How are you feeling? Do you currently suffer from anxiety, insomnia, depression, adrenal fatigue overwhelm, panic attacks, OCD, ADHD, tapping leg syndrome? Or all of the above?
Recently I presented a couple of talks in front a large auditorium, one in Sydney and one in Melbourne and to open both of those talks I asked the audience who was feeling any of the above symptoms. What happened was around 80-90% of the audience put their hand up! 80-90%!
Here in Australia we are blessed to have one of the most affluent lifestyles in the world. Generally speaking most people in our society have smart phones, overseas holidays, nice houses with fresh running water, more food than we can ever eat, more clothes than we can ever wear and tumeric chai lattes! We don’t have marauding tribes chasing us down or sabre tooth tigers leaping out from behind rocks threatening our survival. So why is it we have such high rates of anxiety and panic attacks? Is there a correlation between intense quest to attain and sustain such a high rate of affluence and the toll that takes on our well-being to achieve it? Is it a matter of needing to shift our perspectives on what is important to us?
For years I suffered extreme anxiety and panic attacks, and to be very honest, there are times in my life now where I still get them. Every time I would feel that wave of anxiety sweep over me it is always when I am not present and in the moment. Its when my mind has leapt ahead into a future world, one that I am creating in my head full of scary scenarios of things going wrong. This completely distorts my present moment and triggers a stress response in my body of extreme fear about what could happen.
Our minds are amazing devices that are charmed by the idea of analysing and forecasting. It thrives in the future and the past, and has very little to do in the present moment. When the mind becomes quiet what prevails is a beautiful calm watchfulness of this moment. Here now. This ‘here now’ calmness is remarkably simply and even as I write this I can sit, pause and stay in this watchful calmness. Yet I can also notice how the mind wants to hijack this moment and take me to another place in the future. Some peoples stress default mode is anger or rage, others is deep lethargy or depression, and then there is anxiety and fear. This latter one is my default stress mode. I project into the future and get anxious about what ‘might’ happen. I usually think of a worse case scenario which triggers a huge anxiety reaction in the body.
There are a number of strategies that I use that can really help reduce the debilitating side effects of panic and anxiety. It needs to be a wholistic process, as I don’t believe there is a magic pill or cure for it.
1. Daily meditation. This will play a huge role in calming the nervous system and keeping the mind disciplined and in the present moment.
2. Daily Abhyanga. This is an ayurvedic self massage that soothes the nervous system and grounds the body. It is recommended to use sesame oil or you can buy ayurvedic abhyanga oil online. Once you massage yourself all over with the oil, have a warm bath or hot shower.
3. Vitamins and minerals. Ideally see a naturopath for a guide on what are the best supplement to take however vitamin B’s, C’s and magnesium are all good to help with anxiety.
4. Stay away from stimulating environments as much as possible. Overwhelming the nervous system with lots of noise and activity will wear the nervous system down and lead to emotional disturbance. Try to spend more time in quiet environments especially amongst nature
5. Reduce technology and the use of the phone. Pick up a book, talk with a friend, observe life through the senses, or simply be. I struggle with this one also. My phone is nearly always one and I have to admit, it lures my attention much more than should allow it to. But I know the time when I put it in a draw, turn it on airplane mode or shut it off, I feel so much better in the long run. Those short highs from scoring through a feed are like a sugar fix that doesnt last.
6. Get to bed by 10pm. Sounds simple enough but this change can make a huge difference to how you feel in the morning. There is a circadian rhythm in the day that peaks and troughs and there is a trough or downtime that comes around 9-10pm. This is when we ideally should be turning down lights, turning off technology, having a bath, reading, stretching and then hitting the pillow for a good night sleep from 10pm onwards. I know I feel heaps better the nights I fall asleep by 10pm and wake up around 5am or 6am!
These are just some strategies that will help reduce anxiety. There are more traditional methods like seeing doctors, psychologist and using medication which could all be an option if need be. Search in your local area for people who specialise in anxiety and panic for some further assistance and if things get severe, please please be sure to talk with someone about this.