Are you familiar with that throat-restricting, gut-wrenching anxiety that makes breathing impossible and functioning even more so? Have you experienced lying in bed, all hours of the night, with your mind racing like angry bees circling a hive? It's not a fun place to be. But it is an interesting place to be, and it is an opportunity for change.
How to Keeping Smiling, Even When You Can't Breathe
Earlier in the day, I wasn't worried about my parents passing or the mortgage getting paid. Nothing had changed, except now the sun was sinking and those nonexistent issues grew to a size larger than life, large enough to keep me awake and worried, restless, and preoccupied.
On close consideration, though, I realized something had changed—my mind. The good news is that just as easily as your mind can go off the deep end, you can quickly reel it back in.
The following three steps bring instant relief from chronic anxiety:
1. Notice your breath. It's physiologically impossible to be anxious and breathing deeply at the same time. Think about it. What’s your breath like when you’re sobbing or upset? How do you respond to a shocking surprise? What does it mean to "wait with bated breath?" Inhale for a count of four. Exhale for a count of four. Focus your mind on this eight-second count and feel anxiety melt away.
2. Look for areas of tension and soften. Soften and relax the tiny muscles around your eyes. Smoothen out the skin across your forehead, the bridge of your nose, and your cheekbones. Scan from the tips of your toes to the top of your head, methodically releasing every muscle fibre along the way. Pay particular attention to where stress typically settles, maybe your stomach or your throat or lower back. Once you become aware of the tendency, you have the power to reverse and even prevent it.
3. Remember that fear and faith cannot co-exist. Choose one. Choose faith. Simply defined, fear is the absence of faith, and having faith ensures an absence of fear. If worry has taken your brain hostage, somewhere along the way you've lost faith. Reconnect to that source of comfort through journalling, prayer, meditation, or mantra.
If you have a legitimate concern (I’m not suggesting that losing your job won’t merit a little unease!), determine what you can do about it right now, this very second. If something can be done, then take action. If nothing can be done, then re-route that fretful energy towards finding your solution.
With time and persistence, these quick tips will become second nature, and you can banish anxiety for good!