In the last couple of weeks, I have noticed a theme in my coaching with my clients around overcoming anxiety and staying calm.
Our Modern Lifestyles
Now more than ever, we are hyper-connected, or “wired,” if you will. Whether it’s on our phones, computers, or other forms of technology and social media, many of us spend hours per day seemingly chained to a screen (some for work, others by choice, or a combination of both). In fact, this can turn into a serious addiction, and I’ve been through this myself. How do we sustain ourselves and stay calm?
My work as a health and lifestyle coach is location-independent and I coach my clients online. While I am fortunate to enjoy my work immensely, I also realized that being connected online for so many hours daily was draining me. This was leading to underlying anxiety that I did not even realize (and many of us don’t). The continuous stimulation of electro magnetic fields (EMFs) over-exerted my nervous system.
Making this realization was the first step, but the process of changing it was another story. It took a real, conscious, and ongoing effort.
Self-Awareness and Emotional Labeling
We are primal beings.
Humans are meant to connect and be close to nature, and that is unfortunately not the reality for many. This leads to an increase in cortisol (our body’s primary stress hormone). Which then puts us in constant “fight or flight” mode.
When we are anxious or stressed it leads to disorganization within the body’s physiology and psychology, and that leads to great inefficiencies in the exchange of energy and information in the body.
This is a critical element in all emotional healing—being able to be with what you’re feeling and sense what the vulnerable places in you need. ~ Tara Brach
The first step in managing anxiety begins with self-awareness and emotional labeling. When we are able to become mindful (aware of what is happening in the present moment), this helps us to develop emotional literacy.
First, acknowledge your reality/current situation. For example: “I’m feeling stressed, angry, anxious, etc.” Listen closely to the story you are telling yourself, then go deeper and label each emotion that you are experiencing and your body’s response to those emotions. Don’t try to change it, simply acknowledge it. Maybe, “feel” the somatic response — where do you feel it in your body?
Next, simply practice sitting with those emotions, and breathing through them. Accept them. Practice compassion towards yourself. Once you have acknowledged and accepted your emotions without judging them, you are in a much better place to choose the action you wish to take, therefore making decisions that come from a calmer and more peaceful place.
Lifestyle and Other Factors That Cause Anxiety
This constant stimulation by technology can be brought on by the following factors:
• Frequent exposure to cell phones, computers and other sources of EMFs
• Toxic relationships with self and others (that nagging inner dialogue)
• Vitamin and mineral deficiencies, gut imbalances
• Situations and people that pull us away from our true self, and where we are not allowed to be who we really are.
Daily Strategies I use to feel more zen and keep anxiety away
1. Create time for space and movement
Any movement – that works for you – high-intensity training balanced with activities such as yoga, hiking, walking and deep breathing are always great. For me, as long as I have my Prana (energy) moving, this helps me to avoid feeling stagnant and keeps my hormones and anxiety balanced. Go with what “feels” good on a given day. Studies have shown even 20-30 min of any high-intensity exercise can increase BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor) which has been shown to regulate neurogenesis. Neurogenesis is a process where new neurons (brain cells) develop in the hippocampus, the brain region responsible for learning information, storing long-term memories, and regulating emotions.
2. Be well-nourished
Making sure I am nourished with nutrient-dense, whole foods for my body and soul is a high priority. Also, certain vitamins and minerals play a key role in supporting mental health and happiness, such as these:
• Dark chocolate contains a neurotransmitter called anandamide, which is sometimes nicknamed the “bliss molecule.” It is synthesized in the same parts of the brain that play important roles in memory, pain, and fertility, and has been found to hold powerful anti-anxiety properties. I love the Hu Chocolate Bars – these are guilt-free and sugar-free!. The other way I enjoy raw cacao is by making some elixirs and potions.
• Coffee (preferably toxin and mold-free) has been shown to boost happiness neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine, which help to control our mood. Therefore, drinking (moderate) amounts of high-quality coffee could help to lower levels of anxiety and keep us feeling happier (just be sure not to cross that line of nervousness and jitteriness). My current favorite is Four Sigmatic Coffee.
• Adaptogenic herbs like ashwagandha and licorice root (although check with your doctor if you have high blood pressure before taking the latter) can help immensely with stress and anxiety. (note: herbs work best when a root cause analysis has been done to figure out what else might be going on in the body)
• Plenty of dark, leafy greens offer magnesium, a key nutrient for stress management. Kale, spinach, arugula, lettuce and swiss chard and all cruciferous vegetables.
• Blueberries contain a pigment called anthocyanins, which are antioxidants that assist the brain in the production of dopamine.
3. Exposure to adequate sunlight and grounding.
Getting out in the morning sun and exposing your face and body to the beneficial spectrums of sunlight for at least 20 minutes is essential. Endorphins are released by the body in response to UVA and UVB exposure. Which then leads to feelings of relaxation and supports the health of the immune system. Sunlight exposure leads to healing and disease prevention. Sun exposure not only helps with the production of vitamin D, but also helps with endorphins and melatonin.
Grounding – Man made EMF’s affect our biology. So we have to make a conscious effort to hack our enviornment to manage the stress of the EMF. One thing we can do right now is walk barefoot for at least 10 mins in our backyards to absorb the negative electrons from the earth through our feet.
Earthing (also known as grounding) refers to contact with the Earth’s surface electrons by walking barefoot outside or sitting, working, or sleeping indoors connected to conductive systems, some of them patented, that transfer the energy from the ground into the body. Emerging scientific research supports the concept that the Earth’s electrons induce multiple physiological changes of clinical significance, including reduced pain, better sleep, a shift from sympathetic to parasympathetic tone in the autonomic nervous system (ANS). The research, along with many anecdotal reports, is presented in a book entitled Earthing. (source: pubmed)
Notice how you talk to yourself (AKA, your internal monologue). What are your thoughts saying? Change the conversation to a more positive and compassionate one and notice very real changes in your life and anxiety levels.
5. Simple Turnaround
Next time you have the type of interaction that warms your heart and soul, write about it in your journal. Bring this feeling back when you are feeling anxious and stressed. Sit with those feelings and witness an immediate shift in your energy and stress levels. This practice will help you to manifest more of the “warm and fuzzy” feelings in your day-to-day.
6. Gratitude Practice
This practice will depend on you, as it must feel authentic and be a practice that you genuinely connect with. It might be keeping a gratitude journal or a simple list of things you are grateful for each night before bed or in the morning upon waking. Develop a practice that makes sense for you. I use the five minute journal.
7. Meditation and Mindfulness
Last but certainly not least, developing a meditation practice is quite helpful. Remember that it is a practice and might not come easy at first, but is one that should include deep breathing and self-compassion. There are many ways to explore this process, so choose the one that most speaks to you. For me – it’s not limited to sitting in stillness and focusing on breathing exercises. I could be in a meditative state even while cooking with my daughter or during a class in the gym. What happens to us when we meditate our brain transitions from a high beta state – where we are living in our head to alpha and theta state – a relaxed alert state of awareness. As these two states expand we drop deeper and able to access intuition and gain insights. It is really about coming back to the present moment awareness away from our thoughts and fears.
Being conscious of protecting your own mental and physical energy is important, as there are many factors in life that can drain us, which often leads to underlying anxiety and stress. Practice decluttering your home and your life, both energetically and physically. Other daily practices that can help are Epsom salt baths, infrared saunas, and cleaning your physical space of clutter. Meeting with a friend, doing some volunteer work, acupuncture, visualization, and more.
By incorporating some of these simple practices, you can be on your way to less anxiety, a calmer and more authentic and joyful “you.”
Are you ready to call some “present” moment awareness in your life?
Let me know what has worked for you?