Sometimes life happens. When we wake up, we are okay, but heavy emotions seem to erupt. In honour of mental health awareness month, here is what to do for you or your friend.
Baxter Bell, MD, a licensed medical acupuncturist and qualified yoga instructor. He adds that, as a start, we may improve our ability to think clearly and lower our blood pressure and stress levels. Deep breathing frequently results in feelings of serenity and centring, and he claims that breathing exercises can help one feel better overall.
Breathing grounds, you, bringing you back to the present moment. A deep inhale through your nose and a long exhale through your mouth will calm you in seconds.
There are different breathing techniques
My favourite and easiest one is what I love to call ‘the breath hold and release’: You breathe in through your nose, hold to the count of three, and exhale through your mouth, dropping your shoulders. I add a twist to this by imagining all things causing the tension to leave my body as I exhale. I repeat this as many times as required.
Box breathing or square breathing: This type of breathing calms your mind, helping you meditate or calm your mind. It is also helpful for patients with respiratory diseases. Sit up straight with your feet firmly on the floor. Fully exhale. Breathe in through your nose, counting up to 4. Hold for 4, then exhale for 4. Repeat until you feel calm.
Mindful breathing: mindful breathing is often used to improve sleep or fight off insomnia. I twist it to fit my need. Look for a positive affirmation to counter what you are feeling e.g. I am calm. Then exhale and inhale like you normally would repeating the affirmation in your mind. Repeat till you get desired results.
We are encouraged to practice abdominal breathing – following the normal breathing pattern. By using your diaphragm to breathe you use less effort and energy to breathe. Slowing your breathing rate and reducing your body’s oxygen demand. Relax your body, inhale slowly letting your abdomen and ribcage expand. Exhale slowly letting your stomach and ribcage drop. Repeat till calm.
4-7-8 technique. I use this to fall asleep fast but it can be used to calm a racing mind. Find a comfortable seating position and place your tongue behind the front teeth and exhale. Breathe in quietly through the nose for 4 seconds. Hold your breath for 7 seconds. Exhale through the mouth making a “whoosh” sound for 8 seconds.
Call a friend or a trusted person
Sometimes we need someone to affirm us. calling a friend may provide much-needed assurance. Having someone to share your problem with may give you insight or relief. If your friend calls you panicking you can try breathing exercises with them.
Talk a walk
The amygdala is a region of the brain that regulates anxiety. Also regulates decision-making. This is why it’s very tough to make decisions when feeling nervous and making too many decisions might make us more worried.
It is a mono-tasker, meaning it can only do one thing at once.
Additionally, it has been demonstrated that walking disables the anxious process, allowing the worried portion of our brain to partially turn off while we walk.
I like to separate my walks into two: workout walks and mindfulness walks.
Mindfulness walks can be quick or long depending on the problem. I like to either listen to affirmations, music, or podcasts. In extreme cases, I walk while focusing on my breathing. To ground myself better, I mention the things I see. For example, a school, a bus among others.
Mindfulness walks can be as short as a water break or as long as a hike! A change in scenery does help the mind.
Write it down on paper
When my head spins, I like to jolt down the problem. This gives me a clear understanding of my problem and helps me find solutions.
When I have my problems in a paper it is easy to notice which ones I can fix and what fate will handle. Journaling also comes in handy when you need some private matters off your chest.
Your journal can also step in for a friend. Effectively journaling requires that you let your thoughts out freely. With current technology, you can download lockable journals on your phone.
Get in the Kitchen
He said his love for cooking helped him through bipolar and depressive episodes. Mindfully making a cup of tea or cooking brings you back to your body, calming you.
Culinary therapy, also known as cooking therapy, is a way to nourish your body, and mind and feed your soul simultaneously. It helps relieve anxiety and elevate your mood by giving you a sense of accomplishment, and control. This improves your self-esteem and overall quality of life.
Teas such as chamomile and lavender have been said to help the body relax. I like to set the mood by playing some calming music, lighting a candle and sipping.
Sometimes I combine this with journaling.
Continuous mediation also helps prevent and best manage feelings of anxiety or depression. It’s advised to practice meditation as often as we can to help us navigate life in a calm state.
Start with 5 minutes and walk yourself up. I love mindfulness meditations in the morning and gratitude meditations at the end of the day. There are tonnes of meditations for any need you have.