Anxiety is never nice.
I woke this morning with a racing heart, my mind immediately searching for what was wrong. I remembered a frantic dream – something about trying to wash my hands.
It’s rare that I wake feeling like this, although once upon a time it was the norm. For a good five years, I’d wake in a cold sweat frequently in the night, so sodden I’d have to change pyjamas and sheets.
Today I wasn’t worried. I recognised my pounding heart was just my brain making sure I was ready for the day – a natural response to the craziness of the coronavirus world at present.
It’s not how you want to start your day though – feeling sick and on edge.
So, I rolled over, and started a day of Positive Action, Positive Interaction and Positive Thought. This is the powerful trio which stimulates our brain to release that welcome feel-good, mood-regulating neurotransmitter, serotonin.
I started with calming my mind and helping my thoughts focus on the positives of the day ahead by pressing play on my relaxation track. As I allowed the words to wash over me, I began my 5x breathing exercise: I breathed in through my nose for a slow, steady count of five, gently filling my belly; held the breath in, for a count of five; then exhaled steadily for a count of five. In – hold – out; in – hold – out…. Five times in total: the 5x breathing I recommend to so many of my clients. It worked its magic, and allowed me to settle gently back to resting in bed as the music and words of the relaxation track reassured and strengthened me.
It was still early and, recognising I had still more to do to get back to my normal, sunny self, I embraced the most powerful positive action I know, and laced up my shoes ready for a quick (well pretty slow, really) run in the morning sun.
Feeling anxious is natural and normal.
We all feel anxious at times, and at present it’s something many of us will share as we face the relentless challenges of the coronavirus pandemic.
One recent survey before the UK lockdown, reported that more than six in 10 adults (62%) have felt anxious or worried about the situation. I’m sure it’s even higher than this now.
Anxiety is a natural response to when we feel under threat. It’s okay and entirely normal to feel afraid, tearful, angry, on edge.
Stress hormones, adrenaline and cortisol flood our bodies, causing our heart to beat faster, our breathing to become shallower. We are ready to run fast, think quickly, and get out of danger. Our brain is doing exactly what it’s supposed to do in times of crisis.
But it’s exhausting to stay on red-alert, constantly scanning for attack.
Exercise is one of the most immediate and powerful things we can do to help ourselves feel better. If we can get outside and feel the wind in our hair, and perhaps the sun on our face, even better.
We all know that working out helps our physical health; this is great, but getting our blood pumping has an even more positive, powerful impact on our mental health. It fires up our capacity to adapt to change, bringing balance to our neurotransmitters and neurochemicals. As Dr John Ratey, Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School explains it, “Going for a run is like taking a little bit of Prozac and a little bit of Ritalin because, like the drugs, exercise elevates these neurotransmitters.”
Running isn’t the only way forward by any means: choose the exercise you love most and suits your circumstances best – walking, gardening, yoga, Pilates, cycling, hopscotch, skipping, PE with Joe Wicks …. Find your sweet spot, on your terms and in your way.
For me my walk-run-shuffle worked a treat. Whilst all is not well with the world, I was back on track, ready for the day and all that it might bring.
I had taken control with a wonderful array of feel-good positive actions.
I returned from my “run”, in tune with hope and possibilities. In this moment, all was well; whatever the day might bring.
I was ready to smile at my family over breakfast, and enjoy a lovely start to the day after all.
For more evidence-based approaches to help ease anxiety and help you feel more calm, confident, and in control, click here.