Most of the general anxiety that millions of us suffer from is the result of making poor choices: poor choices in what we choose to focus on, what we give our attention to, who and what we issue our power to and poor choices about our own identity. These poor choices lead us into a mindset of being a victim; too weak, helpless and vulnerable to be effective in making changes for the better. Our power oozes out of us with these habitual, draining choices and assumptions; and as our power flows out of us and into those areas we've given dominion over our thoughts and feelings, our anxiety, worry and stress builds and grows.
While regular physical exercise is an excellent way to alleviate the symptoms of panic attacks, and provides short-term relief from stress and general anxiety, it doesn't address the underlying causes of anxiety. For true effectiveness and permanent remedy, exercises for anxiety relief should also cover the emotional, mental and spiritual realms as well as the physical. A small, consistent devotion to all four quadrants will reclaim authority of the power that we've allowed to leak away - and from this position, we can exercise mastery of the results we get by consciously determining not only what thoughts, feelings and behaviors we'll allow ourselves to entertain, but also what meaning we give the daily events of our lives.
Aside from a regular workout regime, to strengthen your command over patterns of habitual worry, concentrate on fortifying all four quadrants with the following exercises for anxiety:
1. Physical grounding exercises: When thoughts and unhappy feelings start to run away with our lives, the material world around us can start to take on a surreal atmosphere which compounds the anxiety. Any activity that requires absorption of the physical senses plus mental attention will help to physically ground your awareness in the body and distract the mind from its object of anxiety. This allows us to calm down, stay present and acknowledge that we are safe in this moment. Some easy grounding practices are:
- stomping your feet on the ground while focusing on the sensations;
- deep squats while paying attention to the muscles in your legs, back, feet, buttocks etc.
- focus on your breath or count your breath; inhale to a count of 6, hold for 2 beats then exhale through your mouth to a count of 4 and repeat twenty times.
- progressive muscle contraction and relaxation; starting with your toes and ascending up the body to the top of the head, alternate contracting and relaxing each muscle group.
- put your face in a sink of cold water and sign "Tiny Bubbles" - the louder, the better.
- hug and snuggle with something soft and cuddly while repeating a "safe" mantra. "I'm safe right now" or "Right now, I'm okay and safe" work well - make it easy and simple to keep your attention.
- walking meditations with your focus fully on the feet; if your mind wanders just keep bringing it back to your feet and their sensations.
The effectiveness of grounding exercises is the ability to change our mindset, so anything that engages our senses and changes our focus can be a tool for the anxiety busting toolkit. If you can add some humor to it, all the better. One of my favorites, because I always end up laughing, is to sing the "Name Song", vigorously, on whatever has gotten to me. i.e. "Money, money, foe funny, fananarama foe funny, fee fie foe fum. MONEY!" It's silly I know, but it's effective because it's so silly and it breaks my mind out of the heaviness of worry - tailor your own grounding exercises to suit your environment and lifestyle.
2. The second quadrant to exercise for anxiety is the emotional world. This area is a little trickier than the physical, but necessary for freedom from anxiety. A good place to start is to learn what triggers your anxiety and worry; get curious about yourself and dig a little deeper to reveal which situations, events, conditions and behaviors push your buttons. What "kind" of people do you dislike? When do you feel "put upon" or taken advantage of? Can you keep your word to yourself? If not, why not? What are the feelings that come up in these conditions and are they consistent? You won't know what to change until you face up to your fears - but when you do, you'll know what needs to be done and how to be effective in implementing the change. It may seem a bit frightening at the start, but with persistence you'll start having successes which will build confidence and momentum. In a surprisingly short time you'll learn to recognize the feelings of your triggers, discern whether they're true in the moment and dissolve them by choosing to put your attention on what you desire - you'll realize you are sovereign of your emotions, not vice versa.
Our feelings are a result of what we think, and we think what we think because of what we believe and the meanings we've given to the daily unfolding of our lives. However, most of these feelings, thoughts and beliefs were formed as small children when they may have been appropriate to keep us safe and secure. Living from these same beliefs and meanings as adults rarely results in a joyous expression of consciousness - usually, they hamper us with restrictions and limitations so it's crucial to understand who's driving your bus. Is it you, or the 5 year old version of you? If it's still the 5 year old, it may be time to consider changing drivers...
Journaling is a very effective method to begin the process of getting to know yourself and your feelings; set aside a specific time, preferably at the end of the day, to non-judgmentally assess your day and begin the process of asking yourself better questions. What made you happy, unhappy or stressed out today? How can you do more of what makes you feel good and less of what causes anxiety and unhappiness? What empowered you today and what drained you? Do you feel that outside events, people have authority over you? Is it true? What meaning have you given this and can you find a better one that will strengthen rather than weaken you? By asking better questions you'll receive better answers, learn how to trust your intuition and make stronger decisions about who and what controls your feelings. With this power, you can then cultivate the feelings of joy, abundance, health etc.
3. The mental quadrant is another one where major work needs to be done. We are inundated with distractions all day, every day and have become mentally lazy and complacent about what we allow to roam around in our heads. Developing mastery of your thoughts will require mental discipline and consistent daily practice, but the rewards will be well worth the effort. This is the realm of power that's inherent in choices and decisions and determines the direction of our lives as well as the results we experience.
A good place to start in developing a strong psychology is to know what it is you want. Get very, very clear about the outcomes you want; know what your goals are and your plan to bring them to fruition and set a deadline with specific points to measure your progress. If you don't know what you want, your mind will default to focusing on all of the old influences of family, school, advertising etc. and you'll keep getting the same old results. Nothing changes if nothing changes - this is an essential point to understand because it contains the dynamics of power that decision making contains. You are responsible for your life as it is now and when you can accept that responsibility, you can accept the responsibility of correcting course and directing it as you desire.
As well as the questioning and journaling outlined above, mental exercises should also include simple mantras or affirmations - always stated in the positive, keep your affirmations simple and easy to use. Determine 3 or 4 areas to improve and stick with those until you've met your goal. Don't allow negative thoughts and worry to occupy any space in your mind; they're like weeds and grow uncontrollably - weed them out of your mind and sow healthy, confident thoughts. Develop the practice of visualizing the experiences, situations and feelings you want; 15 minutes a day of focusing on what you want, not on what you dread, will make a significant difference in anxiety levels and your behavior as well as the effects you experience.
4. The last quadrant is spiritual. One of the most dis-empowering assumptions we have is that we're alone, weak and vulnerable. Develop a relationship with a Higher Power and take some heat off of your shoulders, learn to let go and let God; calm yourself with the practices of prayer and meditation and develop the spiritual muscles of faith. Try assuming that the Source of the universe is benevolent, and everything that happens is for your benefit - by looking for the good, you'll be given the results to witness to your faith. Support is all around you - it may not be in family or close friends, but it's there in forums, support groups, step groups, religious institutions, government agencies, help-lines etc. Reach out and help someone else, it truly is the best way to help yourself.
When considering exercises for anxiety relief, don't just rely on physical exercises for temporary relief with a burst of feel good hormones; developing and strengthening the four quadrants of physical grounding, emotional maturity, mental toughness and spiritual trust will bring about not only short term solutions to anxiety but also permanently dissolve many of the fears that create anxiety in the first place.
Are you still allowing events from the past to limit your confidence and seemingly make you feel helpless? Natural Confidence is an easy and elegant program that will eliminate your beliefs and conditioning, for good, and allow you to switch your identity from that of a victim to that of a powerhouse - click here now to live your life on YOUR terms.
Lorna M. Atkinson is a writer and advocate of reclaiming personal power through the alignment of personality and soul and is dedicated to freeing the mind from limitations learned in the past.