5 Ways to Alleviate Anxiety

Yoga teacher recommended, therapist approved

“Sarah came to yoga in a very typical scenario where her anxiety was preventing her from succeeding,” says Meaghan Townsend, yoga instructor at Exhale in Los Angeles. Sound familiar? Anxiety is a part of being human. You can get the best of it if you remember that it’s about future projection. “Nothing can be dealt with at that very moment, so focus on actually being in the present,” says Townsend.

“Anxious thoughts can be addictive,” says Rebecca Stern, LMSW, a social worker at the Lower East Side Service Center in New York City. “It’s really important for people to be patient with themselves. It takes a long period of time to create a new pattern of thinking because anxious thoughts are your go-to thoughts.”

Stern believes that yoga allows you to know the real you by teaching you to embrace your weak and your strong areas. “Yoga refutes your inner self-critic. It’s about self-care and treating yourself with kindness,” she says.

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1)    Do What You Can

The yoga teacher:

I’d rather you do yoga for 5 or 10 minutes than skip practicing because you don’t have a spare hour. Even if it’s only a few easy Down Dogs, just enjoy it.

The therapist:

Even giving yourself one minute to breath and tune into your thoughts is going to reduce anxiety because getting in touch with your feelings allows the body to relax.

2)    Start Small

The yoga teacher:

If your mind tends to wander during yoga class don’t beat yourself up. Showing up for class means that you are focused. Finding one moment where you aren’t thinking about what you’re having for dinner will evolve into two or three hour’s worth of moments. Do what you can.

The therapist:

Being kind to yourself and not focusing on what you’re doing wrong gives you the space to be comfortable.

3)    Make Conscious Decisions

The yoga teacher:

Get away from your habits. Try putting on your pants with the right leg if you always start with your left. Brush your teeth with your opposite hand. Use pranayama to breathe differently.  Thinking about what you’re doing rather than drifting through a routine, you’re making a deliberate decision to be in the present.

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The therapist:

Consciousness is a well-deserved break from our fast-paced lifestyles. Start by noticing details like the color of the room or how you feel when you brush your teeth.

4)    Write It Down

The yoga teacher:

Write 5 good things about every single day in a gratitude journal. These reflections will connect you with your world.

The therapist:

Journaling is a very healthy coping measure for anxiety. Seeing your thoughts on paper sometimes is a much clearer representation than seeing them in your mind. When you write, see if what triggers your anxiety is revealed.

5)    Replace Negative Thoughts With Positive Ones

The yoga teacher:

After every class she teaches, Townsend reminds students that “Namaste” means, “The Divine Light in me bows to the Divine Light in you.” Take that belief outside of yoga and notice the positive qualities of someone rather than just looking for the negative. Actively releasing negative thoughts makes anxiety subside.

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The therapist:

It sounds obvious, but the more positive you are, the less room you have for anxiety. Negative predictions can exacerbate anxiety. Create new pathways in your pattern of thinking with positive thoughts.

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