How to manage stress and anxiety

How to manage stress and anxiety

We’re not often taught in life how to manage stress and anxiety. Yet it’s something many of us deal with on a day-to-day basis. At times it can feel like it gets into the driving seat of one or more parts of your life. It’s understandable, life happens like that.

Watch this video to learn one way of how to manage stress and anxiety you may be feeling.

You’ll learn what stress and anxiety are, why it happens and a simple exercise you can do to get back in the driving seat of your life. I also talk about why many of us are experiencing increased anxiety levels during the coronavirus pandemic and lockdown.

The picture shows two people in a car. The license plate says 'self-care'. The woman in the passenger seat is saying, 'But I want to exercise and look after myself.' The person who is driving, which is anxiety, is saying, 'No you can't! You must do what I want! Now let me drive!' This picture demonstrates the impact of anxiety when it is in the driving seat of a part of your life. The anxiety can take over and drive your actions.

The exercise on how to manage stress and anxiety develops your heart, mind and soul fitness

It does that by raising your self-awareness. As you do the exercise, I would like you to do it with a hefty dose of self-compassion for yourself rather than harsh judgement.

This exercise is not meant as a means for you to judge yourself as doing something wrong, not being good enough or to be self-critical. It is meant to nourish your heart, mind and soul.

If you have a clinical diagnosis of anxiety, please read this

The exercise mentioned here can help. But if you think it might raise a lot of emotions which are incredibly unpleasant, overwhelming and you have little to no control over them, then I recommend you do the exercise with the support of a qualified practitioner who has experience of supporting people who experience anxiety. Particularly if you have never done such an exercise before.

Additional support when doing this exercise

You can also do the following whether or not you have a clinical diagnosis of anxiety.

1. Hold a favourite object which reminds you of the here and now. The purpose of this is to keep you anchored in the present time. So as you do the exercise, you know that ultimately you are in the here and now.

2. You can time bound the exercise and just do it for 1-2 minutes for a start. It’s ok to do the exercise in stages over a period of time rather than all in one go.

You are in charge of you

The exercise in this video can help you take healthy control of stress and anxiety, learn from it and be in charge of you.

In watching this video, you acknowledge that you take full responsibility for your emotional wellness and wellbeing, and any decisions you take as a result of watching it.

Picture of an original quote by Return To Wellness saying: You are the CEO of you. So you're in charge. This is very much the case when you want to manage your health issue successfully.

How to manage stress and anxiety so you can get back in the driving seat of your life

The video is 45 minutes long and I use slides to give a visual of what I’m saying. So grab a cuppa, sit back, relax and enjoy the video!

How to manage stress and anxiety so you can get back in the driving seat of your life

As we do physical fitness for our bodies, what about fitness for our hearts, minds and souls? They need nourishing exercise too. Here's one to help you manage any #stress and #anxiety you may be feeling #wellness… Click To Tweet

What’s it like for you?

What did you learn about how to manage stress and anxiety? Was there anything you knew already? What is the one thing you will do differently going forwards? Share your thoughts or questions in the comments below or alternatively email them to me (contact form in sidebar).  

If you would like support on learning how to manage stress and anxiety, have a look at how we can work together and get in touch for a free no obligation consultation.

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© Copyright Barbara Babcock 2020

How to breathe to calm yourself when you’re stressed

How to breathe to calm yourself when you’re stressed

Do you kind of forget how to breathe to calm yourself when you’re feeling stressed? You don’t really realise it until maybe someone points it out. Or you finally get to a place of calm and think, ‘Boy, I wasn’t feeling that great!’

It’s understandable. You can get so wrapped up in the issue your focus is entirely on that. I’ve done it.

When I started studying coaching and other psychological modalities, breathing was often mentioned. Eventually (not immediately), I realised I rarely focused on my breath!

I might have been aware I was breathing differently when stressed, yet I did nothing to change it. But I also wasn’t aware of how I was breathing in my day-to-day life during times when I wasn’t stressed.

Not only was I not using a valuable tool at my disposal to manage the impact of stress, I took my ability to breathe completely for granted. So in this post I want to share why knowing how we breathe is important and a simple technique you can use to restore calm when you feel stressed.

Picture of a person feeling stressed and forgetting to breathe. The person is thinking, "This issue is so hard! I'll never get it sorted!" It's important when you're feeling stressed and anxiety to remember how to breathe to calm yourself.

What about you?

Do you know how to breathe to calm yourself?

As a way to self-regulate how you’re feeling. Self-regulation is an important life skill. It’s about you recognising and using your personal power, which you can in many different ways. Breathing is one of them. And exercising your personal power helps to feed your confidence in yourself.

There is a picture of a virtuous cycle saying: Ability to self-regulate with an arrow pointing to Recognising and using your personal power then another arrow pointing to Feeds you confidence. When we self-regulate, we are using our personal power and that helps increase our confidence. A person is looking at this, smiling and saying, "I'll try deep breathing!" Being able to self-regulate how you feel is a key life skill. Learning how to breathe to calm yourself will help you do that.

And do you know where you breathe from when you’re not stressed?

Stop for a minute and notice. Do this a few times throughout the day.

Are you breathing from high up in your chest? Maybe near the throat? Or lower down around your diaphragm? Or maybe even lower?

What is your style of breathing like?

Short quick gasps for air? A slow, deep intake of breath? Something in between? Or do you find yourself holding your breath a lot?

Breathing is fundamental to living and your life

Yet many of us are not very intimate with how we breathe. Notice how you breathe and where you’re breathing from when you’re working, cooking, preparing for bed, exercising, reading, doing household chores, errands, looking after your kids or grandchildren, doing something you really enjoy doing, etc.

Being aware of how you breathe can help you identify when you’re feeling stressed

When you are feeling stressed and anxiety, your breath can be a go-to tool to help you restore a sense of calm.

So here’s an easy-to-use breathing technique to help you do that.

Being aware of how you breathe can help you identify when you’re feeling stressed. Are you aware of how you breathe? Click here to learn more #breathing #stress #wellness Click To Tweet

How to breathe to calm yourself using the 4-6 technique

You use this technique in the moment when you’re feeling stressed.

Breathe in for a count of 4.

Exhale for a count of 6.

Repeat until you feel calm. Then keep doing it AND smile to yourself.

This technique helps to regulate your nervous system.

And it’s a great technique as no one can really see you do it.

A person is standing looking calm and practicing a breathing technique. They are saying, "Inhale for 4 seconds. Exhale for 6 seconds." You can regulate your nervous system by using the 4-6 breathing technique.

What’s it like for you?

Are you aware of where you typically breathe from – high up in your chest, from your diaphragm, from your belly? Have a go at breathing using the 4-6 technique. How did you feel afterwards? Share your thoughts or questions in the comments below or alternatively email them to me (contact form in sidebar).  

If you are struggling with a challenging health issue or caring for someone who is, and would like support to get unstuck and on any of the issues discussed here, have a look at how we can work together and get in touch for a free no obligation consultation.

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© Copyright Barbara Babcock 2020

What is the impact of anxiety like and how to manage it

What is the impact of anxiety like and how to manage it

The impact of anxiety – What is this like for you? Are you aware of when and how anxiety shows up in your life? How it slides into the driving seat in charge of your choices and actions? Do you know when it all started?

Many people have talked to me about the increase in anxiety after experiencing a serious health issue. A health issue tends to shatter our perception that we are totally in control – we realise we don’t have as much control as we thought. That and the resulting impact of not knowing what to do in this new place of not being well nor how long we will have to dwell there, anxiety can happen. In many cases, anxiety may have also predated the health issue but wasn’t as noticeable before the health issue’s onset.

The picture shows two people in a car. The license plate says 'self-care'. The woman in the passenger seat is saying, 'But I want to exercise and look after myself.' The person who is driving, which is anxiety, is saying, 'No you can't! You must do what I want! Now let me drive!' This picture demonstrates the impact of anxiety when it is in the driving seat of a part of your life. The anxiety can take over and drive your actions.

I was reminded of the impact of anxiety the other week

Most mornings I do my exercise and physiotherapy first. That way it gets done. But I noticed myself thinking in a loop-like fashion, ‘I have so much to do! I don’t have time to exercise! I need to get to work!’ It was a very familiar feeling.

Anxiety and its impact has been a part of my life but became much more noticeable after having Transverse Myelitis 10+ years ago. The kind of anxiety I am talking about here is the anxiety that is in the driving seat in some areas of your life but not in every aspect of your life. It’s not pleasant and it can be frustrating.

But it’s also not severely debilitating, it’s not a clinical diagnosis of anxiety nor does it cause you to disassociate or lose yourself. If the anxiety you feel does cause you to do that, then please obtain the support of a person who is qualified to work with that such as a clinical or counselling psychologist or psychotherapist.

The anxiety I was feeling is the kind that slides into the driving seat in some parts of my life particularly when I want to do something for myself. The impact of anxiety is that my self-care plummets.

My plants are like a barometer. I usually am taking care of them well when I am caring for myself well. What’s your barometer for knowing when you are caring for yourself well or not? #wellness #selfcare Click To Tweet

So this is what I did when I noticed my loop-like thinking. I took apart my approach and share it with you here to help you manage the impact of anxiety.

What the impact of anxiety is like

Back to that morning. I was sitting there just about to start my workout and the thoughts were going around and around in my head about not having enough time to work out and wanting to get to work at my computer.

A very busy period is starting for me where I will have two big projects happening and other smaller ones going on in the background. Four of them will be happening at the same time. (Trust me, this wasn’t planned.) This will last through mid-June, quiet down for a week, and then things will get busy again through mid-July.

The next thing I noticed was giving myself the suggestion to start work, I could do my exercise and physiotherapy in the early afternoon as a break.

I realised that I would probably end up not working out if I did that. Because that is what has often happened in the past.

Then I made myself do what I have my clients do.

Notice what the anxiety was like for me

I sat still and just felt what the impact of the anxiety was like in my body, i.e. the sensations I felt. From the waist up I was shaking a bit. I noticed I turned my head around to the right looking behind me. As if I was looking out for someone. I felt a little scared.

I was curious about me wanting to turn to the right and look behind me so I did that again. I noticed I still felt scared. And kind of young. Suddenly a childhood memory came up of my father telling me to get to work.

My internal response to this all was, ‘I must get the work done. I don’t want to get in trouble.’

Rocket science doesn’t need to tell me when and where my anxiety started. And it’s interesting how it is still present to some degree 40 years on and how it can drive my actions if I let it.

A picture of a woman considering the impact of anxiety in her life. She is remembering back to 40 years ago when she was a child. Her father is being very stern with her telling her to do her chores. She is looking up at him and thinking, 'I'm scared. I had better work.' In the present day, the woman is having a light bulb moment and is thinking, 'Hmm. That was then. This is now. I don't have to work all the time!' This demonstrates how our early experiences can influence our actions in the present. They can be the source of our anxieties. But you can lessen the impact of anxiety in your life today.

What I learned about the impact of anxiety on me

Two things were going on for me. The first trigger was the busy period and wondering how I would fit everything in. The next trigger was the loop-like thinking.

In this context I felt the anxiety as an internal shaking in me. (How you experience anxiety may be different.)

It was the movement of turning to look over my right shoulder and noticing I felt scared and young which really struck me. That and the childhood memory of my father telling me to get to work. He was an authoritarian father. He had a rota of chores for us to do and kept us busy doing them. As a young child, he more often barked commands and demands than words of warmth and gentleness. (He was dealing with his own anxiety but that is a story for another day. But interesting to note how anxiety can be passed on in families.)

This historical context turned out to be important

I’ll explain more about that in a bit.

My response to ‘get the work done’ felt familiar. It’s a common response when I feel I have a lot going on, conflicting demands and desires, and not a lot of time to do everything I want to do. I may want to workout and do other things to look after myself and my wellness but historically work would win out. That would calm the anxiety.

That nearly happened the other morning. Anxiety was sliding into the driving seat pushing me to work rather than self-care. Notice the black and white choice I was giving myself: work or self-care. I wasn’t allowing myself to have both or another option. That can happen when we feel stress due to anxiety, we give ourselves either-or choices.

The picture shows two boxes one with the word either in it and the other box with the word or in it. This demonstrates that when we feel stressed and experiencing the impact of anxiety, we often give ourselves an either-or choice. What is recommended is to take a step back and give yourself more than two choices. This is demonstrated in the rest of the pic which shows either in one box, or in another box and a second or in another box.

I told myself I would be fine, work will be there and it was ok to do my exercise and physiotherapy first. Which I proceeded to do.

What was the purpose of my anxiety?

What purpose does any #anxiety you feel serve? #seriousillness #mentalhealth #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek Click To Tweet

I went over this in a coaching session and learned that the purpose of the anxiety wasn’t necessarily all bad. It enabled me to have inner motivation to work and get a job done and strong focus on the task at hand.

However, the focus is so strong it means I get absorbed in the task or project and hours can go by without me drinking water, eating, going to the loo or taking a break. Self-care slides right off the agenda.

But I also said to my coach the anxiety no longer has a purpose. The context has changed. My father is no longer with us. My mother lives in the USA. I have no parents telling me what to do. I am my own parent now. I don’t have any parents to please. I only have to please myself. The historical context is no longer relevant. But I had been responding as if it was.

Much of the stress we experience can be due to blindly following outdated strategies. My strategy of ‘getting the work done’ had a purpose at one stage of my life, it served its role. But now it’s time to update the strategy. Here is how to do that when anxiety is trying to be in the driving seat of parts of your life.

How to manage the impact of anxiety

If the anxiety feels scary for you to deal with, please only do this with someone you trust, preferably a trained professional.

As you do this exercise, hold on to something that reminds you of the here and now. This helps to keep you anchored in the present.

Dealing with low-level anxiety that gets in the driving seat of parts of your life? Want to learn how to manage it better? Click here to learn how #anxiety #seriousillness #chronicillness Click To Tweet

1. Learn your trigger(s).

There may be more than one. They may follow each other in a sequence or not. You will need to slow yourself down to do this. Sit for a time and take yourself step-by-step through what happened when you last noticed your anxiety. If you can do this as the anxiety appears, that’s a good time to do it too.

2. Really notice how anxiety affects you physically.

How does anxiety appear in your body? Spend time with it. And as you spend time feeling the sensations, gently remind yourself you do not have to unpack and live in the anxiety. You’re just visiting with it for a short while. Set a timer for 2-3 minutes if this helps you.

3. Notice what thoughts you have.

Write them down even. Doing that helps you keep one step removed from them so you don’t unpack and live in them.

4. Notice if you feel a compulsion to move.

And notice what that movement is like. Are you wanting to move away from something, reach or move towards something, turn and look for someone? It could be anything. Repeat the movement if it helps you to get a sense of what that movement is about.

5. Notice any feelings associated with the movement.

Are you feeling surprised, scared, numb, excited, young, weaker, something else?

Observing #anxiety to understand its different components – the triggers, feelings, thoughts, any historical memories that come up, its purpose – can help to understand its role in your life and whether that role is still relevant… Click To Tweet

6. Notice if any historical memories come up for you.

Make sure you are holding on to your here-and-now item. Remind yourself you are in the present.

The historical memories I am referring to here are often not pleasant but they do not cause you to disassociate from yourself or to lose yourself in them. As you think of these memories, you realise you are still in the present and you can move on from thinking about them to focusing on something else.

But if you have a sense that something big is going to come up for you, that the historical memory was very traumatic for you and you do not feel ready to look at it yet, that’s ok. Stop and don’t continue with this exercise.

When it comes to dealing with anxiety due to very traumatic episodes in your life, I highly recommend you work with a psychotherapist or psychologist who is experienced in working with such traumas.

The historical memories can be from any period in your life. If other people are involved, notice what they are saying and doing if anything. And what you are saying and doing in return. Also notice how you are feeling about it all. This is about noticing the historical context of what may have kick started the anxiety.

7. Evaluate what is different about your current life as compared to your history.

How is your life currently different from the historical context? Who is no longer present in your life? Or they may be present but you don’t see them as often. What have you learned about yourself in the intervening years that contradicts whatever it was you thought about yourself in that historical context? What are your skills and strengths? Who else is in your life now who supports you to make the choices you want to be making?

This is key. Knowing the differences between your life then and now allows you to explain and reassure yourself that doing something different will turn out ok. This can help to quiet the anxiety a bit so you can get on with making different choices.

8. Develop a way to reassure yourself to calm the anxiety

Now that you know what is so different about your present life as compared to your history, develop a way to reassure yourself in those moments when anxiety wants to take over.

For me I have a conversation with myself. That morning I explained to myself that my father was no longer here to bark orders at me and it was more than ok to do things differently. I might not get as much work done but that wasn’t the point. The world was not going to end and my self-care is super important.  I proceeded to do my exercise and physiotherapy. I still felt some anxiety but it eventually went away.

How you reassure yourself is unique to you. You may wish to journal your thoughts, draw, do another activity, whatever.

9. Keep practicing

You have to keep practicing making the choices you want for yourself rather than let anxiety dictate them for you. Don’t worry about perfection. Good enough is fine. You will respond as per the old strategy at times. That happens. It still happens with me from time to time. I even still feel the anxiety a little when I make the choices I want for myself. But the impact of anxiety does lessen.

10. Shower yourself in self-compassion

The reason you go back to old ways and still feel some of the anxiety when you make different choices is because you’re changing something that has probably been around for a few decades. So be gentle with yourself. Shower yourself in self-compassion.

This picture shows the 10 things you can do to manage the impact of anxiety in your life. It requires you to slow down and really notice. 1) Learn your triggers. 2) Notice how anxiety affects you physically. 3) Notice what thoughts you have. 4) Notice if you feel a compulsion to move. 5) Notice any feelings associated with the movement. 6) Do any historical memories come up for you? 7) Evaluate how your present life is different from your history. 8) Develop a way to reassure yourself to calm the anxiety when it appears. 9) Keep practicing reassuring yourself and making new choices. 10) Shower yourself in self-compassion.

What’s the impact of anxiety like for you?

When and how do you experience anxiety? And what has helped you to manage it? Share your thoughts or questions in the comments below or alternatively email them to me (contact form in sidebar).  

If you are living with a serious health issue or are caring for someone who is, and would like support to manage an even transform the impact of anxiety, have a look at how we can work together and get in touch for a free no obligation consultation.

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© Copyright Barbara Babcock 2019

These 3 questions will minimise stress’s impact on your health

These 3 questions will minimise stress’s impact on your health

Being able to manage and minimise stress’s impact on your health is so important when you’re or a loved one is living with the impact of a challenging illness or injury. I’ve been sharing hints and tips on how you do this across several blogs and this is the fifth and final one in this series. They blog focus on the subtle psychological processes involved in taking control of yourself, your health, wellness, and your life. You can read the previous four blogs here:

Sometimes thoughts about how much of a pain someone or a situation is come unbidden. They whirl around in your head, repeating themselves. You just wish the person or situation would change. You feel you’ve done everything you can but nothing has changed, and you feel drained and frustrated. We’ve all been there.

alt="the impact of unhelpful thoughts"

The impact of whirling unhelpful thoughts. B Babcock 2015

(more…)

Are you using your power well to manage your health?

Are you using your power well to manage your health?

How do you know if you’re using your power well to manage your health? Let’s look at this scenario.

You know that person you have to deal with regularly who you find annoying or downright difficult to deal with? Wouldn’t it be great if they would stop? If only they would change, your life would be so much easier and you would be so much happier.

It’s common to wish for and want that. We all have that person in our life we wish would change. You may find yourself wishing a fair number of people and situations in your life would change. If you also hear yourself often saying in exasperation, ‘If only they would…’ and ‘I wish…’, then it’s time to have a rethink about things. Because there can be that cloud of stress always resting on your shoulders and over time that can be a tough and miserable place to be.

A person is sitting down looking miserable because there is a cloud of stress on their shoulders. People near him are saying, 'I want you to... You should... Why don't you... You really need to...' When we focus a lot on what other people think and want of us, that can mean our locus of control is external. Over the long term, this isn't good for us. It can mean you aren't using your power well to manage your health and wellness.

An external locus of control and the stress it generates – B Babcock 2015

Across my coaching, charity work and research, I have found that to be a common theme among people living with a challenging health issue. It’s understandable. When you are living with ongoing health issues that can take their toll physically and emotionally, it’s no wonder you get into that place and can feel stuck.

Shifting that cloud of stress off your shoulders is possible

So you feel more free and able in yourself and in your relationships with others. You have the power to do that and ‘power’ is the key word. It’s about your personal power, holding on to it and standing in it. This means you know what you need and want and take action to get that and make things happen for yourself.

Important Tangent – When I say ‘stand in your power’, I do not mean that you are in power over others, controlling them so you are ‘greater than’ and they are ‘less than’.

So I’m going to share a way of thinking to help you identify when you are standing in your personal power and when you aren’t. Knowing this will enable you to take action to change things when you need to, to take control. It will help you manage unhelpful stress which is important within the context of a challenging health issue. In my own experience and with clients, I found that stress can exacerbate symptoms.

Using your power well to manage your health means knowing where your ‘locus of control’ is

‘Locus of control’ refers to the extent to which a person believes the outcome of their own behaviour is due to their decisions, choices, abilities, actions, personal characteristics, etc. versus it being due to others’ actions, behaviours, thoughts, etc., fate, luck or chance (Rotter, 1966).

So locus of control can be internal or external and is about what you are doing with your personal power.

If your locus of control is internal, you make things happen. You are standing in your personal power.

If it’s external, things are happening to you, others have the control and determine how you feel or everything rests with fate, luck or chance. You are actually giving your personal power away to others.

To check out where you are at any given time, listen to the language you use because that is where it is often readily detectable. Here are some examples.

Listen to your language to know where your locus of control is - B Babcock 2015

Listen to your language to know where your locus of control is – B Babcock 2015

Here’s an example

Another example can be found in the blog post on vicious circles. Look at step 3 of the vicious circle example – I wish someone would tell me I can go home. That is an example of a locus of control being external, a person relying on others to tell them what they can and cannot do.

The external locus of control wasn’t helping this person to look after themselves. When they learned of it during coaching, they found it empowering because they realised what needed to change so they could feel better and that the power to change it rested within them.

What’s it like for you?

What gets in the way of you using your power well to manage your health? Do you sometimes give your power away to others? In what situations do you find yourself standing in your power and making things happen? Feel free to share your thoughts below by leaving a comment.

If you are living with a challenging health issue or are caring for someone who is, and would like support on any of the issues discussed here, have a look at how we can work together and get in touch for a free no obligation consultation.

Pass it forward

Know someone who would benefit from reading this blog, or you just want to spread the ideas, click on the icons to share.

This is the third blog in a series which focuses on the subtle psychological processes involved in taking control of yourself, your health and wellness, and your life. You can read the previous two blogs on the illusion of control when it comes to our bodies and what to do when life starts feeling like a vicious circle

© Copyright Barbara Babcock 2015

References

Rotter, J. B. (1966). Generalized expectancies for internal versus external control of reinforcement. Psychological Monographs, 80 (Whole No. 609).

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