October 13

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3 great ways to manage anxiety you can use on the fly

As an entrepreneur, anxiety may feel like a constant companion. It may feel impossible to manage anxiety.

It can come up all the time about pretty much anything in your business: sales, financial management, bookings, website problems, struggles with copywriting, software issues… the list goes on and on.

If you experience anxiety, you likely have felt all the uncomfortable symptoms that come with it.

Many of my clients report their heart pounds, their breath gets fast and shallow, their muscles feel tense or they get headaches, they sweat, and even digestive upsets like nausea, indigestion and constipation or diarrhea seem to pop up out of nowhere.

In the face of all this, it can be challenging to manage anxiety–especially when you’re go-go-go with the responsibilities of running a business.

Why do we get anxious?

All of these symptoms are directly related to our body’s fight or flight response which is activated by a part of the autonomic nervous system called the sympathetic nervous system.

lady with anxiety

The fight or flight response was originally intended as a survival mechanism to help mammals (including humans) to react quickly to a life-threatening situation.

Unfortunately, the body has the same response to non-life-threatening situations.

These are situations that we know in our minds aren’t really a threat to survival but somehow are perceived by our nervous system as a threat. That can make managing anxiety difficult.

Thankfully the other part of the autonomic nervous system, called the parasympathetic nervous system, helps to relax this fight or flight response and bring the body back into a more balanced state.

By learning how to engage the parasympathetic nervous system–in other words, the body’s own innate sense of “it’s OK”–you can significantly reduce your anxiety and manage some of the symptoms that come with it.

Here are 3 easy ways to connect with and engage your parasympathetic nervous system to help manage your anxiety.

Touch your lips to calm anxiety

This may seem strange, but simply running your fingers lightly over your lips can help manage anxiety.

Parasympathetic fibres are spread throughout your lips, so touching them stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system.

When you are feeling anxious take one or two fingers and gently rub them back and forth on your lips. Focus in on the sensation this creates, and you should feel a wave of calm wash over your mind and body.

Touch is a great tool to help calm anxiety, and self-touch is accessible many times when touch from others is not.

One of my favourite self-touch techniques is to massage and gently tug my ears. This works similarly as touching your lips does, to engage the relaxation response. Suki Baxter shows us how in this video.

Use visualization to help manage anxiety eye visualize

When you are feeling particularly anxious, you might like to take a few moments to visualize yourself in a peaceful place. It could be anywhere: a quiet lakeside retreat, a forest, a secluded beach, or anywhere where you feel most at ease.  Engage all your senses in the visualization imagining the sights, sounds and smells.

One of my favourite “visualizations” is of what I call my sanctuary chair, an old La-Z-Boy recliner I bought second-hand. Even when I’m not in it, I can visualize it and feel what it feels like to sit in it.

If you’re feeling too anxious, it can be hard to concentrate enough to guide yourself. There’s nothing wrong with you, this is just an effect of the nervous system being on high alert.

When it is too overwhelming to try visualization on your own, try a guided one. Insight Timer is a good free option for guided visualizations. If you want some other ideas, check out this article in Healthline for some of 2021’s best meditation apps.

Breathing techniques to calm the nervous system and manage anxiety

There are many breathing techniques that can help you tap into the parasympathetic nervous system and calm your anxiety.

breathe to manage anxietyWhen the parasympathetic nervous system is activated, it automatically slows down your breathing, so it can be beneficial to help this process along by focusing in on your breathing.

It is important to note that if you’ve experienced trauma, or are a generally anxious person, engaging the relaxation response with your breath may paradoxically make you more anxious.

This inner math goes like this: 1) The world is dangerous, therefore I need to stay vigilant (aka anxious) in order to be prepared for danger. 2) If I relax, then I can’t be prepared for danger. 3) Therefore, when my body receives relaxation messages, I get even more anxious because I need to be prepared for danger.

If you find this is the case, work with a teacher or therapist who can help you find breathing or other practices that work for you.

The simplest way to use your breath to calm anxiety is to focus on your breath with just awareness, not changing anything about the quality of your breath. Here is a guided breath awareness practice I recorded, if you’d like to try it.

Another option is to focus on taking long slow deep breaths, making the exhale a bit longer than the inhale. You can place a hand on your stomach and notice as it rises and falls, with your mind’s eye on the in and out breath. Doing this for even a few minutes can help your nervous system regulate and lower your anxiety overall. lady calm breathing

Have you tried any other techniques to tap into your parasympathetic nervous system? Can you see any of these suggestions helping to manage your anxiety?

Get help to manage anxiety now

If you’d like to learn how to help anxiety in a way that works for you and your business, learn more about working with me here.

 

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Tags

anxiety, depression, healthy mindset, Managing stress, meditation, mental health, mindfulness


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