Each day when you awaken, in a fraction of a moment, the course of your day is set for you. There is brief moment in time that determines how the rest of your day will unfold for you. This small, yet profound, instant takes place before your eyes flutter open to meet the light of the day. You are awake in this moment, but are you aware?
As your eyes open and you begin to move about your day, the mind has already opened its floodgates to the thoughts. One-by-one the stream of thoughts rush in. Are you aware that you have anywhere between 12,000 to 60,000 thoughts per day? Assuming that you sleep eight hours per night and you are awake 16 hours of the day, on the low end that is 750 thoughts per hour and 3,750 on the high end.
Thoughts move in and out in a steady stream throughout our waking hours as you simultaneously move about your day; most thoughts going unnoticed, background noise at most. You might think that isn’t true for you, that you are aware of all of your thoughts. But the reality is that you are conscious of about only 5% of your thoughts. That means that the unconscious mind is running you on its auto-pilot mode, 95% of the time.
And while you are running around on auto-pilot mode, 95% of your thoughts are exactly the same as the day before. Ever feel like Bill Murray in Groundhog’s Day? Do your days stream together without much differentiation between one to the next? That is because your thoughts are the same, you are basically reliving the day prior.
And if all of this isn’t enough to wake you up to your thinking mind; 80% of your thoughts are negative. You are essentially living in the past of your negative experiences.
But this can change. You have the power to change your thoughts. To wake-up and break the cycles that are keeping you stuck.
There is a split moment between the awakening and the opening of the floodgates, a teeny, tiny moment before the thoughts begin to rush in. And it is in this moment that we have the power to set the course of our day.
Here are two simple things that you can do to experience more positive in your day:
1. At night, before you go to sleep, set the intention to have a great day the following day. Say to yourself “tomorrow will be a great day”. Use this phrase or choose another phrase that resonates with you.
2. When you awaken, before you open your eyes, before any thoughts stream in, as quickly as you can remember, consciously say to yourself “today is a great day”, or any other positive phrase that resonates with you. Then get up and begin your day.
That’s it. It really is that easy. But it is a practice and you are working to reprogram deeply engrained patterns. Be patient and gentle with yourself as it may take some time to get in flow with it. These two simple, yet profound, steps hold the power to change the course of your day by breaking the negative auto-pilot thought loops and creating new positive ones. Continue this practice daily and begin to observe the changes in your life; at first they may seem subtle and then profound.
*Pro Tip- I like to leave note cards next to my bed to serve as a nightly reminder and morning reminder.
The side effects of anxiety can often be debilitating. Leaving its victims feeling restless and exhausted, consumed by fearful thoughts. I remember days where I was so consumed by anxiety that I would lay in bed, paralyzed, unable to move, as the mind ran rampant. I wanted so badly to shake it off, to get up and go live my life, but I didn’t know how to do that. I felt stuck. Worse even; I felt like I was stuck in quick sand and quickly sinking, yet without the energy to even attempt to climb out.
I tried to open up to friends about my situation, which only left me feeling ashamed and alone, thus keeping me in the anxiety loop. No one seemed to understand what I was experiencing and the more I tried to connect with others, the more alone and disconnected I felt. My anxiety turned into depression. I began to self-medicate. I turned to cigarettes and booze to soothe my angst, but these only served as a temporary, and false, reprieve.
I looked to the Internet for help- Dear Google, please save me. But I became frustrated with the results that were returned to me. Take five deep breaths, one article recommended. Think more positive thoughts, suggested another. Go for a walk, said one. While I agree that these are all wonderful tools to have in your toolkit, I did not find these to be practical and effective tools to manage my anxiety when in a full-blown state.
Over the course of my recovery I did find practical and effective tools to manage my anxiety, both in the moment and preventative. Below are 5 powerful and effective tools that I hope you will be able to add to your toolkit as well.
1. Yoga Nidra- A guided meditation for deep relaxation. Simply find a recording you enjoy, lie down and listen. Yup, it’s really that easy. And the healing effects are powerful. On the days that I was paralyzed by anxiety I would lie in my bed and turn on a recording of Yoga Nidra. Afterwards, I found that I was able to get up and go about my day with a greater sense of ease, calmness and focus. Over time my worries effortlessly melted away, little by little.
*I now have a few of my own recordings available online and create custom recordings for people to target specific needs.
2. Exhaust your nervous system. Go for a long run, up a steep hill, three times over, better yet five times over. Run until your little legs can run no more. Run until your heart feels like it is going to thump right out of your chest. Run until you are too exhausted to have any thoughts left, other than the thought about how exhausted you are. I love going for walks, and often I’ll allow myself a nice long walk to think things out, but when anxiety is high I need to get out of my head and into my body. The best way to do this is to physically exhaust your body. This will also help you to sleep better if anxiety is causing you sleep disturbances as well.
3. Ashwagandha. An all-natural remedy for anxiety and depression. An easy and effective way to improve your health and quality of life. I personally use the powder form and drink it at night before sleep. It has an earthy taste to it, which I don’t mind, but you may consider mixing it with warm milk or an alternative.
* I am not a medical professional and I am only offering information based on my own experiences.
4. Essential Oils. Get them. Use them. There are many that are helpful for anxiety but the two that I have found to be the most beneficial are lavender and vetiver. I use them mixed together at night in a diffuser next to my bed and I also rub them on the soles of my feet before bed, mixed with a carrier oil. There are a few reasons to use oils on the soles of the feet; studies show that the pores of the feet are particularly absorbent and quickly absorb the essential oil into the bloodstream and our feet ground us to the earth element, helpful when feeling anxious, spacy and ungrounded. You can also use vetiver during the day as well if you feel you need more grounding. * A note of caution- a little goes a long way with vetiver.
5. Acknowledge the anxiety. More often than not we resist anxiety. We’ve been taught that it’s one of those bad, icky feelings. So when it comes on rearing its ugly face in ours, we, for lack of better words, freak out. No, no, no. Go away. I don’t want you here today. And you’ve heard the saying, what you resist persists? Well it’s true with anxiety. The more you resist it, the longer it sticks around. Acknowledge it. In a primal state, anxiety is there to protect us. Sit with it. Invite it in for tea. Ask what message it might have for you. Feelings just want to be heard and acknowledged, and often times that can be enough for it to then go on its merry way. Sometimes all I have to do is say “hello anxiety, I see you there” and that is enough for it to continue on its way past. And when it’s not, I turn to the other four tools above.
If you are experiencing anxiety, know that you are not alone in your journey and that relief, as well as healing, are available to you. The most important thing I have found in recovering from and managing anxiety is sleep. Take care in getting good sleep and the rest will fall into place and/or fall away. When our sleep patterns are disrupted it affects all areas of our life and keeps us stuck in the anxiety loop.