How to calm an anxious mind

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Do you remember back in the 90’s where psychoanalysis and lying on the therapist couch, spilling out your childhood trauma and relationships drama, was a bigger trend than plaid skirts and Winona Ryder? Well much like the former two, another stranger thing is making a thriving comeback! 

There is no doubt that taking care of your mental and emotional health is evidently a major issue that demands our full attention. Anxiety and stress are the most frequently reported emotional disturbances and anyone that has been experiencing panic attacks, anxiety fuelled thoughts and/or psychosomatic symptoms can reassure you, that there is nothing pleasant about it. They both have serious implications in any aspect of our personal and professional success. Therefore, in 2019 achieving an inner calm is the ultimate goal! 

In the past decade there was a remarkable shift when it comes to health awareness and well-being. People have been running around with their yoga mats, crossfit membership cards, buying organic and cooking lean/clean meals. We put little golden stars to our calendars every day, we manage our balanced meals and insta our gravity defying “goals” and “gains”, but do we exhibit the same enthusiasm when it comes to grooming the garden of our thoughts and emotions? 

Undoubtedly staying fit, being physically active and being mindful of what you put in your belly and your gut is crucial, but what is of utmost importance is taking care of our mind and emotions. Much like a beautiful healthy figure, achieving inner peace and emotional balance takes effort and it’s the outcome of a group of habits that we need to practice consistently.

Obviously we are not going to sugarcoat it for you. It is evident that what we propose demands dedication and at a certain level will-power. No magic recipes! Every individual is different and what works for one person might not have the same effect on another. It certainly depends on your personality, lifestyle and/or attitude towards a certain situation. But one thing is for sure; having the willingness to invest on your inner wellbeing is a key point.

Below you will find 5 suggestions that might come in handy to design your own path towards the achievement of a calmer mind and balanced life. It truly is up to you to find the most fitting ways to serve your own individual path to personal growth

Firstly let’s get out of the way the big obvious two (physical activity and nutrition).

EXERCISE

From Yoga to the old time fav jogging, physical activity is evident by numerous scientific research data that can improve one’s mood and lower levels of stress and/or anxiety. When stress and anxiety prone thoughts overfloat the brain, there are many nerve connections that reach the rest of the body and stress is spread in the form of somatic symptoms. Same way, when the body is getting a release through exercise, so does the mind. Physical activity produces endorphins – chemicals in the brain that work as natural painkillers – the same happens during childbirth and sexual activity. Additionally, exercise increases the production of serotonin in the body. As a result individuals who engage in regular physical activity have lower levels of tension, elevated and more stable mood, steadier sleeping patterns, higher self-esteem and sense of self-achievement. So the next time you feel that your mind is getting overwhelmed just reach for those old smelly running shoes and do yourself a favor and go for a long walk.

NUTRITION

Remember when nana use to say that “the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach”, well that seems to be the case for anxiety regardless the gender! Science is also backing up this statement, suggesting that balancing your blood sugar, gut – bowel health and taking a hearty portion of rich healthy meals daily, is mandatory for maintaining a healthy emotional state. 

  • Whole grains and leafy greens are rich in magnesium which act a natural muscle relaxant and can lower anxiety levels. 
  • Hitting your daily goal in Vitamin C (citrus fruits) and Vitamin B (eggs and dairy) is also highly recommended for a healthy and well-functioning nervous system. 
  • Vitamin E is also a daily essential for our bodies. It acts as an antioxidant, helping to protect cells from the damage caused by free radicals and also protects our skin’s health!  You can find it in all types of berries, vegetable oils (such as wheat germ, sunflower, safflower, corn, and soybean oils), nuts (such as almonds, peanuts, hazelnuts) and seeds (such as sunflower seeds).
  • Omega 3 fats which are richly found in salmon and avocado. 
  • And last, but not least, chocolate! It can improve our mood and reduce the levels of cortisol in the body, improving our blood flow and lower our pressure. 

SLEEP MANAGEMENT

Sleep is not only the cure for those crippling dark circles but is also evident that it can help you maintain a healthy weight, overall physical health and balance. An average grown-up should manage to get at least 6-8 hours of sleep daily. Not only it improves the cardiovascular system, but it also balances hormonal activity in the body and gives the time and space for the mind to recover from everyday stresses and worries. 

  • Keep a consistent bedtime schedule (sleep and wake up the same time every day).
  • Strive to get a shut eye before 12:00am.
  • Establish a relaxing bedtime routine.
  • Avoid screens (computer, phone, tablets) at least 1 hour before bedtime.
  • Read a book before bed! According to scientific data, reading a book before hitting the sheets, has a calming effect in keeping your mind from engaging into negative and stressing thoughts. 
  • Try a few drops of lavender essential oil on your pillow.
  • Take a warm shower or bath.
  • Dry brush! It stimulates your nervous system, which can make you feel invigorated and relaxed at the same time. It helps detoxify the body by increasing blood circulation and promotes lymph flow/drainage. 
  • Have a cup of tea, preferably chamomile or lavender (avoid black, green or any kind of tea that contains caffeine).

 JOURNALING

Get into the habit of journaling. Writing can have a cathrartic effect on one’s psyche. We strive so hard every day to fulfill many roles – as professionals, parents, caring siblings or children, marriage, friends – and the list goes on. Even though keeping a healthy social life and functioning interactions can enrich one’s life, it is also equally important to set aside time and space for ourselves, to contemplate on our own emotions and thoughts. I’m not gonna lie, journaling can be challenging, since many of us result to the habit of mindless indulgences like watching TV or playing video games. Yet the importance of keeping track of our thoughts cannot be overlooked. Luckily there are many alternatives and creative ways for those who might find journaling challenging.

  • Try writing a letter to someone with words, thoughts and emotions left unsaid.
  • Write a letter to your future self. 
  • Describe a happy childhood memory.
  • Write a letter of appreciation for all your blessings.
  • Make a list of the most beautiful and compelling places you ever visited and how those places made you feel.
  • Make a list of goals for the next week, month, year, or 5 years and how you will manage to achieve them.
  • Write down an ode or inspiring quotes from your favorite movies, books, songs

MEDITATE

The positive effects of meditation have been gaining ground the past two decades. Proof of meditation’s benefits is overwhelming. From purely physical, like lowering blood pressure, to mental, like relieving stress and anxiety, practicing meditation is a must and a cornerstone in the quest of finding inner peace and enjoying a sense of tranquility. Sadly I’ve heard many times people say that “I just can’t do meditation, it’s simply not for me” and when asking them to elaborate I discovered that most of them thought of meditation as a practice of just emptying their minds from any thoughts. Even though being still is the ultimate goal, in reality meditation does not require a person simply eliminating any kind of thinking or imagery. In contrast it teaches you (through practice) to gracefully navigate through your thoughts by letting them float organically without any judgment or dwelling. Meditation is the practice of being observant of your own thoughts. Having your breath as an anchor and let them run their course freely without any intrusive action on your behalf. Of course when starting practicing meditation, you have to keep in mind that meditation is a form of art and it takes practice to master it, so you have to be patient and kind with yourself.

  • Try Visualizing Meditation and fill your brain with beautiful images that will calm your mind and nourish your soul.
  • Focus simply on your breath and bodily sensations and release any body tension through the simple act of breathing.
  • Try Mindfulness Meditation wherever you engage. For example, in simple acts like enjoying a cup of coffee or eating fruit. Be mindful of every single sensation that occurs in your body and mind whilst doing it. 

Last but not least, get into the habit of caring and loving yourself. Engage into the habit of asking yourself regularly “Does this support the life I want to build?”. By simply doing so you will enjoy a sense of control and self-achievement. Prepare yourself for the life you always wanted and trust the process. 

By Georgia Karaoli

Firstly published on “Pamper Junkie” Holistic Beauty and Wellness Blog https://www.facebook.com/pamperjunky/ 

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