How many times have you overeaten because of nerves? Or not eaten because of stress?
How many times have you started a diet thinking that it would make your anxiety or stressful life go away?
How many times have you bashed your body when anxiety about something else was the real gnawing issue?
Anxiety plays a significant role in body dissatisfaction and disordered eating — and in many different ways.
Some of us are used to using food to quell or manage anxiety. Some of us get nervous about eating certain “bad” foods or trusting our bodies in general.
Some of us experience anxiety and automatically assume that our bad bodies are to blame.
Some of us get super stressed and have a tough time knowing how to deal with it.
That’s why it’s so important to find effective ways to handle stress and anxiety. What’s especially helpful is to have a toolbox of your favorite strategies. This way, when anxiety or stress strikes, instead of moving toward unhealthy methods, you can pick a healthy tool and use it.
For instance, mindfulness is very helpful for coping with worry-wart and jittery-prone ways.
Recently, I read an excellent book called Daily Meditations for Calming Your Anxious Mind by Jeffrey Brantley, M.D., and Wendy Millstine, NC. It’s filled with valuable activities based on mindfulness. They describe mindfulness as:
an awareness that is sensitive, open, kind, gentle and curious. Mindfulness is a basic human capacity. It arises from paying attention on purpose in a way that is nonjudging, friendly and does not try to add or subtract anything from whatever is happening.
Today, I wanted to share three of my favorite anxiety-alleviating activities from the book. (Yesterday, Psych Central published this post I wrote listing other great practices.)
1. “Prayer Scroll.”
Whether you’re religious or not, many health studies have demonstrated the benefits of prayer, according to Dr. Brantley and Millstine. They suggest creating a prayer scroll, which includes a prayer for yourself, for your loved ones and for all living things. You can say these prayers out loud or in silence, depending on what you prefer. Here are their examples for each type of prayer.
May I be free from harm. May I be loved and give love. May I be safe. May I be happy and well. May I be healthy.
For your loved ones:
May they be free from harm. May they be loved and give love. May they be safe. May they be happy and well. May they be healthy.
For all living things:
May there be peace on earth. May there be health and harmony. May there be loving-kindness for all.
2. Stopping the “spin cycle.”
“There are times when your mind gets stuck in an endless loop of problems and possible worrisome outcomes with no end in sight,” according to the authors. And why is it that this cycle usually happens at night? When all our worries seem to wash over us like a 50-foot wave?
Dr. Brantley and Millstine recommend readers simply giving thanks — thanks to your body and surroundings. You can do this exercise while lying in bed or kneeling at your bedside with the lights off. These are their suggestions on what to say:
I am grateful for this body of cells, molecules, blood, veins, arteries, nerves, organs, muscles, tendons, flesh and bones. I am grateful for my head, face, hair, neck, arms, shoulders, fingers, chest, breasts, back, torso, hips, buttocks, pelvis, thighs, calves, ankles, feet and toes.
I am grateful for this bed, pillow, blankets…bathroom, living room, dinner table and home.
I am grateful for the backyard…neighbors, cars, cafe, corner store…and city. I am grateful for every seed, root, flower, blade of grass, shrub, tree, lawn and garden…I am grateful for the sky, sun, moon, stars, planets, solar system, universe and galaxies far and wide…I am surrendering my mind, body and spirit to the free fall of sleep.
3. “Strong as a mountain.”
As Dr. Brantley and Millstine write, mountains are strong and solid, and they are the earth. Whenever you’re doubting your strength and don’t feel grounded, they suggest thinking about mountains for support. Visualizing mountains can help you gain back your strength.
First, they suggest taking a comfortable position and breathing deeply. Next, visualize a mountain in front of you. Maybe you’ve seen the mountain in person or in a photo or movie. Either way, let it be an incredible mountain, which is both “soothing and reassuring.”
Then get closer, and notice the mountain’s details. Pay attention to its shapes, colors. “Perhaps there are trees and grasses, or snow or great cliffs and jagged edges. Perhaps you notice boulders and barren spaces, or rich meadows filled with flowers.” Maybe there are clouds, rain or snow or sunlight or fog.
Next, step back and appreciate the grandeur and strength of your mountain. “Notice how the mountain accepts changing conditions yet remains unmoved as people and animals, all types of weather, day and night, and all the seasons move over and around it.”
“Shift attention and focus again on the stillness and steadiness within yourself and your living, breathing body. Feel your own strength now. Let the mountain — accepting, steady, unshakable — be in you. Feel yourself become the mountain.”
You also can repeat the phrase “strong as a mountain,” as you feel “the beauty and majesty of your heart, mind, and body, and your connectedness to the earth.”
Do you find these activities helpful? What helps you cope with anxiety?
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Last reviewed: 23 Feb 2012