To Your Health
Toward a Worry-free Me
If stress and worry are your constant companions, it’s time to ease up on yourself
If I think back, I can pretty much trace my tumultuous relationship with worry back to my high school years. I used to make everything out to be life or death – apparently I missed the memo on being carefree in my teen years. I mean, what could be harder than high school?
Then (to my surprise!) came my early twenties, college, serious relationships, rent, full-time jobs and panic attacks. I remember my first panic attack. I remember thinking I was too young to be having a heart attack. I remember being afraid of dying. And most of all, I remember being scared out of my mind because I had no idea what was happening to me. I had spent so much of my life perfecting the art of my worrying, that I didn’t even realize it started taking over my life.
Anxiety disorders – which are now the most common mental illness in the U.S. – are categorized as excessive worry, immense dread and irrational fears that persist for longer than 6 months. Who knew the worry and fear that plagued me everyday had a name! There are also multiple types of anxiety disorders: Generalized Anxiety Disorder; Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder; Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder; Panic Disorder and Social Anxiety Disorder. And it is more often than not women that are more affected by anxiety disorders.
The good news is that it is possible to help ease some of the pain of anxiety…and the body symptoms that go along with it! Here are some things you can do to help alleviate stress and anxiety and bring yourself back to a state of calmness:
• Check Your Ego At The Door: Perfection is a four-letter word. When you try to push yourself into a yoga pose that your body isn’t ready for simply because you don’t look as graceful in the pose as the person on the next mat you can seriously injure yourself. The same holds true for life off the mat. When you constantly strive for perfection, you set yourself up against seemingly impossible standards. And usually these expectations are good – they give you an extra push to strive for your best. But when your expectations make your ‘best’ not good enough, it’s time to change your perspective. Do your best and stop trying to be perfect – just be you!
• Go Easy On Yourself: Overcoming anxiety is not just about the destination, it’s about the journey. It won’t always be easy and sometimes just the thought of facing your anxieties and stressors can cause uneasiness. But the journey is worth it. Don’t get down on yourself if you don’t relieve your panic attacks in a week or if the idea of booking a plane flight still makes your stomach flip after one month. Just keep at it and fill yourself with positive thoughts and energy. Don’t beat yourself up – you’ve spent enough time getting down on yourself. Just pick yourself back up and pat yourself on the back.
• Breathe Easy: This is one of the most amazing things you can do for yourself… and you can do it anywhere! When you start to feel anxious, begin to take slow, deep breaths through your nose. Envision the air going all the way through your body into your belly (when anxious, the breath usually stops at the chest). Become super mindful of your breath and work to keep it slow and controlled. This is a great defense against panic attacks too.
• Stay Present: Most worries are focused on things that have yet to happen, such as an upcoming flight, a work review at the end of the year or midterms. It never helps to worry constantly about things that have yet to happen and worrying won’t have any effect on the outcome of the event you’re worried about. Instead, try to focus on the present moment. Very rarely will you have a reason to feel anxious when you are focused on what you are already doing.
If you think you may be suffering from an anxiety disorder, it’s always best to consult with a physician.
Bonnie Schmidt is a certified yoga instructor with a background in stress and anxiety relief. She leads workshops that teach how to incorporate a stress-relieving practice into daily life and how to understand the root causes of stress. Her web site, Anxiety to Zen, is dedicated to educating and empowering people about anxiety disorders, and sharing tips and advice for anxiety sufferers.