Anxiety management

December 19, 2017

Christmas is supposed to be a time of peace and joy but for so many of us it is a time of anxiety and difficulty. If the latter better describes you at this time of year firstly know that you are not alone. Amidst all the smiles and tinsel I can guarantee you that there are many others out there feeling a similar way. Secondly trust there is something you can do about it to feel less anxious and overwhelmed.


In this blog I've listed some useful practices I have used to help alleviate symptoms of anxiety. They are simple, free and you can do them anywhere. 


How do we know if what we're feeling is anxiety? 


Anxiety can be described as difficulty sensations in the body; tight chest, tense shoulders, fidgeting, headaches or difficult feelings and thoughts that ruminate and create worry, anger even fear. You may have the thoughts before the feelings or visa versa, or you may just experience one or the other. Although there are common traits the individual has their own unique expression of them. At its worst these sensations and thoughts come thick and fast leaving little time for feeling any other way. At best they come and go as we move through our daily life but we can have times when we don't feel anxious. Either way they can be disruptive and leave us feeling demotivated, lonely, overwhelmed and fearful. 


1% words 99% practice

As with anything the more we do something, practice, the deeper the neural pathways become. If we tread the same path every day the deeper the path becomes. With that said don't beat yourself up. Your practice shouldn't create stress. Take away the should and the guilt. If you forget to practice or don't want to, don't worry. Just make time another day, or set your alarm as a reminder. 


If time is your issue then these practices are perfect for you. As some of them can be done anywhere, in the supermarket, at work, waiting for the kettle to boil. The reality is - there is time, it's just how we choose to spend it. How much time you choose to practice is up to you, 30seconds, 3-5mins, 10-15mins maybe even more daily. Start with whatever you can and remember the length isn't important, making a start is. I am sure that the more you practice the more time you will want to dedicate to your practices - as you feel the benefit they bring. 


Knowing is the in noticing

If we don’t notice the changes in our body sensation, thoughts, feelings and emotions we wont be able to notice when they change, when anxiety brews. If we learn to pay quiet, gentle, kind attention to ourselves we’ll learn our tell-tell anxiety signs and be able to take action before those feelings/ thoughts/ anxiety take hold. 


It is important to note that when we notice how we feel in our body we can’t think at the same time. So if our anxiety presents as a stream of conscious thought all we need to do to stop it taking over is shift focus to sensation in our bodies. We may need to do this over and over again at first to keep breaking the thought. But remember each breath is a new opportunity to start again. It doesn't matter how many times we start over. The key is to keep starting again, over and over. 


Kindness is key

Be kind to yourself, you DO deserve it. At the essence of all these practices is a deep sense of kindness. Whatever you choose to do if anything from this post, do it with kindness. Being kind to ourselves is not something most of us do. We talk about it. But we don't do it. We tell ourselves off and berate ourselves for not achieving more. Getting the right present, making cakes for the xmas fair. Whatever IT is. All of the practices require some gentle, kind attention to what’s going on with us. And whatever IT is, by saying to ourselves ‘ITs OK’, however IT is’, we allow ourselves to avoid conflict, with ourselves and the things we can’t change. 



The practices


These practices will help you to make a start on your journey to reducing anxiety in your life and learning how to manage it more effectively. Let the improvement be your focus, not the ridding of anxiety. With improvement comes relief, a sense of control and over time you will reduce anxiety and things will seem/feel/look different. Life is messy though and seeking to push things out of our lives isn't always helpful. Improving the things that are there is.


For home


Mediation/ awareness practice

Sitting is preferable, mainly because lying down holds so much opportunity for sleep and for this practice we need wakeful awareness. The most important thing is you are comfortable.



FEEL THE GROUND - get interested in the detail, points of deep contact, medium contact, light contact with the earth, the shape of your body, textures of clothes, temperature

BREATHE EASY - notice the breath moving in and out

FEEL THE BREATH IN YOUR BODY - notice where you feel the breath, where you feel it at the top of the inhale and at the end of the exhale

NOTICE ALL SENSATION, THOUGHT, FEELING - acknowledge all thoughts and feelings as they arise, let them come, when they do bring the light of your attention back to sensing and feeling the body




There are lots of amazing free mindful mediations out there. I recently completed an 8wk course with a wonderful Mindfulness teacher and would recommend his free mediations at


Yoga Nidra

Yoga Nidra sounds like a guided relaxation. However it can much more powerful than that. When we allow ourselves to slip into Nidra awareness (the state between sleep and wakefulness) we have the opportunity take deep rest (physically and emotionally). The practice helps to alleviate the affects of flight and fight stresses on the body’s systems, it calms the heart rate, aids the digestion and immune system operation and offers us greater physiological balance. 


If your anxiety is acute, practice daily, or at best, whenever you can. You can listen to free Nidras at and at Find one you like the language, voice, imagery. For more details about how to practice and yoga Nidra is go to


6/6 Breathing Practice

This breath practice is believed by the authors of 'The Healing Power of the Breath' to relieve anxiety by bringing homeostasis/balance to the body. The adult practitioner is invited to breathe in time with the sound of the bell for 20mins. If you aren't able to breathe in for that length of count, just breathe in and out for comfortable, equal length of time. If you are suffering from acute anxiety, practice this 20mins twice a day, otherwise one 20min practice a day. You should see/feel the benefits within two weeks or so of practicing. 


You can download or listen to this practice at


Quick, anytime, anywhere practices


Reset space

This can be practiced anywhere and anytime when you notice your tell tell anxiety signs arising. If the situation demands that you can't practice this at the time you feel anxious find a time later in your day to practice - remembering what took place that made you feel anxious. Take 30 seconds to 3 mins maybe more, whatever time you can find.



FEEL THE GROUND - get interested in the detail, points of deep contact, medium contact, light contact with the earth, the shape of your body, textures of clothes, temperature

BREATHE EASY - get interested in the detail of your breathing, how it feels, where you feel it, its texture (rough/easy/smooth)

WHOLE BODY AWARENESS & BREATH - expand your awareness into the whole body as you feel your breathing and the ground. 

RESET - now think of/ remember something really pleasant that you enjoyed and you felt truly calm being/doing


Meet yourself with kindness

Sitting or lying down put your right hand on your heart.

Rest your left hand or place the tip of the index finger and thumb together (chin mudra). 

Feel the sensation of your hand on your chest/heart, the warmth, the shape of the hand, the texture of your clothes. 

Take a few easy breaths, feeling.

As you breathe feeling your hand on your heart, feel your body meeting the ground and the air around it. Feel held.

Awareness of your hand on your heart and of the ground at the same time. 

Awareness of your breath around your hand, your heart. 

Feel/imagine a deep sense of tenderness in the heart/chest, a kindness, gentleness there for you.

Say silently a few times as you breathe out 'IT is OK. I am OK'.



I breathe in 'I am..' mantra

This practice can help you in the moment relieve any uncomfortable feelings or sensations. It can be practiced anywhere and at anytime. It is a practice of allowing. Allowing whatever we feel/think/experience to be, rather than to wish it away or ignore it. There is great power in the simple words 'ITs OK'.



FEEL THE GROUND - get interested in the detail, points of deep contact, medium contact, light contact with the earth, the shape of your body, textures of clothes, temperature

BREATHE EASY - get interested in the detail of your breathing, how it feels, where you feel it, its texture (rough/easy/smooth)

SAY silently say, 'I breathe in I feel....anxious/sad/tight/ alone'. 'I breathe out, its OK'.


I really hope you find these practices helpful and I wish you a very relaxed and loving Christmas. I will be offering a workshop with these practices in and more on 21 January 2018 at Yoga Haven, Hove, 2-4.30pm. You can book via Yoga Haven.


With love. Helen x


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