Two Simple Tips for Managing Your Anxiety, Rather Than Letting it Control You
So many people talk about managing anxiety in their lives, but especially right now since Covid- 19 emerged earlier this year. In fact, anxiety is one of the most common themes that I hear clients, colleagues, students and friends are currently struggling with. Consequently, I would like to offer 2 simple tips that can help to manage this issue.
One effective strategy is practicing gratitude. Some people keep a gratitude journal. You could be as creative as you like with the journal. You could make a collage, use symbolic imagery, photos, art, stickers, etc., in the journal. A good practice is to identify 3 different things daily that you are grateful for, either in the morning or at night. Some people prefer to keep a gratitude jar. When you are having a hard time with daily gratitude, you can look back in the jar for inspiration. Additionally, another way to experience/express gratitude is writing letters to people you are grateful for. Better yet, tell them (although this may be through FaceTime or Zoom due to social distancing guidelines). This not only benefits you, but your loved one as well.
This practice helps people psychologically. In fact, research illustrates that gratitude can immediately improve mood, reduce stress and is correlated with feelings of serenity. All of which in turn positively affect physical health and longevity.
Gratitude positively influences your brain too. Through practicing gratitude and when others show it towards us, we release the neurotransmitters Dopamine (influences sense of pleasure/reward) and Serotonin (related to happiness). In fact, the UCLA, Mindfulness Awareness Research Center noted that gratitude changes the neural pathways in our brain and makes us feel happier and more content.
Another effective technique for reducing anxiety is chanting. Even if you are not a meditator, into Yoga or Eastern religions, chanting “Om” can have powerful wellness implications. Editor in-Chief of Psychologies Magazine, Suzy Walker, pointed out how to use “Om” and the implications of the practice. Her “Extreme self-care in times of crisis” article suggests you can practice for 3 minutes per day with “Om” and the breath. Begin by simply inhaling and exhaling and as you exhale on the out breath, say a long “Om”. After practicing “Om” coupled with the breath, just sit and relax and notice the benefits.
Why practice “Om”? Consider the following benefits. Walker’s article posits that research indicates that “Om” in comparison to other words, deactivates the Amygdala, the part of your brain that influences fear and aggression. The “Om” vibration activates the Vagus nerve. This nerve links information between the brain and the body. When the Vagus nerve is stimulated through the “Om” chant, it calms your digestive system, breathing and heart rate. As a result, this makes your body and mind feel more relaxed. Finally, “Om” can be a form of meditation and mindfulness as by focusing on the chant, you can quiet your mind and focus on being in the present.
In conclusion, the gratitude and “Om” practices can be vehicles for ultimately minimizing anxiety through neuroscience and biology. In other words, the practices literally calm the body and mind. Such holistic approaches can be like a domino effect that helps with positive thoughts and emotions.