Sometimes, like being in the middle of a pandemic, we just cannot engineer being in a safe place. Everything around us feels wrong and out of control and fixing it is beyond our capabilities. When you feel emotionally unsafe, it can be really helpful to have somewhere inside yourself to escape to.
Pick your safe place and learn to visualise every detail of it so that you can go there in your imagination if you need to. It should be somewhere that is utterly safe and secure to you. Think about all your senses when imagining it. You can also people it with those friends and/or family who you feel totally safe with.
When we get stuck in difficult or unpleasant patterns of thoughts, feelings or behaviours, it can be useful to distract ourselves for a while.
It might help to make a list of things that really work well for you as distractions so that you have a variety of ones to choose from. Distraction can take the form of reciting a poem or song you know off by heart or by counting things such as times tables or counting backwards from 100. My favourite distraction game is to pick a topic such as dog breeds and go through the alphabet: Afghan, Beagle, Cocker Spaniel, etc.
This is another way in which we can gain control over our breathing and use deeper, slower breaths to help calm ourselves and reduce the feelings of anxiety.
Try the following deep breathing technique:
Anxiety can cause shortness of breath because your body is making preparations to fight its way out of trouble or run from it and prepares by getting more oxygen to your muscles. This is natural but can feel really frightening. Exercises which slow your breathing will signal that there isn’t a threat and your body can therefore stand down.
Try the 3, 4, 5 technique to slow your breathing down:
Move your body.
The mind will follow the body so just changing your space, position or activity can lead to a change in emotions and thinking. Just small shifts in mood can make a difference to the quality of a day.
If you are sat down somewhere feeling increasingly anxious then get up and move to a different place or change the activity you are doing. Try a few stretches or some gentle exercise. Go outside if you are inside or vice versa.
Much of what I do is about working with anxiety, depression and all the feelings and emotions which come to the surface when life isn’t working out for people. Sometimes, life feels hard, sad or induces fear and unease within us. It is easy to feel out of control or powerless in such situations but there are some simple things which can bring relief. In effect, we can learn to soothe ourselves and be our own cheerleaders when times are tough. These are not fix-all, ‘suddenly it’s all better’ solutions but ways of holding ourselves steady and perhaps seeing our lives and issues from a different perspective.
Whilst we cannot guarantee to control external events, we can do things to control what and how we feel internally. Beyond the obvious of trying to make sure we eat sensibly, keep hydrated and get enough sleep, there are lots of small exercises which can shift the way we manage our responses to what goes on around us. In the next few posts, I will be suggesting small ways to help ease anxiety and to work with it when it arises.
It is more effective to practice these ideas and set them up when you are not feeling anxious. There is no guarantee that you are going to think clearly when you are anxious so some pre-planning will give you the tools you need. It may take time before these techniques work well for you as our brains tend to learn by repetition.