Managing Stress & Anxiety During Uncertain Times

By Aisling Vlasto

These are uncharted territories, with unanswerable questions confronting us all. It would be understandable to lose yourself in an endless ocean of worrying thoughts.

Perhaps you’ve noticed your stress levels rising as the weeks roll by, with feelings of anxiety creeping in.

Anxiety is a feeling of unease, such as worry or fear, be it mild or severe. It is usually a reaction to an imagined future threat. Physical symptoms include a rapid heartbeat, a feeling of knots in your stomach, and shallow, rapid breathing. Emotional responses to anxiety can include feelings of dread, repetitive negative thoughts and a heightened awareness. It can also have a negative impact on sleep. If symptoms are severe, a visit to the GP may be necessary but waiting times for referrals can be lengthy. For immediate relief from physical and emotional symptoms, here are four simple methods to try at home.

This ‘emergency toolkit’ is based on scientific research and when practiced regularly can have a positive, long term effect on stabilising your emotions.

  1. Coherent Breathing: A practice of slowing the rate of respiration to 5-6 breaths per minute. Practice for 20 minutes per day, sitting comfortably or lying down with your eyes closed. You may need to build up to these slower breaths gradually. Begin by inhaling for 4 seconds then exhaling for 4 seconds. If this feels comfortable then try for 5 seconds, eventually building up to 6 seconds for each inhale and exhale. Counting the seconds up on the inhale and back down on the exhale keeps you focused whilst occupying the mind from chaotic thoughts. When practiced daily this exercise can provide emotional resiliency. If the anxiety is severe, practice in the morning and again at bedtime.
  2. 5-4-3-2-1 Bringing your awareness the present moment: Look around you and acknowledge 5 things you can see, 4 things you can touch, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell, one thing you can taste. Practice this activity whenever you notice yourself feeling worried or overwhelmed.
  3. Mindful walking: Head outside for a walk, into nature if possible. Move slowly, feeling the ground beneath your feet with each step. Breathe slowly and deeply, listening to the sounds of your inhales and exhales. Become aware of the sound of your footsteps or the birds singing. Try not to let your thoughts take over, focus on your surroundings and stay aware of your breath until you feel calmer.
  4. If you are suffering from hyper-arousal then some strong exercise or movement can offer relief, if appropriate. A yoga sequence can be useful here if you are housebound with small children for example. Follow with a 10-20 minute period of rest or guided relaxation. Yoga sequences and guided relaxations are often free to access on Youtube or Instagram. Always choose a sequence suitable to your age and ability.

Free videos are available at https://www.instagram.com/thelovelywellnessco/

Aisling Vlasto
RYT200, Psychology BSc, Yoga Therapist for Anxiety.

Contact ash@thelovelywellnesscompany
with any questions or for further advice on managing anxiety at home. wwwthelovelywellnesscompany.com