Updated: May 11, 2020
Written by: Gabriella DeLorenze, Executive Contributor
Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.
There are 6.8 million reported cases of Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) among Americans ages 18 and up. The average age of diagnosis is 31 years old. So, if you’re experiencing stress, please know, you’re not alone.
Anxiety can be described as fear for the future while depression is fear of the past or living in the past. Neither outlook or mindset serves us nor our nervous system. Both anxiety and depression will increase the stress hormones in your body causing more stress to build. This not only causes anxiety, but will decrease your immune system, lower your cognitive thinking and absolutely impair your physical body as well.
Side effects may unearth themselves as trouble sleeping, a decrease in reaction time, an increase in the amount of negative emotions you feel throughout the day or by diminishing your overall ability to show up for the many roles one must play in his or her daily life.
How does stress show up for you in your life? Many times, it looks and feels like nervousness, restlessness, increase in heart rate, sweating, chills, tiredness, weakness, difficulty focusing, hyperventilating, gastrointestinal problems, muscle aches and/or bodily pains.
Today, I’m here to teach you about living in the present moment. When you live in the present moment, there is no critique, there is only NOW. You are able to show up fully with no fear of what’s to come or how it’s looked in the past. You are living in the present moment, in the here and now.
First and foremost, to truly live in the present moment you must take a look at your thought patterns. Your worst enemy should not be living between your two ears! Which brings us to some helpful tricks to help you live in the present:
Babysit your thoughts. As your negative thoughts creep in, as they have for many years, ask yourself: Is this true? Is it helpful? Is it kind? If it’s not all 3 of those, DITCH IT! Let it go! I call this the “Choose Again” method. Notice your negative thoughts. PAUSE – this can look like taking a big breath in and out. Forgive yourself for this unkind thought and then, choose again. Choose to reframe this thought into something positive and uplifting for yourself! We are creatures of habit. These negative thought patterns are loops of negative thoughts that we’ve had and nurtured, probably for a long time. Once you begin to notice the patterns, you’ll be more equipped to change them. Reframing the thought into something positive that serves you will change the loops and neural pathways and create new positive thought patterns moving into your future.
Always come back to your breath. Your vagus nerve runs through your diaphragm. Which, without getting into all of the science, means your breath has the ability to change the state of your nervous system. Taking you from the sympathetic nervous system to the parasympathetic nervous system, (a.k.a. fight or flight to rest and digest). This will take you from a stressed-out state to a state of calmness.
The easiest, and my favorite way to use your breath as a tool to relax is through square breathing. To do this, imagine a square in your mind: Take an inhale for 4 seconds as you work your way up one side of the square. Hold your breath for 4 seconds as you envision going across the top of the square. Exhale for 4 seconds down the square. Hold for 4 seconds across the bottom of the square. Repeat 4 times. Trouble sleeping? Begin to count the seconds of your inhales and exhales. As you begin to try and fall asleep, exhale for 1 extra second and try and melt your body into your bed. Slowly, increasing your exhale deeper and deeper.
Identify your triggers: caffeine, alcohol and cigarettes are all obvious ones but important to realize; if you have 3 glasses of wine one night, is the next day always stressful? Financial stress, job stress, family stress, medications, chronic pain – Remember: your whole life has been thrown upside down with Covid-19. It’s important to identify when/where you’re trying to simply numb out the pain, fear or anxiety. Avoid these triggers as much as possible.
Aromatherapy has been scientifically proven to decrease stress and anxiety. Aromatherapy works by triggering the receptors in your brain that calm you down. I’m not saying your essential oils will cure the 1 million illnesses people seek them out for; although, I’m a HUGE advocate for oils! Other ways to seek out aromatherapy is candles, incense or even fresh fruits, veggies, and the plants themselves! The best scents for calming are eucalyptus, lavender, chamomile and sandalwood. If you’re looking for an energy boost, choose something from the citrus variety.
Move your body! The American Heart Association claims that just 20 minutes of vigorous movement a day is all we need (really, only 75min/week but, let’s round up). Even if you can’t get all 20 minutes in one sitting, 5-minute bursts just 4 times a day will equally add up to the recommended 20 minutes! Aim small, miss small. Also, make sure you walk away from stressful situations and conversations whenever appropriate. There are so many different ways to move your body: yoga, weights, walking, dancing, pilates, up and down the stairs…pick your favorites knowing that you can choose a different movement style if the one you chose doesn’t suit you that day.
Begin a routine of writing morning/evening pages. For 3 pages just write, mindlessly what’s at the forefront of your thoughts. So often, the negative thoughts that self -sabotage us are at the forefront of our minds and we may not even realize it. Slow down, refer to rule #1 and just write. Get out all the “junk” that’s on your mind that you may not even realize is there. You can view this as a stress journal. After a few days, analyze your thoughts that you wrote down and, judgment-free, try to identify what your personal triggers are.
Meditation! My all-time favorite way to reconnect. The best place to start your meditation journey, I’ve found, is guided meditations. For a guided meditation follow this link! If you’re looking to start your own meditation journey, I have a 30-Day Pocket Guide to a Disciplined Mind Course to offer you! It is 30 days of different guided meditations meant to help you learn how YOU best meditate. All of the information can be found here. Use the code BRAINZ for 20% off! To note, meditation is not about clearing your mind. It’s about slowing down your thoughts; thinking just one thought at a time. Seeing the thoughts come in one ear and out the other. This can be done while sitting, laying or even walking! Inviting meditation into your daily chores such as doing the dishes. Finding gratitude for the dirty plates for feeding those that you love as you wipe one plate at a time, slowly and methodically. If meditation feels scary, call it mindfulness. I love to meditate first thing in the morning before my brain has had the chance to fully turn on. Set a timer, sit comfortably, and try and relax your physical body as you notice your thoughts slowing down. Counting your breath, the seconds you inhale and seconds you exhale may help decrease your excess thoughts. Remember, this is a practice. Offer yourself grace. There will be good days and bad days, show up anyways.
Check in with your diet. Remember, food is fuel! If you eat well, you’ll feel well. My favorite piece of advice for diet is to eat the rainbow- consume as many colors as possible! Include as many fresh fruits and vegetables as you can and always shop around the outside of the grocery store. When you’re hungry, go to the fridge first. All of the fresh food will be there versus the pantry which will hold more of your processed foods. You can also try adding one new fruit or vegetable into your diet a week. Have fun researching new recipes and trying new foods!
The best piece of advice I have, I’ve saved for last. The best way to clear away your stress and anxiety is to, (drumroll please….), dance, smile, be silly and laugh! Find gratitude in the smallest things and laugh through the stress. Even fake laughing at first usually turns into real laughing once you let go of the stress and burden. Tell jokes, watch comedies, be silly and tap into your inner child. Play games and get upside down (handstands against the wall!) It takes more muscles to smile than to frown, so consider it a free workout!
All in all, always try and find the positives in life and within every moment. Know that the burdens in your life will, statistically, not last forever. Can you sit in the discomfort and let it shape you and teach you lessons versus letting it debilitate you and cause you anger/anxiety?
Remember, when there’s nothing you can do about your situation at hand, be like Elsa from Frozen and, “LET IT GO!”
Gabriella DeLorenze, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine
Gabby is an intuitive embodiment coach for coaches. She is an athletic trainer with a MED in Biomechanics, a life coach and an E-RYT/YACEP. Gabby has over a decade of experience healing 500+ souls and 1000’s of hours teaching the mind-body connection through coaching, anatomy and movement/yoga rehabilitation. Through mindset coaching and facilitating healing your emotional and physical bodies, Gabby will teach you to melt your stress and anxieties so you can start living your healthiest and happiest life. Together, we will find tangible tools to heal old relationships, cultivate self-love and create the space for an abundant life.