We all know that deep breathing is great for Anxiety, and at the same time, deep breathing is also one of the foundations of meditation - which is also incredible for Stress and Anxiety.
However, for people who are new to meditation and/or deep breathing often struggle with it, and for various reasons: Either because they are focusing on the fact that they can't rid their minds of intrusive thoughts, and get aggravated by it, or they're not sure what they should be doing, and as a result, simply become bored with just sitting and breathing.
Some people are not sure what to expect, and get a little anxious, and some people expect too much too fast.
I am no meditation expert, but as someone who does practice meditation, for both stress relief and to experience the spiritual aspects of the practice, there are a few things I've learned along the way:
1) Firstly, don't focus on trying to copy what the media tries to portray meditation as. You don't have to sit in a pretzel like position, you don't have to hold your fingers in a specific way, and most importantly, there is no one way to meditate - again, it's about personal preference.
2) Secondly, don't believe that in order to meditate, you have to completely clear your mind and keep it clear throughout your practice. Intrusive thoughts are perfectly normal. Rather focus on acknowledging these thoughts without judgment, but, also gently letting them go.
3) Thirdly, you don't have to have a spiritual experience to feel the effects of meditation. There are many benefits to meditation, and to have a spiritual connection or experience is a common ambition that many people do have for meditation, but it's not the only benefit and goal that you should have. I always advise people who are new to meditation to first and foremost, focus on how it makes you feel from a stress point of view. Use it to slow down your heart rate, and to focus on you!
Don't expect too much of yourself too soon.
To aid in helping those of you who do struggle with meditation and/or deep breathing, there is a really fun way to do it that will not only aid in relaxing you, but will make the breathing much more interesting, instead of just merely inhaling and exhaling.
The key with this technique is it forces you to focus, and to use imagery by means of your five senses. By fully engaging the five senses, we become much more aware of our inner selves, and it is easier to focus on the present moment - mindfulness.
I call it 'The Five Senses Breath' and it can take as little as three minutes out of your day!
So, find some place where you will be comfortable. You can sit or lie down, but make sure you won't be disturbed. I also recommend putting on some relaxing background music, and close your eyes.
What you're going to do is inhale and exhale, but with each breath you take, you're going to envision the breath using a different sense each time.
So to start, breathe in and feel what your breath feels like. Does it feel cool against your nostrils? Does it tickle? When you breathe out, feel the warmth of your breath coming out your mouth.
Next, inhale and see what the air looks like. For this step, I usually envision white light going into my nose. When you breathe out, imagine smoke coming out your mouth.
Next, breathe in again and hear your breath. Concentrate on what it sounds like. Is it shallow? Is it long and deep? Then hear your breath as you exhale out your mouth.
Breathe in again, and smell the air going into your nose. Perhaps you want to imagine it smelling of something you like the smell of - envision that smell, else, just simply smell the air. Smell the freshness of it. Smell it going out your nose or mouth when you exhale.
Breathe in once more and taste the air. This is the hardest one to do, so I always recommend either envisioning your favourite food, or else, inhale through your mouth, to taste the air you're breathing in. Exhale again.
If doing this for the first time, do it once, and then resume normal breathing.
If you're used to deep breathing, feel free to try this cycle again.
This technique can be done at the start of a meditation to simply relax the mind and body, and get the breathing cycle going, or else just use it as a deep breathing technique.
I use this breathing technique at the start of my meditations, and it's really great for helping me to focus my mind, and to get me super relaxed.
I really hope you enjoy it as much as I do!
Check out the accompanying video below:
I never really thought I'd ever be a person who would write an article on Time Management strategies, however here I am doing just that!
As a person who grew up being quite messy and dysfunctional, my opinions were drastically changed when I was diagnosed with anxiety and panic disorder back in 2009.
As part of my recovery plan, I began to see how proper time management, structure and routine was crucial to keeping my mind stable and anxious free, and now I am such a fan that it has become one of my most favoured ways to reduce not only anxiety, but just general every day stress!
Here are four brilliant Time Management methods to reduce anxiety and stress:
A Morning and Evening Routine
Mornings are usually chaotic for everyone, but a well structured Morning Routine can enable you to not only get things done such as getting kids ready for school and getting yourself ready for work, but being able to have enough time to do everything in, and even scheduling a few minutes for yourself to either practice some self care, and eat a good breakfast.
The key to not feeling stressed out in the morning, is all down to two simple things: timing and a good night's sleep.
By following a good evening routine the night before, and setting out time slots for yourself to get everything done in the morning, even if it means getting up a bit earlier are key!
Evening Routines work the same as a Morning Routine, but instead of setting us up for the day, your evening routine needs to unwind you and set you up for a good night's sleep.
Therefore after doing the typical things that need to be done in the evening (whatever that may be for you) you should be focusing on doing things to induce sleep.
As mentioned before, a good evening routine makes for a good night's rest, which in turn can make or break your morning routine.
To watch my morning and evening routine videos, click here.
The Pro and Con List
This is an exceptionally useful method to use if you are faced with a situation, and don't know which is right for you. It can be helpful to draw up a Pro's and Con's List about that specific situation.
For example, say you have an opportunity to move to a new town, but you are not sure whether it would be the right move or not. Simply take a sheet of paper, draw a line down the middle, and on one side, write all the pro's about moving to the new town, and on the other side, write all the cons.
Seeing positives and negatives in black and white will help your mind process each pro and con, and make everything so much clearer so you can make a good decision.
The Fork in the Road
The Fork in the Road method is quite similar to the Pro and Con List with regards to helping you make a decision, however, it's methodology is a bit different.
The Fork in the Road, like the Pro and Con List can be used to help you decide which path of a situation you should take. However, it can also be used for when you have two situations and don't know which road to take.
When doing the Fork in the Road method, you'll want to turn your sheet of paper into a landscape position, then draw a two circles at the top, one in the middle of the left hand side, and then one in the middle of the right hand side.
Then almost like a spider diagram, you'll list the pros and cons of taking each route.
For this method, you can also take things a bit further by brainstorming ideas for each route, should one of them not work out as planned.
Block Schedule Method
I was introduced to this method on YouTube, from a lady called Jordan Page, and it's made such a remarkable difference in my life.
The Block Schedule Method or System, allows you to dedicate time blocks or slots for your whole day, to allow for efficient and easier management throughout your day.
The Block Schedule Method works brilliantly alongside a Morning and Evening Routine.
Before I explain further, The one thing I must mention with doing something like the Block Schedule Method, and this is especially for anxiety sufferers or people who tend to stress easily, and that is...
Planning out your whole day doesn't always go according to plan!
We all have lives, and sometimes stuff happens, perhaps we need to go somewhere at a specific time or maybe you were not feeling well on a particular day - life happens, and sometimes we will not be able to fully stick to our schedules, and that is okay!
To utilize the Block Schedule Method, and taking into account that every single person's will be different, you first need to allocate time blocks for yourself, and write a heading for each one, then underneath each heading, you are going to sub heading or clearly mark what you need to do in that specific time slot.
So an example would be:
6 - 9am - Morning Routine: Get kids up, make breakfast, eat breakfast, take kids to school
9 - 11am - Me Time: Meditate, Shower and Get Ready
11 - 1pm - Errands - Grocery Shopping, Appointments
What you could do to take it even further, is have a diary on top of your block schedule, and write in your diary any specifics, such as who do you need to call or email, or what do you need to buy at the supermarket? I actually do this as well, and I even sometimes meal plan in my diary, so a pocket size diary is just not going to cut it.
I like this diary here, because it has a page dedicated to each day, and this is the one I use.
For my American readers, here is a similar one.
To watch my in depth video on the block schedule method, click here.
The above four examples are specific time management techniques that I use, and they have really helped me when I need them to, however like I said earlier, time management techniques are there to help make life easier, and they are not going to work if you are stressed or beating yourself up because you don't always follow it to the minute.
That will not help you, and is completely defeating the object.
You don't have to always stick to it, especially on weekends, where we should all be relaxing more and spending time with our families.
In fact, apart from doing my morning routine loosely on the weekends, I don't stick to the method at all. It is only for weekdays!
So use one or all of these to help make your life easier and get more done, and if you fall off the time tracker sometimes - honestly who cares?
The Block Schedule System or the Block Schedule Method is a kind of time management that allows for effective and efficient use of time throughout the day.
I discovered this method in a Youtube video by Brittany Vasseur, who discovered it through another YouTuber named Jordan Page.
Proper management of time has always been an issue for me, and even though I have a diary, I still struggled to organise all the things that I want to do in my day.
One thing that I am a big sucker for doing, is spending too long on one task, working through lunch and then not having time to do any of the other things that need to be done.
This is one of the reasons why the block schedule method works so well for me.
How does it work?
The Block Schedule Method works by dividing your day into blocks or slots, and for each block or slot, a certain amount of time is allocated.
Within those slots, a generalised theme is chosen, which can then give room to take these themes even further by dedicating tasks underneath them.
Below is a snippet from my own Block Schedule for my 2-3:30pm time slot and then for my 3:30-4:30 time slot.
Say for example you have children that you need to get up for school, you may wake up at 6am, and you know that after you’ve taken the children to school, you’re usually home by 8:30, so your first time block might be from 6-8:30am which you might title your “get children up and ready” slot.
Then from 8:30-10am, you might take some time for yourself, maybe go to the gym, do a morning meditation or have a shower, so you might entitle this time block as “workout and getting ready”
You may then want to do some work from 10-1pm, so this would be entitled “work,” this is when I then take it a step further and use my diary to jot down all the things I need to do for work, but by 1pm, I stop working and break for lunch.
Taking things further:
In my Block Schedule, I have written H2O in each time slot as well - another tip from Brittany Vasseur. This reminds me to try and drink a glass a water in slot as well.
You may want to schedule a five minute breathing exercise for each slot.
You might want to schedule a few minutes of self care in each time slot.
The options are literally endless and there is not really a right or wrong way to do it, so this will be different for everyone.
Something that was mentioned in both YouTube videos, was to either 'unplug or plug in' meaning that you would either have your phone with you or not.
You can set alarms for when each block ends...
You can get very creative :)
But I work full time away from home...
For people who work full time, and not from home, the block schedule method can still work for you, however you will need to tweak it quite a bit.
You could perhaps do something like this:
6-8am Get up and get ready
8-8:0am Drive to work
You may want to include listening to an audio book while driving to work
11-11:10 Tea break
You may want to schedule a 10 minute meditation in this slot.
3:30-3:40 Tea break, mindfulness exercise
5-5:30 drive home
5:30-9 make dinner, watch TV
9-11 bed routine
You may want to do yoga or a meditation.
As mentioned earlier, the Block Schedule System will be different for everyone, and it is still possible to do it when working away from home.
And super busy people can do this as well!
The whole point of this system is to make life easier for busier people!
And if you’re the sort of person who is totally disorganised and has everything all over the place - I urge you to try this, because this could change your life!
Unexpected Life Issues
It is very important to realize that this system cannot always be followed to exact time slots.
Sometimes things happen in life, and they have to be done at a specific time.
For example, I don't necessarily schedule outings for myself, because it's not something that I do everyday.
I don't have children, and I work from home, so I don't go out everyday, but when I do go out, it would normally be in the afternoon during the 2-3:30 slot.
If my husband is at home, sometimes we go for lunch, but we go during that time to avoid the crazy lunch rush.
What about weekends?
The Block Schedule System is followed very loosely on the weekend, partly because for me, weekends are family time, going out to restaurants and shopping, going for picnics (in the summer) ,and just chilling out and watching a good movie or two.
I do my morning routine and evening routine, because these are just something I have to do to start and end my day off, and I love routine, it really helps me feel less anxious.
However, I don't work on the weekend and I don't do housework, so this system is only followed to a point on the weekends.
Four reasons why the block schedule method works so well:
1. It helps to motivate you by giving you a routine to follow
As someone who struggles with Anxiety, the Block Schedule System gives you that comfort of having a routine or a checklist to complete. This prevents a bored mind from conjuring up anxious thoughts as you are active and bust throughout the day.
2. It helps to get each task done, or at least help you to start a project to avoid procrastination
I'm a big procrastinator, so even by starting something, even if it's something small, in my mind, I've started it, and now I have to complete it
3. It enables you to move along swiftly from one task to the next, making sure optimal productivity is reached
This is one of the things that the Block Schedule System has helped me with a lot, because I am a great example of someone who will sit at my computer and work on something, and get carried away, and then work on it the whole day, often skipping lunch, and not being able to complete anything else.
4. It keeps you occupied
People who struggle with stress and anxiety need some kind of a routine, to keep the mind busy and occupied, that way, there is less chance of you sitting and thinking about the anxiety.
I urge every person who struggles with time management to give this system a try, and especially if you have anxiety - because it will only help you in the end!
Please feel free to check out the accompanying video:
" And into the Forest I go, to lose my mind and find my soul "
~ John Muir
Never before have human beings been so out of tune with the natural world, and shockingly, apparently, 93% of Americans spend most of their time indoors!
If you have not heard of Forest Bathing, then you may want to do yourself a favour, and look into it, because it is hooking people all over, with promise of a new and effective way of reducing stress and anxiety.
What is Forest Bathing?
Forest Bathing or Forest Therapy was developed in Japan in 1980, so it is a fairly new concept, especially to the rest of the world.
Simply put, Forest Bathing, or it's more traditional name of 'shinrin-yoku' means 'taking in the atmosphere of the forest, and the idea is to simply sit, walk or spend time in a forest in a calm and relaxed way to nourish our senses.
Please don't get confused with exercising in nature, whereby you work up a sweat and your heart rate increases drastically.
This is not the idea.
Forest Bathing is a slow, relaxing and calming practice. It is designed to be therapeutic for the mind and soul, not exercise for the physical body (although as you will be walking, some light exercise will happen)
We all know how healing nature can be, but do you actually know why this is so?
Positive Ions vs Negative Ions
It's because nature gives off a host of negative ions, and this counteracts positive ions, which are emitted from things like TV's, computers, laptops, cell phones and all other electronics.
Considering most of us spend almost all of our time in close proximity to most of these items, we can quite see why we are in desperate need of these negative ions.
The sole reason why you feel so relaxed and rejuvenated in a forest environment is because there is practically nothing electronic within range, and even if you did happen to carry your smart phone with you while taking a walk, the negative ions within in the forest would be so great, that those negative ions would cancel out the smart phone's positive ones immediately.
However in saying this, it is best to leave all electronics at home or the office!
To read more about negative ions and how they can benefit you, please check out this insightful article by clicking here.
Shinrin-yoko has been scientifically proven to help with reducing things like immune functioning, blood pressure, stress, mood, concentration, provide more energy and better sleep patterns.
The trees and plants also create Natural Killer fighting cells (NK cells) These NK cells actually look for cancer cells and bacterial and viral infections within the body and destroy them!
In fact, in Japan, there are some certified trails to do Forest Bathing, as blood samples obtained from people on these trails showed the most increase in NK cells!
Now think about it.
Can you imagine what tree upon tree in a huge forest could do for you?
The Forest has been described as medicine for the soul.
Spending just 20 minutes fully engaging your senses in this type of environment, not to mention all the extra clean oxygen you will be inhaling, the Forest is truly a gift that is unfortunately not appreciated by too many humans!
How do I practice Forest Bathing?
Forest Bathing or Forest Therapy is using all your five senses to take in the healing and therapeutic powers of Nature.
As you walk through the forest, smell, listen, look, taste and feel everything around you.
Let yourself just walk in any direction of the Forest (safety first though) that comes naturally or right for you - in other words, go with the flow.
If you compelled to touch something in the Forest, then do it (use common sense though) don't try to touch a poison ivy plant, or an unfamiliar spider that you see!)
A weird thing that I love to do, and I'm always compelled to do whenever I am in any type of nature environment, is to pick up handful of soil.
It's so therapeutic and I love the feel of it in my hands!
How do I Forest Bathe?
You can Forest Bathe by:
- Walking slowly through a forest
- Sitting under a tree or lying under a tree in a forest
- Sitting and digging your bare feet into the earth
- Collecting something like mushrooms or berries
- Meditating in a quiet spot.
Whichever you choose to do, you have to practice Forest Therapy at a slow pace in order to entice your senses to take everything in.
Ideally, if you choose to walk in the forest first, you want to find a place to sit down for a while, in order to fully appreciate the natural environment around you that the Forest brings.
Remember it is no good Forest Bathing in a noisy place where there are children and dogs running around.
It has to be a quiet and peaceful place with no children or dogs with you!
You will not experience Forest Therapy at it's best if you are feeling rushed and/or running after children and barking dogs.
How often should I Forest Bathe?
As often as you like!
Even once a week Forest Bathes showed results, according to a Japanese study.
What if I have no Forests near me?
It's not a problem.
You can reap similar effects in any kind of nature area where there are a lot of trees. If you really struggle to find this, or live in a city environment and can't get to a forest, then you can just find a quite place at a park.
It won't be exactly the same, but you'll still get the benefits of nature.
if you are really stuck and simply cannot get outdoors, then I would recommend finding a place in your home that is clutter free. Place one or two plants around and set out some pictures of forests and trees around the space where you will be sitting.
Once good tip from the blog, Mama Natural, was to enhance the smells by using essential oils such as Pine, Juniper and Cedar Wood.
Placing a bowl of soil and if you are able to get some pine cones would be an awesome addition to your space as well.
However this is only a back up plan if you are seriously unable to get outdoors at all!