5 simple steps to overcome stress and anxiety, written by Kate Gaffney, a qualified mindfulness practitioner, yoga teacher, Pilates teacher, Red School Menstruality Leadership Programme mentor and founder of Workplace Wellness.
5 Simple Ways to Overcome Stress and Anxiety
Anxiety is a psychological, physiological, and behavioural state induced in animals and humans by a threat to well-being or survival, either actual or potential. It is in our nature as humans to want to keep ourselves safe from harm and to protect ourselves from potential threats. Our minds, amazing as they are, can also be our own worst enemy at times. Who among us hasn’t spent countless hours being anxious about something that never came to pass? Or how many times have you received lots of positive feedback and perhaps one tiny little piece of negative feedback, only to dwell on the negative feedback?
It is helpful to understand and acknowledge that we have an inherent negativity bias – it is in our nature to register negative stimuli more readily and dwell on it when we do. As Dr Rick Hanson says, “The brain is like Velcro for negative experiences and Teflon for positives ones.” We need to do what we can to counteract this in our daily routines.
Add this negativity bias to the stresses of day to day life, the unexpected events out of our control and the countless obligations many of us have and it is a recipe for stress and anxiety. We all want to show up at work, show up for our family, be the best we can be, and offer our gifts to the world from a clear, grounded, and centred place – but sometimes life just gets in the way. So, what can we do? Here are 5 simple techniques you can try implementing to overcome stress and anxiety.
1.) Anchor in the Senses to release Stress and Anxiety
My favourite way of interrupting the pattern of stress and anxiety is to allow yourself to anchor into your senses. This allows you to return home to the body, to come back to the present moment and creates an immediate sense of calm in the body. When we anchor in the senses, we are in the present moment. When we are in the present, we cannot project forwards or ruminate backwards. It is this projection forwards or rumination backwards that causes stress and anxiety a lot of the time.
So how do we do it? The good news is that is a really simple process. It can be as simple as putting your hand on your heart, taking a slightly deeper breath, or feeling your feet in contact with the floor. Choose one of your favourite senses (sight, touch, taste, sound, smell) and use it to let you arrive at the right now moment. Give yourself a short time to really engage with that sensory experience. Allow your body to soften, your mind to settle and take time out. Just 30 seconds can release stress and anxiety, and has the potential to change your day.
2.) Trust Your Awareness
One of the beautiful aspects of mindfulness is that it allows us to train our awareness – in essence, to notice where our attention and energy are going. By engaging with simple, short mindfulness practices we get more power over our thoughts, and we are more likely to truly notice feelings of stress or anxiety. It is this noticing that gives us the power. For example, we can notice when the inner critic starts to speak, we can notice when we have an unhelpful thought, and we can notice when the mind is on an unhelpful thought loop. From this place, we can decide what to do. Training our attention and our awareness gives us more control over our thoughts and where we decide to give our energy.
3.) Use Your Breath
Our breath is a wonderful gift. We don’t even have to think about it, our body will breathe for us day and night without us ever having to do a thing. What is interesting though is that we can choose to control our breath, and by controlling our breath, we can directly impact our physiology and emotional state. This is something well worth exploring with a qualified teacher.
When you want to anchor yourself in the present moment, or when you want to break the pattern of stress and anxiety your breath can be a wonderful tool. Simply allowing yourself 6 long slow breaths can change your state. Place a hand on your lower belly, relax your body and give yourself the gift of taking a few slow, steady, and intentional breaths. Notice how you feel afterwards, notice the stress and anxiety lift from your body. Repeat as often as needed!
4.) Hand on Heart to ease Stress and Anxiety
This must be one of my favourites and it’s one of the simplest things. It ties in with point one above – engaging with our senses. When you want to break the pattern of stress, anxiety, overwhelm, or feeling tender or sad, allow yourself the simple pleasure of pacing one hand on your heart. Just try it and see how you feel. Hand on your heart. Soften your shoulders. Breathe deeply. Offer yourself a word of compassion or kindness. Then allow yourself to move gently back out into the world.
5.) Drink in the Good
Practice consciously taking small moments and pauses in your day where you drink in the good. Allowing yourself to take stock and allow the positive in will train new neural pathways associated with the positive. Find a way that works for you – gratitude lists, positive affirmations, positive visualisations, and reminding yourself to take in the good moments. Once you are in the habit you will be surprised how a simple act like this can impact your whole day and resource you for what is ahead.
If you would like any more information, contact Kate at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Kate Gaffey is the founder of Workplace Wellness. She has provided soulful corporate wellbeing services to organisations & individuals since 2014. Kate is passionate about facilitating meaningful conversations, authentic connections, and unapologetic self-care.
Kate is a qualified mindfulness practitioner, yoga teacher, Pilates teacher, Red School Menstruality Leadership Programme mentor and most importantly, she practices what she preaches. You can listen to Kate on the Good Glow podcast here, Good Glow health here and enjoy a 5-minute meditation with her here.