When you feel stressed or anxious, have you been mindful of your breathing? Notice if you’re holding your breath, taking shallow breaths, or breathing too quickly.
Take control of your breathing by trying a short breathing exercise:
Lay, sit, or stand comfortably, with good posture to allow yourself to breathe easily.
If you’re laying or sitting, maybe you want to close your eyes to increase focus.
You may place your hands gently on your stomach to physically feel it move in and out as you breathe.
Take note of physical sensations and then focus on your breathe.
If you find yourself becoming distracted by anything, acknowledge the distraction (distractions occur naturally and are reminders to return to what we were working on), allow it to roll through your awareness, and then simply return your attention to your breathing.
Breathe in for 3 seconds: 1-2-3
Breathe out for 3 seconds: 1-2-3
Repeat 3 times
Notice any differences in how you physically or mentally feel.
Calmly return your focus to the environment around you.
You may want to play around with the time spent in the exercise, do what works for you.
*Tip for severe anxiety and panic: if you find yourself holding your breath for longer than the brief pause during this exercise, skip the pause all together and just focus on steady in-and-out breathes.*
What’s your favorite positive affirmation, right now?
Mine is, “I have everything I need.”
I tend to feel like I need MORE (belongings, money, approval from others, etc.) and it can create anxiety and tension. I don’t actually need any of these things. When I practice living in the moment and tell myself that I have everything that I need RIGHT NOW, HERE in the present, I feel less anxious.
Self-Soothe is about calming through the senses, and the goal is to engage your senses in behaviors that are relaxing.
As you practice self-soothe, allow judgements, stress, worries, and unhelpful thoughts to slide through your mind, and just be in the moment. This process will rejuvenate you and help regulate your body.
Commit to adding self-soothing strategies into your daily schedule.
What kind of things do you enjoy seeing? Seek out these visually pleasing things. Gaze at sunsets, nature, cityscape, aquarium, whatever is visually relaxing to you. You can also create your own artwork or take photos.
Take a few minutes to fully appreciate something, it can be as simple as leaves on a tree. Connect with it and take it in.
Listen to soft music or go outside and soak up the sounds of nature.
Hear with your eyes closed and allow yourself to become immersed in the experience.
Choose household cleaners, perfumes, lotions, aromatherapy, essential oils, and candles that have pleasant smells.
Baking your favorite dish or dessert will fill your home with that smell.
A tip for taste is to eat a small amount of food one-mindfully, engaging all five senses.
Savor a piece of dark chocolate, a bite of a juicy apple, a spoonful of ice cream melting in your mouth, or the tanginess of a salsa.
Timing yourself to see how long you can draw out the experience is helpful for becoming immersed.
Ask a loved one for a hug or to hold hands. Snuggle with your cat or dog. Give yourself a facial, neck, or hand massage. Wear your most comfortable clothes and fuzzy, thick socks or wrap up in a warm blanket. Take a mindful bubble bath or a longer shower.
Pay attention to your patterns, they can be physical, mental and or emotional. Patterns will reveal your reactions to situations, giving you feedback on what works, versus what doesn’t work. When you are doing something that works, do a little more of it.
This is a mindfulness strategy that helps anyone suffering from stress, anxiety and depression, chronic pain, relationship problems, focus and attention issues, and painful memories and feelings.
Here’s a short example: A person who is suffering from seasonal depression (seasonal affective disorder) is exhausted and lacking energy most of the time. Their usual routine is, they wake up, get ready for work, skip breakfast, head to work, work their usual shift, come home, eat dinner, unwind by watching television, clean part of the house, call someone over the phone, get ready for bed, try to get some sleep. They realize that this routine doesn’t work for them because it isn’t really addressing the depression or tiredness.
Looking at their patterns, they realize that they could start their day off better by eating breakfast before rushing out the door for work. Eating a healthy, balanced breakfast is added into their daily routine. They liked the idea of breakfast and coffee, and having fuel in the tank effectively addressed the tiredness.
After adding breakfast into their routine, they kept up with that for a few weeks. Reexamining their patterns, they felt like eating breakfast wasn’t enough in itself when battling their seasonal depression. Instead of watching television, they exercised for 30 minutes to an hour every other day. Adding the exercise boosted their mood and overall wellness. Making these adjustments of adding breakfast and exercise improved their seasonal depression.
What to do
Ask yourself these questions (maybe spend 5 minutes a day working on this):
Pay close attention to what happens when difficult thoughts and feelings arise – what do you do in reaction?
Why do you keep doing what you do?
What do you get from it?
It’s not always easy finding your patterns, solutions and making the adjustments, but stick with it. We go through several difficult and complex situations in life, so when necessary, talk with a therapist because they can support you through this process.
[This card is from the deck of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT Deck) cards, which I purchased through Amazon, online.]