I have been a yoga and meditation teacher for 20 years.
Anxiety and stress are some of the main things that bring people to a yoga class. I have dealt with anxiety very successfully in my career, with people from at risk youth to people with work related stress.
I have loved hearing how people followed the simple tips I provided and regained freedom, confidence and peace in their lives. Naturally when my teenagers started to display the symptoms of social anxiety I thought I had all I needed to help them.
I forgot one thing though, I’m the mom!
So all of my attempts to have them breathe and focus were met with eye rolls remarks like; “I’m not a student of yours” or “that stuff won’t work on me.”
I decided to take a step back and hoped they would figure it out themselves.
One night, one of my children texted me feeling pretty down about how hard it was to do things like go to school, focus in class and feel confident in public.
I texted all of the tips to my child and they were received in an entirely different light. The next day, my child, who was very nervous to deal with the world announced that she was going to school to have her schedule changed and that she would do it alone.
She no longer felt afraid and was using the tips I suggested.
I was so filled with gratitude for the ancient sciences of yoga and mindfulness and the way they could help my child who had felt so limited by anxiety.
It is my deepest hope that these simple tips will reach someone who is ready to hear them, and that they too will receive freedom and courage, and regain control over their life.
1. Watch Your Breath
Our breathing is so integral to our state of mind and our state of mind is so integral to the state of our emotions. Our emotional state is so important to our sense of self confidence. The more confident we are, the less anxiety we have!
So, let us begin with our breath.
I had a teacher introduce me to the 2 minute breathing break. He suggested doing it during commercial breaks instead of running to the kitchen to grab a snack.
To perform this 2 minute breathing break sit up nice and straight, no lying on your couch with your computer on your tummy!
Begin breathing in and out through your nose. Watch your breath flowing in and out and allow this flow to continue for two minutes, without holding the breath at any point.
You will notice that as you practice you are unable to have a single thought.
This is just what your mind needs, the opportunity to have a break from thinking.
I suggest practicing this for two minute intervals throughout the day. Do it while walking, sitting on the bus, at a coffee break, on a spare at school. You will notice that gradually, you begin to break the habit of stressful thinking. Your mind will love the way it feels to be relaxed.
Since you are not thinking all of your old stressful thought you will not be emotionally triggered and your self-confidence will begin to rise!
2. Watch Your Thoughts
Our mind has unlimited storage space. It just works and works and works all day long and it is important to know what the mind is busy thinking all hours of our day.
Take one hour of your day when you know nobody will disturb you and write down every thought you have.
You will notice how many negative thoughts you have vs. how many positive, encouraging and empowered thoughts you have.
Separate these thoughts into two categories, those that are positive and those that are restrictive.
The negative thoughts can be divided into further categories such as, thoughts from my mom, replays of mean things that people have said to me, replays of my fails etc.
Now, create a counterthought to each negative thought. For example, if you repeat in your head over and over that you are stupid, then remember examples when you really excelled. Write down a list of your awesomeness and use those to counter the negative thoughts that you are stupid, a failure etc.
With the thoughts that are replays from someone else, forgive the person who implanted it and create a counter thought.
Practice this counterthought each time you catch yourself thinking things that pull you down and you will begin to feel like a whole new person! You will begin to see your own beauty and will not feel the anxiety you felt when you or your past downloads were bullying you in your head.
3. Watch Your Emotions
As you begin to master your breath and mind you will be able to notice your emotions.
So, begin by recognizing how anxiety feels in your body.
Does your chest tighten?
Do you find it hard to breathe?
Do you feel dizzy?
Do you find it difficult to see?
Do you begin to have spiraling negative thoughts?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, this is great, this means you know what is happening at the start of your anxiety.
When you notice your mind and body go into your habitual stress response ask yourself these questions:
What am I afraid of? Wait for the answer and be patient while waiting; practice your two minute breathing.
Can I visualize a positive counter to my fear? If you are afraid that you look awkward in a social setting, visualize that you walk in, meet a couple of close friends and enjoy conversation with them.
Where do I feel this stress in my body? When you feel the place in your body that is most affected, place your hand there and visualize that it is the hand of someone who really loves you, who brings you comfort and cares so deeply about you that they would do anything to keep you safe.
Keep breathing and allow yourself to come fully into the moment and when you begin to feel grounded and safe, thank yourself for giving yourself this gift of calm.
In summary, the key to reducing anxiety is calming the breath, reducing negative thoughts, replacing fear with positive visualizations and recognizing and soothing anxiety triggers in the body.
I wish you peace and a life free from anxiety and full of self love!
Author: Christine Machiraju
Editor: Lindsay Carricarte / Editor: Renee Picard