Cloud watching – Taking time out


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We all lead such hectic lives these days don’t we? Whether we are rushing around working, commuting, shopping, cleaning the house, caring for others or doing all the inevitable admin that maintaining a life brings, it’s all busy, busy, busy. When someone asks, “How’s things?” how many times do you answer, “Oh you know, busy!”

How often do you take time to be still and do nothing? I am still shocked but not surprised when clients tell me that they take work or laptops or work phones on holiday with them. Weekends and evenings also consist of checking emails and messages – just in case they miss something. Little wonder that these types of people often present with overwhelming stress, anxiety and feelings of depression.

Perhaps you make time for yourself to unwind and relax: maybe a peaceful half hour in the bath; or an evening walk; or listening to soothing music. When I ask my clients what they do to relax, most have to really think hard about it. Some can’t come up with an answer. Some think relaxing, which they equate with doing nothing, is wasted time.

However, we all need periods of purpose-free calm in our lives. Most of us are surrounded by human chatter or ringing phones or noisy traffic, which are all part of the competing demands and distractions of a busy life. We are on alert all the time, scanning for anything that might need our immediate attention. Tiring isn’t it?

Last weekend, on a beautiful summer’s afternoon in my garden, I looked up at the glorious blue sky and the fluffy white clouds passing by. I remembered lying on the grass as a child, and imagining the shapes the clouds were forming, and the stories I made up in my mind about them. Suddenly, I wanted to experience the joy of that again, so I got out of my chair and laid back on the grass and watched as the clouds floated by, transforming into wondrous shapes as they went. I found myself smiling as I recalled memories of carefree childhood days. The grass felt soft and warm against my back. The sunshine felt warm against my skin. The gentle breeze was cooling and refreshing. I could smell the fragrances of summer flowers and newly cut grass. Most of these sensations had gone unnoticed until I made the time to stop and take it all in. I took some long, slow deep breaths and felt my whole body and mind unwind and relax. I must have stayed there like that, just noticing, being mindful, for 20 minutes or so and when I stood up again I felt joyful, re-energised and grateful for the experience.

So how long is it since you took the time to allow yourself to be at one with the natural environment? When was the last time you stopped and stared and really noticed all the intricacies of something like a beautiful tree or flower, the sea or the clouds perhaps?

Put your busyness to one side and take time to try it out. Focus on all your senses. Notice the detail of what you can see, hear, smell, feel and perhaps even taste. Taking time to reconnect with the beauty of our natural world is never wasted time. It lifts the human spirit – which reminds me of the poem I learned as a child. Perhaps you remember it too?

Leisure by W.H.Davies

What is this life if, full of care,

We have no time to stand and stare.

No time to stand beneath the boughs

And stare as long as sheep or cows.

No time to see, when woods we pass,

Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.

No time to see, in broad daylight,

Streams full of stars, like skies at night.

No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,

And watch her feet, how they can dance.

No time to wait till her mouth can

Enrich that smile her eyes began.

A poor life this if, full of care,

We have no time to stand and stare.

I am Susan Tibbett, a Chartered Psychologist, Hypnotherapist and Psychotherapy practitioner based in York. You can find out more about my work and how I can help you at: http://www.mindmakeoveruk.com

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Tips and Tricks for keeping your Stress under control


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Stress is your emotional and physical response to pressure and happens when you feel unable to cope. Many people lead demanding lives and stress can arise from life events, illness, living conditions, work, relationships, and money worries. in fact the list is endless because people have different ways of reacting to and coping with stress. A situation which is overwhelming for one person, may not concern someone else in the same way.  Even those events which you see as enjoyable can be stressful, such as holidays, moving house, starting a new job or course, pregnancy, parenthood, and family get togethers like Christmas.

When you are constantly under pressure, the stress hormones remain in your body, leading to the symptoms that let you know you feel stressed. It’s important to recognise these symptoms early and prevent serious health issues such as high blood pressure. Everyone gets stressed from time to time – it’s a natural reaction to a threat or danger or prolonged pressure, so it’s a biological part of all of us. However, what is important is how you choose to manage stress. Some people adopt unhealthy coping strategies such as comfort eating, drinking alcohol or smoking which take a further toll on health. There are simple things you can do to give yourself a sense of control and help you to cope in a healthy way.

The first step is to identify what makes you stressed:

  • Where am I when I’m feeling stressed? What am I doing? Who am I with?

Even if there is little you can do about some situations, making some small changes can make a big difference. In stressful situations remember to Pause, Take a breath, and Don’t just react automatically. Ask yourself:

  • What am I reacting to?
  • Is it helpful for me to think this way?
  • What is within my control?
  • Is there another way of looking at this?
  • How important is this really? How important will it be in 6 months time?
  • What is the most helpful way to respond for me and others?

I see many clients who are struggling with stress and anxiety in their lives. Common to all of them is the lack of knowledge or skills for controlling these feelings. There are lots of tips and tricks for helping you keep stress levels under control:

  • Deal with problems as they happen. Bottling up your feelings allows them to grow until they overflow
  • Slow down. You don’t have to do things at 100 miles an hour. Eat, walk and drive more slowly. If you don’t get as much done as you would like, there is always tomorrow. Act ‘as if’ you are relaxed: slow down your speech, relax your shoulders, and don’t fidget. This will also affect how other people will react to you
  • Do one thing at a time. If you have too much to do and can see no way to cope with it, see if you can divide it up and then tackle the bits one at a time. Prioritise and then do the worst thing first
  • The words ‘must’ and ‘should’ create pressure. Work out what you can realistically cope with and be content with this. You don’t have to be Superman/Wonder Woman
  • If people expect too much of you, you don’t have to accept their targets. Learn to be more assertive and say ‘No’
  • Stress can make you hard to live with and create problems with those close to you. Nurture strong, confident relationships which give you people to confide in and help you fight stress
  • Talk to someone – if you don’t have a supportive relationship or someone to confide in, there are lots of professional therapists who specialise in helping people with stress
  • Treat yourself as you would a good friend. What advice would you give?
  • Help others – people who help others become more resilient themselves. This can be as simple as doing someone a small favour that costs nothing
  • Shift your perspective by noticing what you have to be grateful for. Problems are often a question of perspective
  • Write down your thoughts and feelings – get them out of your head
  • Accept that there are things in life you can’t change – people get ill, people die, people lose jobs. Bad things happen and everyone has to learn to accept them as a part of life. Focus on the things you can control instead
  • Eat a healthy, balanced diet and cut down on high sugar foods such as cakes, biscuits and sweets which may fuel anxiety
  • Caffeine can make you feel alert but the effects of too much are the same as those of stress and anxiety. Caffeine is a stimulant that affects the brain and central nervous system. It can be found in: coffee, tea, Coke, Fanta, aspirin, cold remedies, headache tablets, energy tablets, drinks like Pro-Plus and Red Bull and even in chocolate at a low level
  • Stay hydrated by drinking more fresh, clean water
  • Some people believe that smoking helps them relax, but nicotine is a stimulant. The reported relaxation effect of smoking is nothing more than deep breathing when you inhale. Practice the breathing but lose the cigarettes
  • Make some time for relaxation, fun and enjoyment. If you think you don’t have time for this – you need it the most!
  • Learn Mindful Breathing (see my blog on ‘3 Quick Relaxation Exercises’)
  • Listen to music – sing and dance along to something upbeat, or relax to something calming and emotion-free
  • Physical exercise – get active even if you just go for a walk. Doing something physical completes the stress cycle and allows those stress hormones to dissipate, so you feel better
  • Get out in nature to feel uplifted – go to the park or for a walk in the countryside
  • Find a hobby or interest that gives you a sense of achievement – adult colouring books or doodling zentangles are great for feeling creative. Don’t know what they are? Look it up. Challenge yourself with something new
  • And finally….RELAX! Do some deep abdominal slow breathing or listen to my free 10 minutes Relaxation track on http://www.mindmakeoveruk.com to instantly feel a little better

I am Susan Tibbett, a Chartered Psychologist and Hypnotherapist based in York. I can be reached via my website at: http://www.mindmakeoveruk.com

3 Quick Relaxation Exercises


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Perhaps you’re feeling stressed or anxious and you know that you need to calm things down fast. Knowing that you need to calm things down to feel better, just makes you more anxious and more stressed because you don’t know how to do it. It can be difficult to change that state of emotional arousal when you don’t have a clue where to start. I see clients every week who have this dilemma. By sharing these quick relaxation tips, they soon learn how to get back in control of any anxious, stressful feelings and reduce the physical symptoms that can feel so distressing.

Did you know that your breathing plays an essential role in stress and anxiety? Breathing is a powerful determinant of physical state. When your breathing rate becomes elevated, a number of physiological changes begin to happen. Perhaps you’ve noticed this yourself when you’ve had a fright; you might suddenly gasp, feel a little breathless or lightheaded, or notice tingling sensations around your body. The way you breathe is a major factor in producing these and other sensations that are noticeable when you’re stressed or anxious.

One of the first things I teach my clients is the important role breathing plays in controlling the stress response, and how changing your breathing can be used to send a strong, positive message to your brain that everything is ok, you are safe at this moment and you can allow yourself to relax and calm down.

So if you are feeling stressed give this a try now. Find a place where you will be undisturbed for a few minutes. You can close your eyes or keep them open, whatever is comfortable for you. Sit with your feet flat on the floor and your hands resting lightly in your lap. If you wish you can lay down.

Exercise 1 – Breathing to release tension

  • Breathe in deeply (from your diaphragm) to the count of  7. Pause.
  • Breathe out to the count of 11. Pause.
  • Breathe in to the count of 7 and so on…

Just allow the oxygen to gently and slowly flow in and flow out. The numbers themselves aren’t important – it’s the lengthening of the out breath that does it. Sometimes people find it hard to breathe this slowly at first so adjust the numbers if you wish.

Once you have practised this breathing technique you can add the following:

  • As you breathe in, imagine that the air around you is a wonderful colour of calm. As you breathe in allow the colour to flow in and through your body like a wave of calmness, clearing any tension in your body or stresses in your mind
  • As you breathe out, imagine any tension or stress flowing out and away from you and disappearing into the air where it evaporates and disappears

Exercise 2 – Deep Breathing Technique

  • Breathe in so that your belly (not your chest) rises. This deep abdominal breathing (diaphragmatic breathing) is the correct way to breathe
  • You can check whether you are doing this correctly by placing your hands on your belly with your fingertips touching, on an out breath. As you breathe in, your fingertips should part

So why does changing my breathing help?

You might already know that you breathe in oxygen and breathe out carbon dioxide. For the body to run efficiently, there needs to be a balance between oxygen and carbon dioxide, and this balance is maintained by how fast and how deeply you breathe. Of course, the body needs different amounts of oxygen depending on your level of activity. When you exercise, there is an increase in both oxygen and carbon dioxide; in relaxation there is a decrease in both oxygen and carbon dioxide. In both cases the balance is maintained. However, when you are anxious, this balance is disrupted. You take in more oxygen than the body needs – in other words you overbreathe, or hyperventilate. When this balance is detected, the body responds with a number of chemical changes that produce those uncomfortable physical symptoms; dizziness, light-headedness, confusion, breathlessness, blurred vision, increasing heart rate, numbness and tingling in the extremities, cold clammy hands and muscle stiffness. The normal rate of breathing is 10 to 12 breaths per minute. What is your breathing rate and would you benefit from slowing down?

Exercise 3 – Mindfulness relaxation – it only takes a minute every day

This technique is simple yet very effective. Take a moment to practice it every day:

  • Close your eyes and focus your awareness on your body and become aware of any and all sensations there
  • Now focus your attention like a spotlight on any particular tightness or discomfort anywhere in the body. If there are none then just focus on the stillness in the body

You are not trying to judge any sensations or change them, but simply to become aware of them. If your mind wanders then gently escort it back to focusing on your breathing

  • You may find that any areas of tension begin to loosen and relax. You don’t need to try to do this, just be aware of any relaxation happening
  • You can stay like this for as long as you wish but even a minute is beneficial

Using these calming exercises, you can experience a minute of stillness, slow your breathing down and reduce your general level of anxiety. The key to gaining control really is practice, so set aside some time to do this every day. With enough practice, it will even help to reduce feelings of stress when you are in an anxious situation.

There are lots of breathing techniques out there so experiment with them and see what a difference this new habit can make.

I am Susan Tibbett, a Chartered Psychologist and Hypnotherapist and I work in York. I can be reached via my website at: http://www.mindmakeoveruk.com

A blip on the timeline of your whole life


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What if all that stuff you are worrying about today doesn’t really matter all that much? What if it’s just a blip on the timeline of your whole life?

Whether we worry or not, this doesn’t generally change things. Ask yourself if today right at this moment you are ok. I’m not talking about burying your head in the sand and ignoring things that perhaps need dealing with, but just focussing on the here and now. Stop. Pause. Be mindful of this very moment in time. Ask yourself if today, right at this moment, you are ok.

What happens, happens – whether we spend sleepless nights and all the hours in a day worrying or not. Often things that seem so dreadful now become less anxiety-provoking over time. It can be helpful to remember that what you are experiencing now is just a moment in the timeline of your whole life – a small blip in the story of your life. It is not what defines your life, unless you choose it to be.

You can choose how you react to whatever happens in your life, even though things may be thrust upon you, can feel unfair, undeserved and arrive at your door at the most inappropriate times. Whilst you cannot always control what happens in life, you can choose your own actions, thoughts and feelings. Surely it is better to choose actions, thoughts and feelings that are helpful and healthy and support your own sense of well-being, than those which are damaging and provide no benefit? It may seem that a negative coping strategy helps you out short term, but really you are only putting off finding a better way of dealing with things, which you will need to find at some point if you are to survive any crisis with your health and well-being in tact.

There is one thing that you can be sure of in all this, as time moves on change happens. Nothing ever stays the same. This change is what makes life worth living. It is the natural way of the world. Winter turns to Spring just as the night and darkness gives way to each new dawn. Every moment, as one person dies, another is born somewhere in the world. There is a natural and never ending cycle of decay and rebirth. It never rains forever – at some point the sunshine returns – plus the rain has it’s own value too. If we never experienced these sorts of contrasts, including the lows that we can find so difficult, we would never appreciate the highs or the okays. Life would be bland and dull. Every challenge you face is an opportunity to learn more about yourself, about others and about life itself. Yes it can be hard sometimes, damned hard, but this too will pass with time.

So now ask yourself the question again…. What if all the stuff you are worrying about today doesn’t really matter all that much? What if it’s just a blip on the timeline of your whole life…….

http://www.mindmakeoveruk.com

Depression – why do I feel so bad? Part 6


Depression

The good news is you can learn to train your mind and shift out of the depressed brain state. A professional therapist will help you to stop worrying about unmet needs and learn to problem solve, forming strategies for change. This will probably include helping you to identify unhelpful thinking styles and challenging all or nothing, black and white thinking.

#Hypnotherapy is a great tool for helping you overcome your depressed mind state. If you are skeptical about this, remember it is your own powerful imagination that has created and is maintaining that depression. Doesn’t it make more sense to harness that imaginative power – the resource that you already have – and use it to help yourself feel better?

Because depressed people spend a vast amount of time dreaming rather than getting the restorative sleep they need, mornings tend to feel exhausting and are often the hardest part of the day. I help my clients to harness their imaginations and hypnotically plan for this so that it no longer seems as overwhelming. Understanding that once you are up and about your energy levels will recover as the day goes on, can help motivate you to get out of bed in the first place.

A skilled #hypnotherapist can also help you to visualise doing the things you used to enjoy and feel the pleasure it brings you. This makes it easier to motivate yourself to actually go out and do those things again for real. One of my clients used to love horse riding, and imagining riding her favourite horse along a beautiful, wild beach with the wind in her hair, re-experiencing that pleasure and joy, was enormously therapeutic. You can also hypnotically ‘rehearse’ responding to emotional patterns in a more constructive way. Using hypnotherapy you can imagine situations that used to be problematic and see yourself handling things well, solving practical problems or dealing more effectively with people and in situations you used to find difficult. This naturally boosts your confidence and reaffirms your sense of control. Doing this sets up new neural pathways in the brain that can be strengthened with practice. The more you follow a new way of reacting and behaving to old emotional triggers, the more the new behaviour becomes your new way of doing things – and a better habit is formed.

You know that old saying – ‘If you keep on doing what you’ve always done, you’ll keep on getting what you’ve always got’? In order to feel better, you need to change something. When I work with people with depression they often tell me how hard it is to get the energy to do anything, let alone change things. This is why the first step is to calm down the internal emotional arousal that maintains the depression by increasing dreaming and stopping much needed restorative sleep. #Self-hypnosis or listening to a #hypnotherapy recording is very helpful for allowing you to get the quality sleep you need.

What else can you do to begin that positive change? It is helpful to practice #mindfulness meditation, which teaches you how to live in the present moment, letting your thoughts come and go without reacting emotionally to them. When you are struggling with that depression you need to be kind to yourself and treat yourself with compassion. Switching your mind to more helpful thoughts, allowing your powerful imagination to let you experience being calm, kind and safe will soothe you. So here’s a piece of valuable Jedi wisdom: “Always remember, your focus determines your reality.” – Qui-Gon to Anakin, Star Wars Episode I.

If you wake up in the morning and think your day is going to be miserable, you will have a miserable day. If you wake up and focus on what a wonderful gift your life is, you will appreciate what you have and are able to do. We get what we focus on. So even though you may not feel like doing such mental exercises, you need to change something in order to stop feeling that depression. Why not have a go at retraining your mind? Why not build some new qualities and then decide if you want to use them? It is good to experiment with new ideas and discover helpful things. You have nothing to lose except the depression.

There are also some practical exercises you can do to help yourself and I use these ideas with my own clients. We are all different and some things will resonate better with you than others. It can be helpful to write things down. Instead of letting your thoughts take over and rattle round and round in your mind making you feel worse, put what you are thinking down on paper. This serves several purposes – it slows your thinking down (allowing your rational, thinking mind time to engage), it allows you to capture your thoughts so you can identify any unhelpful thinking styles and then challenge them, and it gives you the opportunity to stand back from the thoughts and gain a more helpful perspective.

You can also write down the things you are grateful for in your life. At first you may not recognize them, but I bet you have fresh water coming out of your taps and clothes on your back? When you focus on and appreciate what you have, it stimulates a part of your brain associated with positive, anti-depressant feelings. This focus helps to balance the system, which has been tipped in favour of depressing feelings. In the same way, rather than isolating yourself from those who love you, have a hug and allow the oxytocin, which is naturally released, to make you feel good.

Perhaps you still find it hard to do anything? Remember this is just that depression talking and the trick is to do something to change it. If you have ever experienced even a moment of happiness or joy in your life then you know you can enjoy things when you are not with the depression. So, make a deal with yourself to do your best to work against that depressed brain state. You are not the depression. When you start to think like this you will begin to feel better.

I hope that you have found these 6 blogs on #depression interesting reading. Perhaps you have learned something, challenged something, or thought about changing something. If you have a different perspective to offer then perhaps you could share your ideas too. If you have been inspired to seek help with depression, then there are many dedicated professionals out there waiting to help you.

I am Susan Tibbett, a Chartered Psychologist and #Hypnotherapist. I specialize in helping people overcome depression and anxiety and I work in #York. I can be reached via my website at: www.mindmakeoveruk.com/contact.html

In my next series of blogs you can read about building #confidence.

 

 

Depression – why do I feel so bad? Part 4


Depression

In the previous blogs in this series I talked about how your feelings of #depression are just a reflection of your current brain state. Depression is created by exhaustion brought about by too much emotionally arousing ruminating, worrying and introspection. The brain is actually working in a different way when you are depressed. With a clearer picture of what depression is and what causes it, you can set about lifting it more rapidly.

When I work with clients who tell me they are experiencing the symptoms of depression we always start very gently. Once you understand what depression is and how it is maintained (how your negative ruminations are creating problems with getting the right quality of sleep) it is easy to see the importance of getting the rest you need and recouping your lost energy. Therefore, one of the first things I do is teach you how to calm down the emotional arousal that keeps you in a stressed state and prevents you relaxing and getting enough sleep. I use #hypnotherapy to show you how you can achieve a relaxed and calm state of mind for yourself very simply and easily. Using #self-hypnosis or #mindfulness techniques allows you to practice gaining control over feelings of stress and anxiety that help to maintain your depressed mind state. Once you train yourself to stand back from this type of emotional thinking, you allow your rational mind to work for you and you can begin to recognize and challenge the negative thinking that maintains the depression.

It’s relatively easy to make yourself depressed or prolong a depressed state of mind. If you’re reading this blog then you may already be an expert! See how many of these unhelpful ways of thinking you recognize:

  • Do you dwell on a single event and treat it as an ongoing source of negativity? For example, people who are unemployed often do this – you lose your job because of the economy but you personalise it
  • Do you ever argue with a colleague, friend or family member and then keep obsessively thinking about it, amplifying the anger, stress, and anxiety associated with it? This type of thinking, called rumination, is linked to a greater risk of becoming or staying depressed
  • Do you convince yourself that you know what will happen a day, a month, or a year ahead and that it is usually bad, if not catastrophic? Do you jump to conclusions? Do you mind read other people?
  • Do you dwell on the past, telling yourself you should have done this or shouldn’t have done that?
  • Do you isolate yourself from other people? It can happen easily if you’re not working, or you’re avoiding people because you’re depressed
  • Do you tend to eat or sleep inconsistently?
  • Do you think in extremes? For example – ‘I’m a loser’. ‘No one loves me’. ‘I’ll never get a job’
  • Do your thoughts reflect reality as other people see it? Are you accused of being negative all the time?
  • Do you make things too difficult to achieve? For example, if you are unemployed then setting yourself the goal of getting a job by the end of the week is probably unrealistic
  • Have you stopped doing things you used to enjoy?
  • Do you refuse to accept that you are depressed but beat yourself up about the way you feel? Do you think you are crazy or weak?
  • Do you use negative language when you think about or talk to yourself? Do you treat yourself badly?

Well, how many did you recognize? When you think like this you are sabotaging your own well being. These unhelpful thinking styles demonstrate the ways you become adept at using negative self-hypnosis every day of your life.

In Part 5 of this blog on depression I will return to these thinking styles and offer suggestions to help you consider changing such unhelpful thinking and behaviour. If you are suffering with depression, please consider getting professional help.

If you are in the UK and need to talk to somebody as soon as possible:

Samaritans UK – 08457 90 90 90

Samaritans ROI – 1850 60 90 90

Your doctor can help refer you to a therapist or you can seek help directly. I specialize in working to help people overcome depression and anxiety and I’m based in #York. If you need some help I can be reached via my website at: www.mindmakeoveruk.com/contact.html

 

#Anxiety – what is it and how do I make it go away? Part 7


stress

In my last blog I talked about taking control of anxious, emotional thinking and that the first step in training your mind to work better for you in anxious situations is to take a step back – recognise a thought driven by strong emotions and allow your mind time to calm and get some perspective. A quick and easy way to help you begin this process is to shift your awareness to your own breathing. Did you know that breathing plays an essential role in anxiety? When you are anxious, your breathing rate becomes elevated, and a number of physiological changes begin to occur. The way you breathe is a major factor in producing these and other sensations that happen when you are anxious.
You probably remember learning that you breathe in oxygen and you breathe out carbon dioxide. To run efficiently, your body needs the correct balance between oxygen and carbon dioxide, and this balance is maintained by how fast and how deeply you breathe. When you exercise, there is an increase in both oxygen and carbon dioxide. When you are relaxed there is a decrease in both oxygen and carbon dioxide. In both cases the balance is maintained. When you are anxious, this balance is disrupted as you breathe too quickly and take in more oxygen than your body needs. Your body responds with a number of chemical changes that produce the symptoms I talked about in an earlier blog such as dizziness, blurred vision, feeling light-headed, confused or breathless, an increase in heart rate to pump more blood around, numbness and tingling in your extremities, cold clammy hands and muscle stiffness.

A Calming Technique

In order to gain control and get your system back in balance you need to slow your rate of breathing and change your breathing style. Slower, deeper breathing stimulates the part of your nervous system responsible for relaxation. This is a basic biological process and if you breathe in this way then your body will have no choice but to relax. It may take a few minutes but the body will respond regardless of what your mind is thinking.

Experience this now. Find a place where you will be undisturbed for a few minutes. You can close your eyes or keep them open, whatever is comfortable for you. Sit with your feet flat on the floor and your hands resting lightly in your lap.

• Breathe in deeply (from your diaphragm) to the count of 4 seconds (through the nose if possible)
• Hold your breath for 2 seconds
• Release the breath taking 6 seconds (through the nose if possible) then pause slightly before breathing in again
• Just allow the oxygen to gently and slowly flow in and flow out.
• Practice breathing this way as often as you can

The counts are less important than remembering to lengthen your out breath. This is what sends the calming signal to your mind and body. You may have seen similar breathing exercises elsewhere, such as 7-11 breathing where you breathe in for a count of 7 and out for a count of 11.

When you are doing your breathing exercises, make sure that you are using a diaphragmatic breathing style rather than a chest breathing style. You can check this by placing one hand on your diaphragm under your rib-cage. The hand on your diaphragm should rise when you breathe in.

When you first begin changing your breathing, it may be difficult to slow your breathing down and you might feel like it is not worth the effort, or think it is not working and give up. Notice that this is your unhelpful anxiety talking, so challenge those assumptions and persevere. Allowing yourself to breathe like this regularly forces your general anxiety level to come down. With enough practice you will find that you begin to breathe this way automatically if you feel anxious. Regular periods of relaxation inhibit the production of stress hormones in the body so it actually becomes harder and harder to panic. As you become more generally relaxed the ‘baseline’ of arousal from which you are starting lowers and it actually becomes harder to get stressed.

Once you are comfortable with this breathing technique you can add the following:
• As you breathe in, imagine that the air around you is a wonderful colour of calm and relaxation. As you breathe in allow the colour to flow in and through your body like a wave of calm, clearing any tension in your body or stresses in your mind
• As you breathe out, imagine any tension or stress flowing out and away from you and disappearing into the air where it evaporates and disappears

#Mindfulness relaxation – it only takes a minute every day

This technique is simple yet very effective. Take a moment to practice it every day. Find a comfortable place to sit. It can be on a chair or on the floor, but don’t slump or slouch. Keep your posture straight but relaxed, making sure you are not rigid or stiff.

• Close your eyes and focus your awareness on your body and become aware of any and all sensations there
• Now focus your attention like a spotlight on any particular tightness or discomfort anywhere in the body. If there are none then just focus on the stillness in the body. You are not trying to judge any sensations or change them, but simply to become aware of them. If your mind wanders then gently escort it back to focusing on your breathing
• You may find that any areas of tension begin to loosen and relax. You don’t need to try to do this, just be aware of any relaxation happening. You can stay like this for as long as you wish but even a minute is beneficial

Please give these techniques a try – all you have to lose are your feelings of anxiety! I specialize in helping people overcome anxiety and I work in #York. I can be reached via my website at: http://www.mindmakeoveruk.com/contact.html

In my final blog of this 8 part series on #anxiety, you can read about lifestyle changes that can help improve overall mood and wellbeing.