"Everyone can be healed"
This calming breathing technique for stress, anxiety and panic takes just a few minutes and can be done anywhere.
You will get the most benefit if you do it regularly, as part of your daily routine.
You can do it standing up, sitting in a chair that supports your back, or lying on a bed or yoga mat on the floor.
Make yourself as comfortable as you can. If you can, loosen any clothes that restrict your breathing.
If you're lying down, place your arms a little bit away from your sides, with the palms up. Let your legs be straight, or bend your knees so your feet are flat on the floor.
If you're sitting, place your arms on the chair arms.
If you're sitting or standing, place both feet flat on the ground. Whatever position you're in, place your feet roughly hip-width apart.
Let your breath flow as deep down into your belly as is comfortable, without forcing it.
Try breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth.
Breathe in gently and regularly. Some people find it helpful to count steadily from 1 to 5. You may not be able to reach 5 at first.
Then, without pausing or holding your breath, let it flow out gently, counting from 1 to 5 again, if you find this helpful.
Keep doing this for 3 to 5 minutes.
For some people, learning to control their anxiety is all they can hope for if they can't overcome it completely. To help with this, there are various relaxation techniques you can use to calm the mind and reduce the muscle tension anxiety can cause.
If you've any medical conditions – such as problems with your breathing – speak to your GP before trying any relaxation exercises.
You should try to set aside 30 minutes, 2 or 3 times each day to practice these techniques. The more you practice, the better you will get and the more effective they will be.
It's important to keep using these techniques, even if you don't feel better straight away. It will take time and regular practice before you start to feel the benefits.
Before you start relaxing, make sure your mind, body and surroundings are just right. To prepare yourself:
find a cool and quiet room where you'll not be disturbed
lie down or sit comfortably with your legs uncrossed
put on comfortable clothes and take off your shoes
lightly close your eyes, or focus on a spot in front of you
clear your thoughts and focus on your breath
Don’t worry if you can’t relax immediately. Thoughts might pop into your mind. Don’t focus on them just let them pass through.
Make a note of how relaxed you were before, and after, the exercises to see if it's helped.
Breathing to relax
Breathing too quickly, and deeply, can make you feel dizzy, faint or even more anxious. Taking slow, regular breaths can help you to control anxious thoughts and feelings, and make you feel calmer.
To control your breathing:
Place one hand on your chest and the other over your stomach. You want your stomach to move more than your chest as you breathe.
Take a slow, regular breath in (through your nose if you can). Watch your hands as you breathe in. The hand on your stomach should move and your chest should not.
Breathe out slowly through pursed lips.
Repeat this 10 times, twice a day.
It might take time to master this technique. Once you have, you won’t need to watch your hands or put them on your stomach.
Simple visualisation exercise
This exercise involves using an image as a way to focus the mind.
Create in your mind an ideal spot to relax. It can be:
real or imaginary
somewhere you will find restful, calming, safe and happy
a place you would want to return to whenever you feel the need to relax
Imagine it in as much detail as you can – use your senses to make it as real as possible – and see yourself comfortably enjoying this place.
Now close your eyes and take a slow, regular breath in through your nose. Become aware of your breathing. Focus on your relaxation place in all its detail and breathe out through your mouth.
Do this exercise for 10 to 20 minutes.
Quick muscle relaxation
This exercise will teach you to recognise and reduce muscle tension. You can relieve tension in any part of your body just by tensing and relaxing each muscle in turn.
Sitting in a comfortable chair:
Close your eyes and concentrate on your breathing. Slowly breath in through your nose and out through your mouth.
Make a fist, squeezing your hand tightly.
Hold this for a few seconds, noticing the tension.
Slowly open your fingers and feel the difference – notice the tension leaving. Your hand is much lighter and relaxed. Enjoy this feeling.
If you have any physical injuries or conditions that may cause muscle pain, don’t tense the muscle in that area.
Once you've mastered some relaxation exercises you can use them whenever, and wherever, you need to throughout the day.
To do this you can use a 'cue', something that'll catch your eye and remind you to:
drop your shoulders
check your breathing
relax the muscles in your body
An example of a 'cue' could be a small coloured dot on your watch, or a room in your home, which will act as your reminder.
Don’t rush to get up after relaxation exercises. Sit with your eyes closed for a few minutes to avoid the possibility of feeling dizzy. Open your eyes and make sure you feel all right before standing up.
How mindfulness helps mental wellbeing
Becoming more aware of the present moment can help us enjoy the world around us more and understand ourselves better.
When we become more aware of the present moment, we begin to experience afresh things that we have been taking for granted.
"Mindfulness also allows us to become more aware of the stream of thoughts and feelings that we experience," says Professor Williams, "and to see how we can become entangled in that stream in ways that are not helpful."
"This lets us stand back from our thoughts and start to see their patterns. Gradually, we can train ourselves to notice when our thoughts are taking over and realise that thoughts are simply 'mental events' that do not have to control us."
"Most of us have issues that we find hard to let go and mindfulness can help us deal with them more productively. We can ask: 'Is trying to solve this by brooding about it helpful, or am I just getting caught up in my thoughts?'"
How to be more mindful
Reminding yourself to take notice of your thoughts, feelings, body sensations and the world around you is the first step to mindfulness.
Notice the everyday
"Even as we go about our daily lives, we can notice the sensations of things, the food we eat, the air moving past the body as we walk," says Professor Williams. "All this may sound very small, but it has huge power to interrupt the 'autopilot' mode we often engage day to day, and to give us new perspectives on life."
Keep it regular
It can be helpful to pick a regular time – the morning journey to work or a walk at lunchtime – during which you decide to be aware of the sensations created by the world around you.
Try something new
Trying new things, such as sitting in a different seat in meetings or going somewhere new for lunch, can also help you notice the world in a new way.
Watch your thoughts
"Some people find it very difficult to practice mindfulness. As soon as they stop what they're doing, lots of thoughts and worries crowd in," says Professor Williams. "It might be useful to remember that mindfulness isn't about making these thoughts go away, but rather about seeing them as mental events.
"Imagine standing at a bus station and seeing 'thought buses' coming and going without having to get on them and be taken away. This can be very hard at first, but with gentle persistence it is possible.
Name thoughts and feelings
To develop an awareness of thoughts and feelings, some people find it helpful to silently name them: "Here's the thought that I might fail that exam" or "this is anxiety".
Free yourself from the past and future
You can practise mindfulness anywhere, but it can be especially helpful to take a mindful approach if you realise that, for several minutes, you have been "trapped" in reliving past problems or "pre-living" future worries.
Different mindfulness practices
As well as practising mindfulness in daily life, it can be helpful to set aside time for a more formal mindfulness practice.
Mindfulness meditation involves sitting silently and paying attention to thoughts, sounds, the sensations of breathing or parts of the body, bringing your attention back whenever the mind starts to wander.
Yoga and tai-chi can also help with developing awareness of your breathing.
For something so simple, there are an amazing number of benefits linked to journaling. These benefits are both subjective (personally felt) and objective (scientifically proven).
How to start:
1. Don’t worry about the medium
If you like to cogitate over your thoughts and go slowly, writing in a traditional paper diary might be the best for you. However, if you prefer the convenience of typing and if you like to move quickly with your thoughts, you might like to try an online diary Try exploring both and see what you like better.
2. Keep your diary private
Your diary should be for your eyes Your journal should be a place where you can write freely without the fear of judgment or scrutiny – this is why it’s better to keep it private. No one is saying that you can’t share some of your private reflections verbally with others, but just try to keep what you have written to yourself.
3. Don’t bother with spelling, grammar, and punctuation
Try to avoid being anal-retentive about writing: just let it all out – it feels so much better!
4. Forget about being a “good writer”
The purpose of journaling isn’t to write a literary masterpiece, it is to self-reflect and record the thoughts and feelings you’ve been having for self-growth. Simply write whatever comes to mind and don’t worry about whether it sounds poetic or eloquent.
5. Set a regular time of day
Making journaling into a habit requires you to set aside time every day. Pick a time of the day and try to stick to it. For example, you might like to write first thing in the morning, after morning tea, after lunch time, or last thing at night. If you feel inspired to write at a time of the day you’re not accustomed to writing, just flow with it. There are no set-in-stone rules here.
6. Write your deepest thoughts and feelings
Journaling is an intuitive activity because it requires you to tune into your feelings and blurt all of that out on paper. journaling is the most effective when it is a space where our deepest thoughts and feelings can be shared and mulled over. So don’t be afraid to delve deeply into your mind and heart.
7. There’s no need for time restrictions
Try to avoid setting rigid time limits: it’s best just to allow your writing to flow. But if you have a bit of spare time, enjoy the feeling of letting your inner self materialize on paper.
8. If you’re struggling, ask these questions …
Sometimes we just don’t feel “in the flow” of writing, and sharing our thoughts doesn’t come naturally, it’s just part of the natural ebb and flow of life. If you ever feel this way, here are some useful question you can ask yourself which will stimulate thought:
How am I feeling today?
What is an issue I’m facing?
What can I do about my most recent problem?
What spiritual lesson is hidden in a difficult situation I’m facing?
What thoughts are triggering my current feelings?
Why do I keep having these thoughts?
What was the message hidden in last night’s dream?
What do I feel the need to change or improve about myself? (And why?)
Am I being self-compassionate?
Am I seeing the entire picture?
How am I being dishonest with myself or others?
In what ways can I be more mindful?
What mistaken beliefs am I buying into?
What is my plan of action to achieve my goals?
What setbacks and obstacles am I facing?
These are only a few of the many potential questions you can ask yourself.
9. Don’t be afraid to explore traumatic experiences
Journaling is about growth, and growth often includes digesting past experiences. Sometimes the experiences we went through in the past were disturbing, traumatic or upsetting. Don’t be afraid to explore these experiences – but just remember not to wallow in self-pity. It’s OK to express your feelings
loud and clear on paper; this is a terrific form of catharsis. But once you start ruminating and obsessing over these past experiences, then it’s time to switch to your left hemisphere brain and start thinking about how you can overcome the pain inside of you practically.
10. Reflect on what you’ve written
After you’ve finished your journal entry, you might like to read back over what you’ve written with the intention of gaining clarity. What matters is that you gain a big picture perspective on how you think and feel. If any thoughts, feelings or realizations stand out to you, try highlighting them
Reflection is what allows you to integrate your thoughts into knowledge, understanding, and inner transformation.
11. Write for the joy of it
Don’t journal out of duty or obligation, do it because you enjoy doing it! Journaling isn’t for everyone, so if you don’t resonate with it, that’s OK. There’s probably something else out there equally as beneficial. But if you do enjoy and benefit from this practice, pay attention to the benefits! Don’t just make journaling into something else to check off your “to-do” list.
Try to recognise when you start to feel angry so you can take steps to calm down as early as possible.
Give yourself time to think before reacting – try counting to 10 and doing calming breathing exercises.
Talk to people about what's making you angry – speak to someone who is not connected to the situation, such as a friend, a GP or a support group such as Samaritans.
Exercise – activities such as running, walking, swimming and yoga can help you relax and reduce stress.
Find out how to raise your self-esteem, including how to be more assertive.
Consider peer support.
If you still feel angry consider doing one of these to diffuse the feelings:
Punch a pillow
Tear up old magazines
Squeeze a towel
Write down your angry feelings
A lot of people find a great deal of relaxation from colouring or art therapy, it doesn’t need to be complicated or expensive, it can be as simple as paper and pens, or you may get a bit more creative, whichever it is remember its only for your eyes so don’t be hard on yourself. It can include:
Other Self Help
Walking – very therapeutic and improves our mental wellbeing
Exercise – helps to reduce tension and stress
Reduce alcohol/drug intake
Drink more water
Take up a new hobby/interest
Keep in touch with family and friends who can support you