Welcome to The Kit, our new series where we ask experts from different fields which tools they think we need to succeed in life. We've already explored the benefits of crystals with Emmy Lou Knowles, but for this edition, we asked Becca Teers, cognitive behavioural hypnotherapist and author of Unlimited to share her ultimate toolkit for dealing with anxiety.
Anxiety is undoubtedly a troubling epidemic, and while the growing conversation around the topic is allowing more and more of us to talk openly about our worries, seek suitable support and guidance and widen our knowledge of alternative remedies, dealing with anxiety can still be a pretty lonely road. Below, Teers shares four anxiety-busting exercises to practice the next time your worries start to flare up.
For when you start to feel anxiety creeping in
"If you start to feel an anxiety attack coming on, I recommend using an alternate nostril breathing exercise, which is really easy and takes only five minutes," explains Teers. "It's a great way to hit the reset button for your mental state, it improves the ability to focus the mind and restores balance in the left and right hemispheres of the brain."
1. Take a comfortable and tall seat, making sure your spine is straight and your heart/chest is open (in other words, your shoulders are pushed back).
2. Relax your left palm comfortably into your lap and bring your right hand just in front of your face.
3. With your right hand, bring your forefinger and middle finger to rest between your eyebrows, lightly using them as an anchor—the fingers you actively use are the thumb and ring finger.
4. Close your eyes and take a deep breath in and out through your nose.
5. Close your right nostril with your right thumb. Inhale through the left nostril slowly to a count of 10.
6. Close the left nostril with your ring finger so both nostrils are held closed—retain your breath at the top of the inhale for a count of 10.
7. Open your right nostril and release the breath slowly through the right side to the count of 10. Pause briefly at the bottom of the exhale.
8. Inhale through the right side to the count of 10.
9. Hold both nostrils closed (with ring finger and thumb). Open your left nostril and release breath to the count of 10 through the left side. Pause
briefly at the bottom.
Repeat five to 10 cycles, allowing your mind to follow your inhales and exhales.
For when you need a burst of confidence before a big presentation or an important meeting
"For a confidence boost, I recommend the Circle of Excellence [or COE] exercise," says Teers. "This technique is from NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming), a collection of tools that I use with clients to help them achieve a positive mindset and to help them access confidence whenever they need to feel more confident and self-assured."
1. The Situation. First think of a situation when you would like to feel your best and most resourceful self. Draw an imaginary circle on the
ground in front of you. The space inside this circle represents the situation where you want to feel more confident. Make it a generous circle
of about three feet in diameter.
2. Relive confidence. Stand up (outside of the circle) and let yourself go back in your memory to a time when you were abundantly
confident. It could be when you were chatting with friends, a time at work or home when something went really well for you or any situation in your
past where you felt really good and relaxed about yourself. Close your eyes and use your imagination to get back to it strongly—see what you saw and hear what you heard. Notice what you are feeling and how good it feels reliving that moment.
3. In the Circle. As you feel the confidence building, step into the Circle of Excellence. Imagine what colour would you like the circle to be? Would
you like it to have a sound like a soft hum that indicates how powerful it is? What is the sound like? How does it feel? Are you relaxed, excited or
strong? How are your posture and breathing right now? Notice the position of your feet and hands and the tilt of your head. When the feeling of confidence is at its fullest, step out of the circle, leaving those positive, confident feelings, colours and sounds inside the circle.
4. Break state. This means thinking of something else for a moment—you could ask yourself a simple question like what is your favourite food/song/etc? to get yourself thinking of
something else for a moment.
5. Repeat the exercise a few times to make the confident feelings within the circle as strong as possible. You can also add a second experience if
you want to add further resourceful states to the circle or if the circle doesn't feel strong enough. Repeat as many times as necessary. when you step out of the circle make sure to "break state" before you repeat again.
6. Selecting Cues. Now, standing outside of the circle, think of a specific time in the future when you want to have that same feeling of super confidence. See and hear what will be happening just before you want to feel confident. How will the scene unfold? What is the cue to knowing that it is nearly time to step into the COE? It could be the opening of an office door or stepping onto a stage or being introduced to an audience.
7. Step into the Circle of Excellence. Feel the confidence there for you again, the colour, the sounds, the confident breathing and posture. Imagine the scene unfolding exactly the way to want it to with all your confident feelings and resources fully available to you.
8. Check Results. Now step out of the circle again, leaving those confident feelings there in the circle. Outside the circle, take a moment and think again of that upcoming event or situation. You'll find you'll automatically recall those confident feelings. This means that you've already reprogrammed yourself for that upcoming situation and you are already feeling better resourced for it. When the time comes, you will naturally feel more confident and if you want to add more power to those positive feelings, your COE is only ever one footstep away.
For practicing at home
"In between therapy sessions, I ask clients to practice the Long Deep Breathing exercise," reveals Teers. "Most people breathe in the top part of the lungs, which is barely enough to keep them alive. This shallow breathing actually creates anxiety and poor health, but this breathing technique balances a stressed out nervous system and helps it to relax and let go of fear or pain. It will stimulate your natural antidepressants, energise, clear out toxins from the lungs, speed up healing (physical and emotional) and help break addictive habits." So all the good stuff, basically.
1. Sit or lie down with a straight spine.
2. Breathe in and out of the nose—as slowly as possible.
3. As you inhale, imagine a balloon expanding in your belly, then the chest expanding and then the collarbone area.
4. To exhale, reverse this, relaxing the collarbone area, relaxing the chest and finally pulling the belly in towards the back of the spine to completely exhale.
5. Continue for 26 breaths. Then notice how different you feel.
For working out the triggers to your anxiety
"I also get clients to do a bit of self-analysis around their anxiety," reveals Teers. "I ask them to spend half an hour at least two to three times a week thinking about what situations make them anxious. Often anxiety can cause us to imagine worst-case scenarios in our heads and by asking ourselves the following questions we can get back to the reality of a situation and put our feelings into the right perspective."
When thinking about your anxiety, ask yourself:
Is my fear based on reality?
What is the evidence or proof that the thing we're afraid or anxious about will actually happen?
What is the evidence or proof that it won't actually happen?
Am I safe?
If the worst-case scenario did actually happen, how would I deal with it?
How would life be different/improved if I didn't feel this way?
How would I prefer to think and feel about this particular situation or trigger?
To find out more about Becca and her hypnotherapy treatments, visit her website.