Welcome to a new series of raw, real and practical articles by HASIKO. We will be exploring real topics every month that we feel lack a voice in an industry that focusses on feeling happy all the time. These are topics that many of you have talked to us about personally via email or in person.
If you have a topic that you feel needs to be addressed then feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. In November we'll be exploring the topic of Sleep and in December the topic of Loneliness.
Last week I posted something on Instagram about my own struggles with mental health that resonated with many and resulted in a stream of messages privately on the topic. In my private yoga and meditation therapy practice, most of my clients come to me because they are experiencing the unwelcome symptoms of anxiety and stress. By the time clients come to see me, things are usually getting pretty bad in the sense they are having daily anxiety, panic attacks, insomnia and their relationships, jobs or quality of life are being impacted. And most wish they had listened to the signals their bodies were sending them and done something about it earlier.
Don't Ignore The Symptoms
Instead of welcoming the symptoms, many of us ignore or suppress them because who wants to or has time to 'feel bad,' admit that they're not coping, burdening themselves onto loved ones, nevermind, the thoughts 'I am strong, I can do this alone.' The symptoms (see symptoms on page 2 of our downloadable workbook) can continue for days, weeks, months and even years and become louder and louder until we take note, sometimes a major health crisis makes it clear enough. For me personally I used to get such bad bloating a stomach pains that once I had to lie down in a disabled toilet for an hour before going back to work! Thankfully those days are over. Stress is literally killing us, and if you don't believe me take a look at this trailer on the subject in a new docu-series by FMTV called Transcendence.
However, what if we welcomed them, arms wide open and said, 'OK I know that somewhere in my life I have gone off my path and these symptoms are trying to tell me something.' Or what if we had the tools at hand to work through these periods. Most of us avoid the fact that at some point in our lives we are going to experience times when we are anxious or stressed yet we haven't been taught how to cope with them let alone prepare. Being reactive rather than pro-active alleviates the symptoms quicker and allows us to get back on our true path.
As part of my approach with clients, I invite them to think about how to manage similar episodes in the future using the tools they've learned so that can start to make changes a lot earlier.
Create a Crisis Protocol
So what tools can you use to combat anxiety and stress? And how do you be pro-active when it comes to managing the symptoms?
Here are my top tips for putting together a crisis protocol!
Creating a blueprint in advance to pro-actively engage with stress or potentially triggering events is a healthy thing to do. It provides you with the tools and resources that you can use when your emotions get the better of the you. The most important thing is to create a protocol when you’re feeling good, preferably really good, and using those feelings of strength and wellbeing to intuitively know what you need to do to look after yourself when the symptoms of anxiety or stress arise. When you’re feeling good, it’s a lot easier to create a plan than when you’re already feeling the symptoms of anxiety and stress which can hijack your ability to think clearly.
1. Having a good and trusted therapist
I always tell my clients to have a good therapist, someone that they trust and have used before. You never know when a crisis can hit whether it’s small or big such as divorce, a death in the family, loss of a job or other overwhelming situations. Having someone that you can go to who knows you and understands your history over a period of time is very comforting to the mind and nervous system in periods of anxiety or stress. Meeting someone for the first time to explain everything can even add to your stress. However, if you don’t have someone, ask around for a referral and begin to build a relationship with someone that you can talk to whenever the need arises.
2. Eating the right foods
Our nutritionist Rose Glover, dedicates an entire lesson on food's impact on stress and anxiety in our Nourish by HASIKO program. Some nutrients are particularly important for helping your body fight stress, support your adrenal glands, and support your immune system. Aim to eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day to get a sufficient amount of vitamins and minerals, and focus on foods containing vitamins B, C and magnesium. Additional support from essential fats, calcium rich foods and apoptogenic herbs. Avoid Caffeine, alcohol, high sugar and fatty foods all of which are highly inflammatory and add additional stress on your body to remove.
3. Do meditations designed for anxiety or stress
Yoga nidra is basically like a massage for you brain. It brings you down from your waking state to alpha theta or even delta brainwave state (dreamless sleep). These brainwave states allow you to rest, relax and gain deeper insight into your problems.
Here are a few I recommend from my favourite teachers that you can access for free on Insight Timer:
Simple Habits also offers thousands of meditations for a yearly subscription fee
4. Get Sufficient Sleep
Sleep tends to be disrupted by anxiety and stress because of elevated stress hormones such as cortisol, which means we can have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep. Lack of sleep has been prove to impact our attention, emotional reactions, memory, our body’s ability to heal and increase food cravings. But more than that studies are now showing that sleep has a function in emotional regulation – the saying ‘let me sleep on it’ is scientifically now true. If you are having difficulty sleeping Yoga Nidra is also great for sleep or if you need a quick nap to refresh during the day.
Here are a couple of my favourite:
5. Move Your Body
Movement is one of the best ways to reduce the feelings of stress because it releases endorphins which literally burn stress away. A recent study pointed to the benefits that movement combined with mindfulness was even more effective in alleviating negativity. The HASIKO Flow combines low impact movement with mindful stretching and yoga nidra meditation so what better way to combat stress? Also note you don't need to do the 28 day program you can just pick a class based on your level with week 1 being the easiest and week 4 the hardest.
6. Breathing Exercises
The best breathing exercise to do when you’re feeling triggered, stressed or anxious is alternate nostril breathing because it balances the right and left side of the body and brain. The left side of your brain holds your capacity for intellectual thought and your rights side holds your emotions. When the feelings of stress takeover it's hard for the left side of your brain to 'talk yourself out of it' because the right side is hi-jacked by emotions. Taking nice long slow deep breaths alternating between each nostril balances these two sides and switches on the parasympathetic nervous system.
7. Write down 5 people that have been supportive in the past and why
Only choose people that you trust and have demonstrated an ability to listen objectively. Sometimes we think just because someone is our best friend or a family member that they have the capacity to be there for you in times of need. This is not the case and something that many of us don’t realise and we walk away with an interaction with them feeling worse because they have been unable to be fully present or listen. Everyone has different capacities to be present, just make sure you pick the right people and knowing that in advance is important.
8. Do Things That Relax You
Whether it's fun with friends, watching a good film, playing football, walks in nature alone or with your dog, a massage or anything else include things that make you feel good and release the feel good hormones into your body.
9. Write a letter to yourself
Writing down positive affirmations or a letter to yourself for when you need to read it helps you see that bad times are temporary. Also if you write it at time when you're feeling good it will be easier to write and you'll thank yourself you did when you need to use it. Download the worksheet here.
While this might seem like a very simple exercise its goal is to increase your awareness to the symptoms of stress and anxiety early on and for you to discover the right steps to get back to equilibrium.
If you wish to explore the use of yoga and meditation for anxiety and stress please contact Davina directly to schedule an online appointment at email@example.com.
Do talk to a qualified mental health professional if you are experiencing anxiety or stress or before starting any new fitness regime.