By Liza –
We all experience anxiety at some point in our lives. Anxiety is simply how you react to certain stimuli that surrounds you. It’s how you react or respond to an annoying co-worker who won’t allow you to concentrate on your work, or how you respond to your child who has left their Legos out in the middle of the floor for the hundredth time and yes, how you react to the persistence of chronic pain.
The stress brought on by living with chronic pain is very real but there are ways you can alleviate it. My go-to has always been mindfulness and meditation which, ironically, can actually cause many people stress just thinking about. I suspect it is because so many people link meditation to images of serene, cross-legged, white-robed monks who look like they are caught in another dimension impenetrable by this one and who practice the art of mediation with a seriousness that can be daunting.
It really doesn’t have to be that way, which is great because I can’t sit cross-legged too long! Here are some of my favorite anxiety reducing techniques.
The Measured Breath
Meditation can be as simple as focusing on your breathing, which I use a lot to manage both pain and anxiety.
Breathe in slowly through your nose. Count to four pacing out your breath as you inhale. Keep your shoulders down and allow your stomach to expand as you breathe in. Once you’ve breathed in completely, hold it a moment. Then, release your breath slowly and smoothly to a count of seven. Repeat as necessary.
This deep breathing technique is specifically created for easing nervous tension and is excellent for simply bringing some focus back into your day.
It’s the 4-7-8 technique: 4 seconds inhale, 7 seconds hold, 8 seconds exhale. I like this one particularly because you can do it wherever and whenever, while the previous technique requires a little more privacy so you can focus on your body and breath.
Earthing or Grounding is a holistic movement rooted in the belief that reconnecting to the earth’s natural, powerful energy can be healing, both mentally and physically. Though it is controversial, I have found a few techniques to be very beneficial for dealing with both anxiety and chronic pain.
Through Your Feet
Sitting or standing, inside or outside, preferably in bare feet or socks, place all your awareness on the bottom of your feet. Close your eyes and feel the sensation of connecting to the ground or earth. [30 seconds to 1 minute.]
Observe the breath instead of forcing it. Close your eyes and inhale. Feel the path the breath takes as it enters your nose and fills your lungs. As you exhale, follow the path as your air leaves your lungs.
Re-connect to the Earth
This doesn’t mean (at least to me), walking through the forest and standing in some shady grove meditating. Connect to the earth however it is you enjoy the most, whether it’s at a beach, sitting on a park bench or getting your hands dirty in the garden. However, when you do re-connect, make sure it is with intent and enjoy it for however much time you may need. Sometimes it can be something as easy as opening the windows on a fall day and letting the fragrant air inside the house. Other times it may require you to actually spend time outside to truly connect with the earth. Still, the amount of time you spend is completely up to you.
There are many techniques you can use to reduce anxiety and I encourage you to explore them all, though I hope these few might help as a starting point. For me, reducing anxiety and pain has always been tied into earth and breath. Using those as the foundation I have been able to successfully incorporate other methods and I hope you will too.