear, worry and self-doubt, it becomes the pent-up bundled energy of a horse cantering on the spot. Recognize when you hold yourself back and cling to the safety and comfort of certainty, you elude new and exciting adventures in your life. The time is now to loosen your grip on what is holding you back and enjoy coasting toward a new experience with forward moving energy. To step through a door to uncertainty can be a beautiful fusion of fear but also freedom. Take that powerful force within yourself and channel it into relaxing and letting go into flowing forward motion toward your goal.

Exercise

1) Pick an area of your life you would like to improve upon.

2) Ask yourself this question. What one subtle slight change in your behaviour could you do to change it? It could be very small as though you hardly notice at all. Write it down.

3) Commit and do it. Make sure it is small, reasonable and doable. When you lean into a micro movement, it is moving forward.

4) Measure the action, by making a statement and being specific on what that action looks like; i.e. I walked for 15 minutes at noon. 

5) Have a powerful and positive word that inspires you.

I invite you to share with me; what ways have you recently let go of fear and put yourself outside of your comfort zone?