Christmas holidays are nearly here woooo! But whilst this time of year some of us treasure and light up (get it?!), there are millions of Aussies who suffer from anxiety and experience exacerbated symptoms. Additional challenges like travel, disrupted routine, stresses of planning activities and pressure to be in social situations can bring us face to face with our fears.
I am absolutely one of these people. I've spent the last 10 years learning and understanding my obsessive-compulsive tendencies, irrational fears, social anxiety and panic attacks. I'm proud to say through CBT, yoga, education and A LOT of practice, I'm at a point where I can happily co-exist with anxiety. But holidays are and may always be a triggering time for me. So here's my top anxiety hacks and stress management techniques for this holiday season to ground back down and remind us how resilient, balanced and beautiful we really are.
1. Breathe It Out
We know anxiety brings that shallow, sharp and short breath. So inviting a deep, expansive breath is an effective way to influence a state of calm. Try laying on your back in a comfortable position with the hands on the belly - inhaling for the count of four, exhaling for the count of four.
2. Chill Out With A Cold Eye Pillow
This is my go to when I'm anxious or can't sleep. Eye Pillows are great to calm a busy mind, alleviate stress, reduce eye strain and relieve tension headaches and migraines. Specifically the weight and pressure of the pillow work into our oculocardiac reflex (pressure on the eye muscles) to calm nervous system and trigger our relaxation response. I keep mine in the freezer so it's icy cold in the warmer months. Tip: Do this and add the breathing techniques above.
3. Move The Body
Keeping active by moving the body is one of the most accessible ways to create a shift and interrupt anxious thought patterns. Also known as a 'circuit breaker'. So whether it's running, yoga (see our online studio) or cardio shopping (it's a thing okay), research shows that physical activity releases endorphins, reduces cortisol and improves mental health by helping the brain cope better under stress.
4. You Think What You Eat
It sounds so foreign. How could what's going on in our stomach influence what's going on in our head? Research shows diet not only effects our mental health and brain plasticity, but can also change our gut bacteria, which is central to physical health. So by all means 'treat yo self' this season, but be mindful of sugary or processed food and how they might make you feel afterwards. Balance here is key.
5. Get ConversationalAnxiety has this knack for making us feel completely isolated at times. When in actual fact 1 in 4 people suffer from anxiety disorders at some point in their life. Sharing and getting to know your anxiety is key to making it eminently more manageable. Chat to a friend, call you mum, speak to a psychologist, journal it or share on The Anxiety Effect; an online sharing platform for social support. Beyondblue says that taking time to share our fears can actually help prevent them from taking over at other times. Whatever your method, keep the conversation going.
6. Be Gentle With Yourself and Others
It's important to remember that anxiety and stress are
simply a part of this experience. These highs and lows, ebbs and flows, are all a part of the beautiful, very real dualities of life. When we take time to accept, understand and learn a little more about what makes us us, then we can too see beauty in all life's tides. Remember that you are the ocean not the tide. But most importantly remember that you are not alone in this. There are millions of others experiencing the same thing you are. So be kind and understanding to yourself and to others during this time.
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