A friend called yesterday and shared how she was suffering from daily anxiety and panic attacks. She was the third person to relay a similar story in past weeks. This can’t be good. Embodying calm seems like an elusive dream, but have faith. It’s not out of reach. In fact, it’s right here within.
Before we accept anxiety as a companion, there are tools that can bring us closer to our always-calm center.
Read over this list and choose the practices that resonate with you. It is not comprehensive by any means. Add to it what you know works for you. Then put them into the toolbox of your daily spiritual practice and open your heart to the possibility of newfound peace. Inhale peace. Exhale stress. Ahh.
1. Make exhalations longer.
Start by counting 4 on the inhale and 6 on the exhale, with a goal of 4 in and 8 out. Do this for a few minutes and you will feel the difference immediately. The hallmark of “fight or flight” breathing during a panic attack is rapid breathing and heart rate. By increasing the length of the exhalations, you remind your body that there is nothing to fear and that all is well. When you breathe in a way that signals relaxation, your body follows suit.
2. Use positive affirmations.
There’s an extensive body of research that supports the theory that what we think, we create. The body will default to pathways it already knows, so it takes a little retraining to create new thought habits. Here is a starter list of affirmations, and you can add your own. Your journal, phone notes or index cards placed strategically around the house are good places to keep these. Word everything in the positive and smile with your whole body as you think them – lifting yourself to the higher emotions of gratitude and joy. Use them as mantras during the day:
I am in perfect health. I am calm and serene. Everything is in divine order. I am safe and all is well. I am joyful and peaceful. Today will be an amazing day. I am in the flow of love. I am relaxed and focused. I am in the flow of grace. I love my life.
3. Ask for help on a soul level.
There’s unlimited help available in spirit realms for the asking. A request might go something like this: “Thank you for putting a perfect plan in motion to relax my mind, body and soul. Assist me in using my inner tools to find deep peace. I trust that a beautiful plan is unfolding in my life today and that I have nothing to fear. Thank you for helping me return to my natural state of calm.” Divine grace is benevolent and conspires to help us out. But we must ask clearly and positively. After asking, know you have been heard and assistance is on the way.
4. Stay connected.
Stay connected with your family and closest friends, and share your journey with them. Stress can be isolating, and it’s important to keep an open heart. If you had a physical issue, your beloveds would want to help you out. Same goes for stressful times.
5. Be kind to yourself.
Anxiety is exhausting so skip the self-criticism. Think only loving thoughts of yourself. You are doing the very best you can. You are not alone in this.
Yoga, walking, kayaking, dancing, Tai Chi—pick something relaxing that you can do outside or facing a window. Calm your body and soak up the beauties of nature while you release endorphins.
7. Drink lots of water and less caffeine.
Flush toxins and hydrate your cells with plenty of fresh water throughout the day. Cut out soda and limit caffeine to two cups a day, max. Eat whole foods, lots of veggies and avoid processed foods. Your mind, body and soul will thank you.
8. Visualize your wellness.
You don’t have to figure out how to get to where you want to go. Jump right to the result and visualize the joyful, healthy, calm, vibrant you. Just a few minutes of visualization a day is incredibly powerful. Feel the gratitude and joy of being the new you.
9. Treat yourself.
Now is the perfect time to treat yourself to a massage. With the right practitioner you may find that a monthly massage is not a luxury, but a necessity. Another relaxing treat is an Epsom salt bath. Get a box of Epsom salt at the pharmacy, put a handful in a bathtub and detox away. It has a calming effect and draws toxins out of the body.
10. Use good posture.
If you have taken a yoga class, you know about Mountain Pose and the importance of good posture for optimum health and spiritual connection. Sitting and standing with a straight spine is especially important for stress relief because it allows the lungs to inflate fully. When your lungs are inflating fully, you can take calming breaths.
11. Spend less time on screens, more time in nature.
Computers can short circuit our energy and leave us mentally and physically tense. Spend as much time in nature as possible. Implement a daily walk while leaving the phone at home. Notice your surroundings and be present.
12. Practice Yoga Nidra and play music.
There are many beautiful recordings of Yoga Nidra or yogic sleep that gently guide the body into a deep and healing relaxation. They range in time from about five minutes to one hour. Experiment with a few until you find one that you love. Relaxing music also has proven to have anti-anxiety effects. Stream a calming playlist of music that soothes the soul.
13. Get more sleep.
You may find that you need extra sleep. Adjust your schedule to make sleep a priority. Yoga Nidra at bedtime is the perfect setup for a peaceful night’s sleep.
This is the single most important practice for overall mental and spiritual health, and it is suitable for nearly everyone. Learn more about it. Take a class, get a book or read a few articles. Keep it simple. Start where you are. Start today.
So — what are your steps to calm?
If you have some favorite practices, share them so we can all benefit from what works for you. May we enhance our sense of peace so we are clear, calm and healthy as we share our gifts with the world.