FAMILY, friends, health, wealth, whether you remembered to feed the cat… the list of things to worry about is endless. When you’re busy juggling life, all it takes is one extra worry or responsibility and it can feel like all the balls are going to come crashing to the ground.
It’s easy to let those frazzled feelings engulf you. They can lead to anxiety, panic and burnout, if you let them, but there are simple ways to handle times when you feel overwhelmed.
Decent sleep and a balanced diet are essential -give your body the fuel it needs. Get some fresh air and exercise, too. A brisk walk clears the mind and fires up endorphins (aka happy hormones).
The trick is to teach yourself how to slow down and reconnect, both mentally and physically. With calmness comes clarity and positive energy, which are exactly what you need to handle your situation.
First, take ten minutes for yourself. Yes, ten whole minutes. Find a quiet, warm place in your house and sit in a comfortable position. I like to sit cross-legged but you might prefer to kneel or sit leaning against a wall with your legs outstretched. Whatever your preference, sit on the floor if at all possible, not a chair, for a more physical connection with the earth.
Take one hand to your heart space and the other to your belly. Close your eyes, relax shoulders and jaw, and bring your attention to your breath. Feel how your hands move as you breathe.
As you inhale, ask yourself which hand rises first? As you exhale, which hand sinks first? There is no right answer; simply notice what you notice. Give yourself a couple of minutes to explore this connection between body and breath.
Keeping your focus on the breath, swing out your legs and give your toes a wiggle.Come onto all fours, knees under hips and wrists under shoulders. Exhale and sink the hips back to your heels, bringing your forehead to the ground to find child’s pose. Keep your hands alongside the body and close the eyes. If your hips rise off your heels, place a block (a good hardback book or two will do the job) under your forehead so you can relax and surrender the entire body. Enjoy the gentle stretching sensation through the back and shoulders and feel the breath as it comes and goes.
This is a real ‘stop the world, I want to get off’ pose. Cocooned here, you can rest and restore, each breath bringing a deeper sense of calm. Stay here as long as you like.
Slowly use your hands to push back up to a sitting position. Again, swing your legs forward, roll the ankles and wiggle your toes. Return to your preferred seated position, but this time cup one hand in the other and relax them on your lap.
Again, close your eyes and tune into the ebb and flow of your breath. After a few rounds, imagine there is a fluffy white feather in front of you. Inhale through the nose and as you exhale, purse your lips gently and let the breath out through your mouth very slowly and softly – with just enough puff to make the feather move as you breathe. Repeat as many times as you like.
The lovely long exhale will calm your nervous system, slow your heart rate and lower blood pressure to reduce stress levels. One small warning: if you have low blood pressure stop if this breathing technique makes you feel dizzy and return to your natural breath.
By focusing on the breath you’re able to be in the here and now – not worrying about the past or stressing about the future. It’s a skill that doesn’t come overnight. I suggest you start before things go absolutely crazy and you’re at the end of your tether!
Now go forth and face your day. Prioritise, write lists, keep yourself grounded and remember, you’re not superhuman…
Published in the Irish Daily Mail, February 13, 2018