As someone who deals with anxiety and stress a lot â€“ it tends to impact on my illness and make me sicker if I donâ€™t pay attention â€“ I have spent quite a few years gathering little techniques that assist me with feeling calmer and more centred.
Of course, one of the most obvious of these is meditation. [Quick aside in case you havenâ€™t had much experience with meditation before: meditation is the act of calming the mind and observing the breath. It is usually done to obtain a different level of consciousness, but of course the pursuit of this is a wonderful benefit in itself.]
Iâ€™m not just talking about sitting meditation, where you pretzel your legs into lotus position and try to keep your back straight and comfortable (in my case, without the assistance of a pillow, usually a losing battle). You can sit anywhere. You can do walking meditation. You can even meditate while lying down â€“ just be aware of whether youâ€™re falling asleep!
Here are a few of my favourite meditation techniques:
Sitting on a pillow, listening to guided meditations â€“ I like to make sure that Iâ€™m just sitting on the edge of the pillow, so that it keeps my spine straight. This is mostly my preference, as I find it lowers the amount of back pain that I get.
Guided meditations are everywhere â€“ all over the internet, on CD, in libraries. Just have a look around and find some that work for you. Visualisation meditations are good too â€“ youâ€™ll have someone talking you through visualizing a scene, usually from nature, which can be extremely calming.
I find that sometimes during the day I notice that Iâ€™m breathing shallowly, or hardly at all. I find that I feel a lot better if I just pause and take a few deep breaths, right down into my belly. When I say that, I donâ€™t mean that youâ€™re pushing oxygen past your lungs, but that you use your stomach muscles to breath instead of just your chest. This just makes me feel fresher and more grounded.
Try taking three deep breaths right now and notice any effect it has on you.
Please note: when I say walking meditation, you donâ€™t need to close your eyes or stop paying attention to where youâ€™re walking. Walking meditation, for me, just means being mindful of where my foot is being placed; what part of the foot goes down first, second, last; being aware of my breathing as I walk; and being aware of my surroundings. Taking pleasure in the walk instead of just seeing it as a means to rush from one spot to another. Breathing the fresh air. Just being more aware.
Other things I like to do to calm myself include these basics:
- Going outside.
Just feeling the fresh air and observing the weather is a great way to remove myself from whatever stressful situation I was in.
- Going for a walk.
It doesnâ€™t need to be a walking meditation, but I find that when Iâ€™m stuck on an essay or something I need to get done, going for a walk can just get me out of my own head for long enough to feel more capable of doing what needs to be done.
- Spending time around animals.
Now this is a slightly more difficult one for some people, as not everyone likes animals, or has pets available for easy cuddling. And some pets arenâ€™t really built for cuddling. But just being around animals, likes dogs, cats, even pigs (seriously. Pigs are adorable.) can make me feel happier. Something about the simplicity of the way they look at life is amazing. And my dog, for example, seems to love and adore everyone on sight alone.
Finally, I thought Iâ€™d give you a technique I use when Iâ€™m actually on the verge of freaking out over something. This was taught to me by someone else, but I feel itâ€™s such a useful technique for getting me out of my spiraling thoughts.
Itâ€™s called the five things technique (at least thatâ€™s what I call it!).
Basically, when you feel that youâ€™re starting to lose control of something, you take a step back (physically or mentally) and go through your senses and notice five things with each.
So, for example, Iâ€™ll do it right now to show you.
Five things I can see: my MacBook, a little statue of a girl with a book, a bike, trees, and one of my dogâ€™s toys.
Five things I can hear: The Shins playing on my mp3 player, a ticking clock, a truck going by, birds, the jingle of the dog-tags on my dogâ€™s collar.
Five things I can smell (this one can be a bit odd/difficult, but give it a go!): laundry powder on my clothes, my deodorant, a bag of soap nearby (presents for cousins), the woolly smell of the carpet (I donâ€™t even know how to explain that really!), and my dog (yup. Sheâ€™s featuring a lot in this!).
Five things I can taste (Usually I can only get one for this!): uhhh water?
Five things I can feel: the fuzziness of my jumper, the keys under my fingers as I type, the seat underneath me, the slippers on my feet, and the desk under my arms.
Thatâ€™s pretty much it! Simple, I know, but effective nonetheless.
I hope these techniques help you out a bit and bring a little peace to everyone!
Bethwyn had written a great series about Managing depression: Check out Part One: Managing my depression here and read other great tips and insights.
Share your keeping calm techniques below…