It’s important to distinguish between stress and anxiety.
Stress: “If I’m asked to juggle one more plate, all the plates will crash to the ground and I’ll scream.”
Anxiety: “The sight of a single plate is inducing panic, and making it impossible for me to do anything at all.”
Anxiety like this should be taken seriously, and consultation with a Dr. or psychotherapist may be a good idea. Having said this, the following two lists of suggestions are relevant for anyone experiencing either anxiety or stress.
Simple Short-term Strategies
Take ten slow deep breaths.
This is the simplest form of meditation. Meditation is about clearing your mind. One way to do this is to give your mind something simple to focus on, and to work at focusing only on that thing; in this case your breath. Inhale slowly, feeling your diaphragm pushing gently downward, your rib cage expanding, and your belly button moving outward a little. Exhale slowly, letting your diaphragm relax. Count your breaths. Let your mind fill with the number, picture it; repeat it in your mind slowly. Push any other thoughts gently away and focus only on your breath.
Apply mild heat to your low back.
Our nervous system has two modes. Nerves related to the mode that’s associated with relaxation exit the spine around your tailbone. Heat is one way to stimulate them. A hot water bottle or warmed up jell pack wrapped in a towel are good sources of warmth. This is best done lying down, which also has the advantage of making you not do things.
More Involved, but Equally useful Long-term Strategies
Make a ruthless assessment of your priorities.
Everything we do feels important, but most people I see as a massage therapist say they’re too busy. Unless you have 12 children or a lot of sick relatives, there are likely one or two things you can cut out of your weekly routine. Getting to the gym five nights a week isn’t really helping you if it means you’re not getting enough sleep, or you’re constantly feeling stressed out because you don’t have enough time in your day.
Eat a balanced diet and get enough sleep. We hear this advice a lot, but it’s impossible to overstate its importance.
Consider consulting someone who’s trained in one or more of the following:
- teaching meditation, yoga or some other form of movement-based practice
- manual techniques intended to promote relaxation such as a massage or reflexology
- having structured conversations which try to get at the root of anxiety or stress such as a psychotherapist.
These suggestions are useful but not definitive. There are many people trained to help you, but in the end, you’re the one best placed to bring more peace and tranquility into your life.