Mind

How to feel better if you feel anxious and stressed

Feeling low or drained, or perhaps life just feels a little overwhelming? These natural therapies will soon lift your mood.

By Bonnie Bayley

We all experience emotional challenges like stress, anxiety or feeling drained from time to time. Thankfully, when these emotions surface, there's plenty we can do to overcome them, and foster a sense of calm, centredness and renewed optimism in their place.

Here, we look at the best holistic and alternative techniques that can change your mood in minutes and create positive transformation in your life.

Kinesiology 'hook-ups'

A kinesiology-based exercise, hook-ups are useful for when you feel frazzled or overwhelmed. To do them, extend your arms straight in front of you, crossing one wrist over the other, interlacing fingers and drawing clasped hands up towards your chest. Cross your ankles and breathe in, keeping your tongue touching the roof of your mouth, relaxing your tongue as you breathe out. Repeat the breath three times, then uncross your hands and legs and repeat the breath three more times.

"When we're stressed, anxious or stuck in the 'fight, flight, freeze' response, all our energy rushes to our extremities, ready to run or fight," explains kinesiologist Carolyn King. "Hook-ups bring our energy back to the midline of our body, so we can calm down."

Tapping aka Emotional Freedom Techhnique

Tapping (also called Emotional Freedom Technique) is a combination of Chinese acupressure and psychology and helps to defuse intense emotions.

"When we tap on meridian (energy) points, while saying how we're feeling, it releases trauma and lowers cortisol levels, allowing us to look at things differently so we don't have an emotional response," explains EFT practitioner Sally Thibault.

First, find a word to describe how you feel (eg stressed). Identify where in your body you feel that emotion (eg shoulders) and rank it from 1-10. Then, tap with two fingers on the side of your hand, as you say: "Even though I feel this stress in my shoulders, and it's a level 10, I deeply accept how I feel." Repeat three times.

Then, tap on the following points, saying the accompanying phrases: eyebrow − 'this stress'; side of eye − 'this stress in my shoulders'; under eye − 'this stress'; under nose − 'my level 10 stress'; chin − 'this stress'; collarbone − 'my level 10 stress'; under arm − 'all this stress'; top of head − 'this stress in my shoulders'.

"Take a deep breath, measure your level of stress now and repeat the round until you'd rank the stress as zero to two," advises Thibault. It's worth noting that tapping can bring up emotions, so when you tap you take responsibility for your own responses.

Automatic writing

Automatic writing lets you access your own inner wisdom for guidance, whenever you feel lost, overwhelmed or upset. Start by doing a few minutes of deep breathing, connecting to and breathing into your heart. Next, write at the top of a page the issue you need help with, in a question form, such as 'How can I be more at peace?', or 'How can I shake this low mood?'

"Pick up a pen and start writing, without analysing what's coming through – just allow the words to flow and then go back and read it," says Johnson. "This exercise teaches you how to connect into your own divine wisdom, because the answers come from your higher self."

NLP anchoring

Anchoring is a neuro linguistic programming (NLP) tool that you can use to instantly replace negative emotions with positive ones.

"It involves setting in place a trigger or cue that we can use to fire off a specific emotion within ourselves," explains NLP practitioner Laura Banks.

"So, for example if you're experiencing anxiety, you can fire that trigger and it will trigger good feelings in your body and basically the anxiety gets squashed."

First, decide on the positive emotional state you want to feel instead of tension, anxiety or whatever emotion you're grappling with."Sitting with your eyes closed, see yourself as if you are calm, confident and grounded and really feel how that would feel in your body, then set your anchor by clicking your fingers," advises Banks.

Repeat the exercise for five minutes when you wake up and five minutes before bed, for at least two weeks. Once your anchor is established, simply clicking your fingers next time you feel anxious or stressed will trigger off a positive response in your body and mind.

Mindful smiling

Mindfulness, or the act of bringing your attention to the present moment, helps restore inner peace, but adding in an element of joy, through smiling, amplifies the benefits.

"It's like an added layer of wellbeing, because you're tapping into powerful, feel-good endorphins," explains Ros Ben-Moshe, director of LaughLife Wellbeing Programs.

To practise mindful smiling, take a few deep breaths and place a smile on your face.

"Think about a time in your life when everything was going really well or you felt unconditionally loved, and connect with that feeling," says Ben-Moshe. Think about how your face feels as you smile, then direct the smile into your heart space, before allowing it to travel down deeper into your gut.

"Breathe in and as you exhale, imagine every single cell, tissue and fibre of your body smiling back at you," says Ben-Moshe. Teamed with deep breathing, a five-minute daily practice can boost your mood and revitalise your wellbeing.

For more health and wellness stories, pick up a copy of the June issue of Good Health Choices today.

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