What to do when you have Anxiety…

WHAT IS ANXIETY?

Anxiety is a natural response to life stressors. Anxiety is experienced cognitively, emotionally and physically. It can be experienced from mild to severe depending on the person and the circumstances triggering it. Anxiety might be manageable to some, while for others it can interfere with life and daily functioning.         

Symptoms of anxiety include: 

  • Worry, fear, feeling of being “on edge” 
  • Irritability & restlessness 
  • Difficulty concentrating & processing information 
  • Difficulty falling and/or staying asleep 
  • Increased heart rate & shallow/rapid breathing
  • Muscular tension & sweating 

THE AUTONOMIC NERVOUS SYSTEM 

Anxiety is intrinsically connected to our autonomic nervous system (ANS). The ANS serves our mind and body in many ways. In essence, it regulates our states between stress (sympathetic nervous system) and relaxation (parasympathetic nervous system). When we are experiencing anxiety, our sympathetic nervous system is turned on, enabling us to take control of our internal experience by lowering anxiety states and initiating our relaxation response.

5 THINGS YOU CAN DO WHEN YOU HAVE ANXIETY

Here are 5 ways that you can tap into your parasympathetic nervous system in order to take control of your experience of anxiety.

1. Breathing Techniques 

Conscious breathing is one of the quickest and most powerful ways to regulate your nervous system. There are many different breathing practices that you can explore. My two favourite calming breathing techniques are diaphragmatic breathing and beak breath. 

2. 5-4-3-2-1 Grounding Technique 

When we experience high anxiety states, the emotional centre of our brain (amygdala) is overactivated and at times can impact the connection we have to the rational thinking centre of our brain (prefrontal cortex). The 5-4-3-2-1 grounding technique is a quick way that we can bring our prefrontal cortex back online. To practise this technique, look for 5 things you can see, explore 4 things you can touch, listen for 3 things you hear, find 2 things you can smell and 1 thing you can tasteEssentially this exercise is asking you to engage with all of your senses, which can bring you to present moment awareness and diminish the experience of anxiety.

3. Tapping/Emotional Freedom Technique 

Tapping, also known as Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), is another wonderful strategy to help with anxiety. EFT is based on Chinese medicine principles, which target meridian points in your body, similar to acupuncture. In EFT you don’t use needles like you do in acupuncture, rather, you tap on those points. The tapping can help release energetic blockages in the body that may be contributing to unhelpful patterns and difficult emotions. EFT also helps soothe the amygdala and initiate a calming effect on the body/mind. This practice is great for self-regulation as well as working on disrupting negative thought patterns that may be contributing to your experiences of anxiety. 

4. Temperature Change 

When you experience anxiety, your sympathetic nervous system is firing. Part of this response on a psychological level is to build heat in your body. You may notice this in ways such as sweating or your face becoming flushed. Introducing cold to your body is a way that you can intervene on a physiological level to calm the nervous system and bring it back into balance. Three ways to cool your body down are, in order of intensity:

  1. Holding onto ice cubes for as long as you’re able or splashing water on your face
  2. Taking a cold shower
  3. Dipping your head in a bowl of cold/ice water

5. Lower you head below your heart

Lowering your head below your heart by folding forward is another quick way to regulate your nervous system and bring you into a state of calm. When you fold forward you create space between the vertebrae, which contributes to an optimal flow of circulation and sends a calming signal to your brain. Folding forward moves us from the sympathetic (stress) response to the parasympathetic (relaxation) response.

Follow me on instagram @karunayogaandpsyhotherapy to learn more about these strategies and other strategies to help with anxiety. 

Please note, this is not a substitute for psychotherapy. If your anxiety is severe, I recommend seeking support from your physician and/or a therapist. 

How to Heal from Trauma

WHAT IS TRAUMA?

Psychological trauma occurs as a result of one or more distressing events causing overwhelming amounts of stress that impacts a person’s ability to cope and process the emotions that surface as a result of the traumatic/adverse experience/s. When these events occur, negative thoughts, emotions and physical sensations associated with the memory, may get stuck in the body and mind and impact one’s ability to cope and cause significant acute and or chronic distress.

SYMPTOMS OF TRAUMA

Symptoms of trauma can be experienced both in the mind (psycho-emotional) & body and influence our behaviours. 

Mind

  • Anger, irritability, anxiety, fear, panic, hypervigilance
  • Sad, hopeless, disconnected, emotionally numb
  • Difficulty concentrating/focusing and staying present 
  • Self-blame, shame, guilt 
  • Denial, disbelief, difficulty discerning reality
  • Flashbacks, intrusive memories, nightmares  
  • Difficulty falling and/or staying asleep
  • Memory impairment 
  • Intrusive thoughts, suicidal ideation 

Body: 

  • Chronic fatigue
  • Shakiness
  • Startle easily 
  • Chronic muscle tension, aches & pains
  • Shallow/rapid breathing, or inability to take in full breaths 
  • Sensory sensitivities 

Behaviours: 

  • Self-harm & substance abuse
  • Disordered eating 
  • Aggression 
  • Relational conflict patterns: inability to form close relationship, or poor boundaries with other 
  • Avoidance & isolation 
HOW TO HEAL FROM TRAUMA

There are many different therapies that work from a top down and/or bottom up  approaches for healing trauma. Some of these modalities include CBT, exposure, hypnotherapy, somatic experiencing, psychoanalysis.  

EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is rapidly growing and powerful modaltiy for healing trauma. It is an integrative approach, as it re-processes the cognitive, emotional and somatic (physical) aspects of the self that have been distrubed as a result of the trauma/adverse experience/s. For example, a person who has experienced sexual trauma can shift from holding the belief “It was my fault” and feelings of shame to the belief “I am a survivor” and feelings of inner strength. 

“More than 30 positive controlled outcome studies have been done on EMDR therapy.  Some of the studies show that 84%-90% of single-trauma victims no longer have post-traumatic stress disorder after only three 90-minute sessions.  Another study…found that 100% of the single-trauma victims and 77% of multiple trauma victims no longer were diagnosed with PTSD after only six 50-minute sessions. In another study, 77% of combat veterans were free of PTSD in 12 sessions.” –EMDR.com

EMDR therapists use comprehensive protocols and procedures to help clients activate natural healing processes. An important aspect of this therapy is the eye movements (or other forms of bilateral stimulation) that help the client maintain dual awareness (attention in the past and present) to facilitate the healing process safely and effectively. 

If you think EMDR therapy would support you in your healing journey, please don’t hesitate to reach out for a FREE 20 minute consultation. 

What is the meaning behind Karuna?

KARUNA – Compassionate Action 

Karuna is a Sanskrit word and concept that is significant in Yoga and the spiritual pathways of Buddhism, Jainism and Hinduism, which typically translates to “Compassionate Action”. Karuna is an action-based practice that aims to alleviate (dis)ease or suffering.

Self-compassion is at the core of therapy and a foundational component in healing, individually and collectively. In the Yoga tradition, being of service to others (Seva) is an important aspect of the practice. When we are able to learn how to offer ourselves compassion, we are able to offer compassion to others from a more genuine and authentic place. 

As a therapist and yoga teacher, the concept of Karuna is at the core of what I aspire to offer to the world, which is why I chose it to be representative of my practice and embedded within my business name.