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  • Writer's pictureClaire Wortley

Stressed? Worried? Anxious?

Updated: Dec 4, 2020

Ok so who isn't stressed right now?

Covid-19/Coronavirus is spreading across the globe. Most of us are unable to work and are staying at home. Are you finding that your worries are mounting up?

Are you anxious about money, work, jobs, family, vulnerable relatives and friends? Perhaps you yourself are in the vulnerable category?

It's a scary time and sometimes fears and worries feel totally overwhelming. Life is too much to handle and you question, how on earth will everything ever get back to normal?

I unfortunately do not have a magic wand to make everything better but I do have some ideas to help ease the load on your shoulders.

Here's a practical idea...

Take a piece of paper and write at the top the thing you are worried about e.g

My parents are elderly and vulnerable

then underneath write all the things that you can do around this concern.....

I will call them everyday on the phone or video call them.

I will encourage them not to go out unless it is absolutely necessary

I will do their shopping for them or arrange for a friend/ neighbour to do it

These are just are few ideas of things you CAN do

You may be worried about finances so the sentence at the top may read,

I have lost my job and so have no income

I can check my bank statements to see exactly what I do have

I can cancel any unnecessary outgoings

I can see what help I can get via the Government

So there is a couple of examples. The main point though it to put what you CAN do about the problem.

Something that could be added to the list is time for meditation in whatever form suits you:- quiet time, guided meditation, exercise etc.

The other tool that is extremely helpful and often overlooked is breathing exercises or techniques. When stressed our breathing becomes shallow and short which doesn't help the body and mind to calm down. By breathing using a specific technique we cause a reaction within our bodies.

Here is some information about the 7-11 technique

What is the 7/11 Breathing Technique and what is it used for? The 7/11 technique is a breathing exercise where you breathe in for a count of 7 seconds and out for a count 11 seconds. It is used to help you relax and gain/regain composure in a variety of situations. What can it be used for? You can use this throughout the day to relax, de-stress and re-energise. It can help your concentration levels before an exam, and helps you re-focus on the task at hand. In general it helps almost any state which leads to heightened emotion. How does it work? It works in several ways:  It works on the bodies’ autonomic nervous system. When we breathe in, receptors are stimulated to quicken our heartbeat, increasing breathing rate and increasing Adrenalin production, and when we breathe out receptors are stimulated to slow our heartbeat, reduce our breathing rate and decrease adrenaline production. Because it needs a degree of concentration to work it helps us take our minds off other things.  It also works because as it relaxes us it promotes access to the rational thinking part of the brain which gets shut down in stressful situations, allowing us to think our way around problems or stresses we face.

1) Find somewhere quiet and comfortable to sit and relax.

2) It helps, when you are first practicing, to sit in front of a mirror so that you can see your progress.

3) Sit comfortably either on a cushion or a chair with your shoulders relaxed and your hands folded gently over your tummy.

4) If possible breathe in and out through your nose. Breathe in for a count of 7 seconds and out for a count of 11 seconds (if you find it too hard to breathe out for so long, start off with 3/6 seconds and work up to 7/11 seconds). The most important thing here is to breathe out longer than you breathe in.

5) If you are doing it correctly, your shoulders will remain still and your tummy will get bigger and smaller as you breathe (called belly or diaphragmatic breathing). If you sit in front of a mirror you can keep an eye on your shoulders and tummy. 6) Once you can keep your shoulders still and relaxed without effort it is a good idea to close your eyes and try to picture the numbers in your mind to help you concentrate completely on your breathing.

What Is the 4-7-8 Breathing Technique?

The 4-7-8 breathing technique is a breathing pattern developed by Dr. Andrew Weil. It’s based on an ancient yogic technique called pranayama, which helps practitioners gain control over their breathing. When practiced regularly, it’s possible that this technique could help some people fall asleep in a shorter period of time. How does the 4-7-8 breathing technique work? Breathing techniques are designed to bring the body into a state of deep relaxation. Specific patterns that involve holding the breath for a period of time allow your body to replenish its oxygen. From the lungs outward, techniques like 4-7-8 can give your organs and tissues a much-needed oxygen boost. Relaxation practices also help bring the body back into balance and regulate the fight-or-flight response we feel when we’re stressed. This is particularly helpful if you’re experiencing sleeplessness due to anxiety or worries about what happened today — or what might happen tomorrow. Swirling thoughts and concerns can keep us from being able to rest well. The 4-7-8 technique forces the mind and body to focus on regulating the breath, rather than replaying your worries when you lie down at night. Proponents claim it can soothe a racing heart or calm frazzled nerves. Dr. Weil has even described it as a “natural tranquilizer for the nervous system.” The overall concept of 4-7-8 breathing can be compared to practices like:

  • Alternate nostril breathing involves breathing in and out of one nostril at a time while holding the other nostril closed.

  • Mindfulness meditation encourages focused breathing while guiding your attention to the present moment.

  • Visualization focuses your mind on the path and pattern of your natural breathing.

  • Guided imagery encourages you to focus on a happy memory or story that will take your mind off your worries as you breathe.

People experiencing mild sleep disturbances, anxiety, and stress may find 4-7-8 breathing helpful for overcoming distraction and slipping into a relaxed state.

Over time and with repeated practice, proponents of 4-7-8 breathing say it becomes more and more powerful. It’s said that at first, its effects aren’t as apparent. You might feel a little lightheaded the first time you try it. Practising 4-7-8 breathing at least twice per day could yield greater results for some people than for those who only practice it once.

How to do it

To practice 4-7-8 breathing, find a place to sit or lie down comfortably. Be sure you practice good posture, especially when starting out. If you’re using the technique to fall asleep, lying down is best.

Prepare for the practice by resting the tip of your tongue against the roof of your mouth, right behind your top front teeth. You’ll need to keep your tongue in place throughout the practice. It takes practice to keep from moving your tongue when you exhale. Exhaling during 4-7-8 breathing can be easier for some people when they purse their lips.

The following steps should all be carried out in the cycle of one breath:

  1. First, let your lips part. Make a whooshing sound, exhaling completely through your mouth.

  2. Next, close your lips, inhaling silently through your nose as you count to four in your head.

  3. Then, for seven seconds, hold your breath.

  4. Make another whooshing exhale from your mouth for eight seconds.

When you inhale again, you initiate a new cycle of breath. Practice this pattern for four full breaths.

The held breath (for seven seconds) is the most critical part of this practice. It’s also recommended that you only practice 4-7-8 breathing for four breaths when you’re first starting out. You can gradually work your way up to eight full breaths.

This breathing technique shouldn’t be practised in a setting where you’re not prepared to fully relax. While it doesn’t necessarily have to be used for falling asleep, it can still put the practitioner into a state of deep relaxation. Make sure you don’t need to be fully alert immediately after practising your breathing cycles.

I have recently found a guided meditation for hope. It may not be your cup of tea but if you have time on your hands , give it a go.

The fact is that breathing techniques help to calm you down, lower your stress levels and help you to think rationally. I still practice 7-11 daily and it kicks in automatically when I begin to feel anxious or stressed. Most of us will have time to do these exercises and there are plenty of clips on YouTube etc to help you learn these new skills.

Taking time away from social media and the news may help to limit your stress however there are also helpful things on the internet too eg. singing groups, exercise routines as well as meditation recordings.

These are stressful times so making time for your well being is just as important as looking out for your physical health.

Take care of yourselves and each other.


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