Calm Your Worries: Part 7
Spring is here!
If you're like me, spring is a welcome change from a long dark winter. I've always thought of spring as lively but struggled to find calm in the season. Spring's arrival can bring about new worries as well. I recall as a young adult feeling so “hopefully anxious” about spring and summer that I actually ended up depressed. The depression arose from too much stress and worry that I wouldn't enjoy these seasons as perfectly as I “needed” to compensate for the long winter! Oh the irony!
This spring while you're breaking out those running shoes, yoga mats, gym memberships and workout videos, don't forget to take care of your nervous system too.
Did you know you can learn to tone and strengthen your nervous system? Why not add a healthy Ventral Vagal Toning activity to your spring workout? The best news is there is no sweating or special clothing required. Very tiny shifts will make a huge difference as you calm worry. You'll notice that a little calming practice goes a long way over time.
There are many ways to exercise your nervous system to enable you to feel more calm and less worried. Imagine having the body memory and built-in capability (tone) to experience calm during stressful times. This power requires some practice. It's easy to understand that you cannot do a pull up if you have never used your arms for more than lifting three pounds. First you must gain strength and capability in your muscles. Your nervous system functions in much the same way.
In addition, just like muscles that are misused or unused, when you worry, you essentially practice a worried response over and over. The body/mind connection then learns to automatically worry physically and psychologically.
Take a few moments and try something new. Allow your mind and body to feel your calming leadership. When you need to calm next time, you will find it happening more easily.
Here's an easy exercise to get you started. Safely Accommodating More Than One Sensation.
I like this exercise because it helps you notice that even though you have parts that worry, you also have parts of you that feel content, curious, and so on. Then, you use your own nervous system to feel the shift between the two. Use the instructions as you would an exercise routine. Three simple steps equals one repetition (rep). The first time you try it, one rep might be plenty. As you gain tone and confidence, increase your repetitions. Practice when you are calm to use when you worry.
Remember, it is more important that you feel this exercise in your body. If it helps, you can imagine yourself watching your worried and contented parts as though you are their coach or trainer. (Make sure you are a kind and compassionate trainer!)
- Breathe (close your eyes if it helps) and bring up a sensation of worry. Just one worry will do.
- Notice the feeling of worry in your body.
- Make a body “bookmark” of this feeling by saying, “This is my body's sensation when I worry.”
- Breathe and bring up a sensation in your body that you like better than worry, something pleasant.
- Make a body bookmark of this feeling saying, “This is a nice sensation in my body.” (Substitute the word “nice” for your specific pleasant sensation).
REPETITIONS: Toggle back and forth between the worry feeling and the “better” sensation (Steps 1-3).
- Think: Bring in a little worry feeling. (Feel that in your body: “Okay, got it.”)
- Then think: Bring in a little “better” feeling. (Feel it in your body: “Okay, got it.”)
- End with the “better” feeling. Invite the worried sensation to relax into that space.
Keep breathing. Follow your breath and go slowly.
Practice daily for at least one minute. Increase to more time as you are able. As you practice you will learn when this task is difficult and when it flows easily. Do not worry about the difference. Just notice. When the exercise is difficult, check to see if you can remain at least curious and patient and try again.
Another exercise to support a calm springtime nervous system uses your typical statements of worry and flips them into useful mantras.
As I mentioned above, without practice to calm worry, you are frequently practicing worry. Here's an example of how to use your own worries as a resource to practice feeling calm and centered.
No need to lace up your shoes, just follow the steps below.
- Grab note cards or small pieces of paper.
- Breathe, notice your body and ask yourself: What do I hear myself say when I'm worried? (Here are a few of mine to get you started: “Oh no!” “I’m worried.” “Help!” “How stupid!” “It’s too much!”, etc.
- Write each little statement down on a separate card or paper.
- Look at each card one by one, flip them over and on the other side, write the opposite (or a calming response) to each worried statement. For example, the reverse side of “Oh no!” could be “Alright…”. The reverse side of “Help!” may be “I'm right here.”
- Make sure your “flip” side mantras really sound like you, something you would say or believe when calm.
- As you notice yourself saying worried messages in your head, instead use your new mantras that offer your mind and body calm. Breathe and repeat!
I invite you to use these simple exercises to make your springtime healthy, calm and confident. For these exercises and much more help, please check out my ebook: Calm Your Worries: Unlock Your Secret Code to Lasting Stress Relief and Self-Confidence.