Stress & Anxiety Workshop
We are all affected by stress in one way or another every day. There are many variables and contributors to stress and they can affect us in various ways and to different degrees emotionally, mentally, energetically, and physically - usually it’s some combination of all of these. Some of the stressors we can control and some we can’t. Stress is something that builds over time, yet anxiety is something that can happen out of nowhere or can be linked to a single traumatic incident.
I hope to provide tools that you can use in your everyday life to help you get a better handle on your stress or anxiety. It’s not my intention to imply that you can eliminate it quickly or with a single meditation, this is something that takes effort, work and practice over time. There will be time to evaluate the ways you feel the most stressed in your life and make changes to lessen the stress, as well as meditations to practice so you can learn to handle stress better when things that are out of your control occur. It is unrealistic to avoid all stress all the time, but you can learn to engage with it in a different way.
I will be teaching you about two main tools - your breath and your body. After all, these are the two most powerful things we have, and we have them with us all the time. By using the breathwork meditation as a tool you will have an opportunity to deeply relax your body and move energy that you have been holding on to. And by connecting to your body you will learn how to navigate through your anxiety when it arises.
These tools should in no way be a replacement for help from a professional if you suffer from anxiety that is extreme, anxiety can sometimes be caused by physical or chemical imbalances in the body. The meditation and movement can be a really helpful complement to other things you are doing to support yourself. I believe that we have to address issues on multiple levels to have a more holistic approach to healing and our health, and it feels empowering to have different tools at our disposal to do this. If you have anxiety please use this work in that way, apply it to your life as one of the ways to support yourself, but it should not be the only one. I will talk more about other tools you can use as well as my personal experience with anxiety.
There is a lot of information to get through, so take your time. Please read through it all before you start the meditations so you understand how to use them and work with them.
Stress & Anxiety
What is the difference between stress and anxiety?
The Mental Health First Aid describes each like this:
Generally, stress is a response to an external cause, such as a tight deadline at work or having an argument with a friend, and subsides once the situation has been resolved. Because stress is caused by external factors, tackling these head-on can help. If you’re experiencing prolonged, chronic stress, there are many ways to manage and reduce your symptoms, including physical activity, breathing exercises, adequate sleep and taking time connect with others.
Anxiety is a person’s specific reaction to stress; its origin is internal. Anxiety is typically characterized by a “persistent feeling of apprehension or dread” in situations that are not actually threatening. Unlike stress, anxiety persists even after a concern has passed. In more severe cases, anxiety can escalate into an anxiety disorder, the most common mental health issue in the U.S. Anxiety disorders are classified in a variety of ways: generalized anxiety, panic disorder, phobias, social anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
What is anxiety?
We have all been stressed but not everyone has experience anxiety or had an anxiety attack. If we stop and think about it we can usually pinpoint what is stressing us out. But anxiety can be much trickier and elusive at times, not to mention intense. It can start with a feeling in the body or a thought and escalate into a very scary experience. If it is anxiety that is connected to PTSD than sometimes a sound, a certain kind of situation, or something that reminds us of that initial trauma can trigger an anxiety attack.
It usually is an internal experience that is out of sync with what is happening outside of us. It is a perceived threat, that when we stop and look around is not actually there.
It is hard to explain what an anxiety attack feels like to someone who has never had one but some symptoms can be shortness or breath, tightness in the chest, dizziness or feeling faint, sweating, chills, racing heart… if you have never had one before you can think you are having a heart attack. Along with it comes a lot of emotion, fear, panic, loss of control, it can feel like you are dying. These are truly horrible experiences and can be very debilitating, impact your quality of life or keep you from doing things you once enjoyed.
As I mentioned before, if your anxiety is severe you should seek the care of a medical professional, a doctor or therapist. Severe anxiety might need medication, and there is no shame in going this route if that is where you are at. But, anxiety can also be a symptom of physical imbalances like low blood sugar, a hormone imbalance, parasites, or adrenal fatigue. So, meditation should not be the only thing you do to manage your anxiety, but instead it should be one player on your team. Be sure to see your doctor if you have lingering anxiety to rule out a physical cause. This is a great first step, and there are many alternative and holistic doctors and practitioners that through small lifestyle changes can help with anxiety.
There are so many alternative therapies that can be helpful tools. Think about seeing a therapist along with homeopathy, acupuncture, EMDR therapy, reiki, exercise or yoga classes, massage, etc. There are truly wonderful healers out there and it is important to think about how you want to build your team of people to support you in your life and on your journey of healing. (At the end of this section I list a few who have helped me)
There is a lot of awareness that can come from learning about your anxiety. Don’t be afraid to take a hard look at it and unpack it. The more awareness you have about where it is coming from the better you will be able to deal with it.
And don’t be afraid to talk about it with others! This is such a huge part in overcoming it. Anxiety wants to be kept a secret because that’s how it runs the show. It has more control over you if no one else knows about it. Don’t be afraid to tell people you trust that you have anxiety in certain situations. You might need help or it might just be nice for them to know, so they know how to support you. Part of anxiety is a feeling of being alone, it’s a very isolating experience, so don’t be afraid to share with people what having it in your life is like, or in the moment when you are having an anxiety attack and need support. I find when I name it out loud it usually dispels much faster. Also, talking about it with other people will help you realize that it is much more common than you think it is. Like, A LOT more common than you think.
Even if you are alone acknowledge it to yourself. An anxiety attack can feel like it is coming out of the blue, when you start to freak out. Learn to recognize how your particular anxiety shows up so that when it does you can stop and say hello. “Ohhhhh, hey anxiety, it’s you again.” And then remind yourself you have been through this before, perhaps many times, and that you have survived and that you have tools that can help you deal with it.
Anxiety is an energy, that creates a pattern in our body and in our brain. The more support we have and the more tools we have to disrupt that pattern the easier it will be to break it. That is what your tool belt is all about, it will help you to support and train your body out of that state. And it takes time. There are good days and hard days, but learn to celebrate the breakthroughs and triumphs of your healing.
Me, Me, Me!
I thought it might be helpful if I talked a little about my own experience with stress and anxiety. Just so you know all of this is coming from a lifetime of experience. If you don’t care, I don’t blame you, haha. I’m never into hearing anyone’s in-depth personal healing stories. You can skip this. If this is helpful, that’s why I am wiring it! For you!
I have had anxiety since I was a kid, I remember my first panic attack at a very early age. I used to go home with stomach aches on test days as early as 2nd grade. I have gone through different waves in my life. I was great in high school, but I became depressed living in Boston when I moved away for art school and started having panic attacks again, mostly in crowded places. I also got Mono then, so badly that I had to move home and was sick for about a year. This is a very important key in my healing journey because after having Mono you have the Epstein Barr virus in your body, and this has flared up at different times in my life, always around times of anxiety (the two are heavily related). I healed through lots of rest with no alternative doctor (this was the midwest and nineteen years ago, a time before they were common or any of these ideas were floating around).
In 2001 I moved to sunny Los Angeles for art school, thrived, and after graduation I moved to Paris. My mother had cancer at the time and I was flying back and forth from Paris to Illinois to be with her for major surgeries. I was unhappy in Paris, totally alone, eating only delicious pasta, cheese and sweets, getting sick with colds and flus all the time, and super stressed dealing with my mother’s illness on my own. I ended up getting extreme adrenal fatigue (which is caused by prolonged mental, physical, or emotional stress, all of which I had) to the point I could barely stand. I moved home a second time, and this time with the help of a wonderful angle naturopathic doctor I spent a year healing my body. It became my full time job. I again moved back out to Los Angeles for graduate school feeling great! My mother died my first term and my body managed to weather the storm through the initial stages of grief, and I finished graduate school in 2011.
Since then I have had ups and downs in my health (mostly dealing with the EB virus), but none have been as difficult as the anxiety I that started three years ago getting out of an unhealthy and abusive relationship. Though the relationship was only a few months long, it made a significant impact on my life. The past three years have been ones of healing lots of anxiety and trauma. And one of the surprising things was that trauma can be delayed, so mine didn’t show up until about a year after the relationship, which partly made it hard to know what was going on or what it was related it, since externally everything was fine. It was so bad I couldn’t get on a plane, have anyone in my car with me, sometimes I couldn’t have dinner with a friend, I certainly couldn’t date, teach or have a job or a studio visit. I could barely go to the grocery store. I was having anxiety attacks almost every day and also in my sleep (these were awful). They would just come on for “no reason”. It was isolating and terrible. Through therapy, seeing my doctor, homeopathist, EMDR therapist, energy reader, a bout of trying medication, going to acupuncture, eating differently, small lifestyle changes, regular exercise, meditation, and lots of tears, self-hand-holding, the support of friends, and now a very very happy and very very loving relationship I have healed a lot. It’s still not all gone, but it is so much better and I am starting to have a very full life again.
All to say, I understand. And there is hope. I promise is can get better, and it will.
My anxiety is related to a few things, I think some of it is just my nature since it started when I was very young. I am a worrier, a caretaker, very intuitive, and I can tend to be a perfectionist (to my detriment at times). Some of it is health related and is linked to having the EB virus. Some of it was happening around some spiritual evolution. Some of it is trauma. And then once I had done a lot of healing it had just been going on so long that although emotionally I was past it my brain and body were still hooked. This last stage is about retraining my body. Not everyone is the same. So it is important to understand where your anxiety is coming from, you don’t just want to deal with the symptom (which anxiety can be), you want to get to the source.
Think about your personality, your upbringing, your health, your experiences, your emotions and your lifestyle.
* A little note about being a sensitive person. If you are reading this then you are. I see a wonderful massage therapist and we often talk about the woes of being a sensitive person. But she always reminds me this is better than the alternative. I do think there is a link between intuition and anxiety. I haven’t unpacked it all yet. But I know being a sensitive person with strong intuition can be difficult at times. It takes a toll on you emotionally and physically if you don’t know what is going on. Learning how to have boundaries and how to stay in your experience and not leave your body to float into someone else’s energy (the grounding meditation is great for this) is so important. Intuition is a gift, but it can be scary as our intuition makes big jumps ahead of us in our spiritual evolution. If you feel like you are grappling with some heavy duty spiritual growth and want to understand it better to help with your anxiety I can’t recommend Simone Gers enough. She literally held my hand (on the phone) for months and helped me figure out so much when it comes to this. You can find her information in the resources section.
*Another note. I was reminded today that fear is part of bravery. That you can’t have one without the other. And the Hero’s Journey is a real thing for both men AND women. There is soul growth in overcoming your fears. And I don’t mean getting rid of them, but facing them head on, and leaping into the unknown anyway. This is a spiritual path with fear (anxiety). I will write more about this in the future.
*Also, another note about love and compassion. Having anxiety can be very frustrating at times. No one wants it, and it often shows up at the worst times, and the truly worst part is that you can’t control it. I can be very hard on myself and when anxiety shows up, I can be so punishing to myself. Knowing I have done so much work I can sometimes be mad at myself that some of it is still sticking around. It took my therapist many times of reminding me that it’s a disease, it’s not me. I don’t have any control over it. And I needed to be more compassionate with myself when it arises. This has been so helpful. As well as learning to accept the anxiety when it arises. Not to pretend it’s not there. I am also a bit of a control freak (and it got worse when my anxiety was at its peak). I can’t control my experience, but I can accept it and learn to move through it to the other side. It has taken some work to be able to identify when my experience is my true self feeling something, and when my experience is being filtered through my anxiety. But this is an important distinction.
Have a sense of humor - Laughing through your stress or anxiety can be one of the biggest healers you have. Making jokes about my anxiety literally saved me at times when I wanted to cry and give up. I also found that my anxiety makes me really hyperaware of myself, I felt so self indulgent. Laughing about yourself can help you not take yourself and the world so seriously, and open up your energy and connect you to others. Plus anxiety hates it when you laugh! Hahaha! Bonus!
Move - Moving your body is so important. I can not stress this enough. The body helps you transform energy, you can not do it all in the mind (this is why meditation is only a piece of the pie). YOU HAVE TO MOVE. Plus anxiety releases adrenaline, and if you stop during an anxiety attack and move (take a walk, do jumping jacks, walk up some hills) it will help immensely to use that adrenaline that is being released, as well as get through the experience. If you can’t move during an anxiety attack, take an epsom salt bath later and do some self massage.
Engage - Although I have personally tried and tried with all my might to will / wish / ignore my anxiety away, it still persists. What I have learned is that you have to first accept it, and then engage with it. It is an energy like anything else. Start to think of it in this way. Everytime it shows up it will be slightly different. What can you do in that moment for that particular energy? Move? Meditate? Talk to a friend? A few deep breaths? You have to do something to counteract it, start to work with it and break the pattern. But whatever you do, don’t pretend it’s not happening.
Eat well - I mean, we all know this one. But things like caffeine, sugar, and alcohol are not good for anxiety. The cleaner you eat the better. I love following Daphne Javitch @doingwell. I think she has a great realistic approach to eating healthy.
Get your team together - It literally takes a village. And feeling the support of people is so healing in a situation that makes you feel so alone. Write a list of alternative therapies you want to try. I know these things cost money, but there is community acupuncture and reiki where you can pay on a sliding scale, and walking, breathing, being in nature are all free.
Have your tools - Life is unpredictable, so be ready. Have your tools, stay regular with your meditation so when you need it it’s like second nature. Keep a list on your phone of things you can do during high stress or an anxiety attack.
See your doctor - Rule out anything physical that could be causing your anxiety.
Challenge Yourself - This has been huge for me in self-healing. I have had to challenge myself. Purposefully put myself in situations that I haven’t wanted to be in in order to grow and show myself that I can do it. Know your edge, know how far you can challenge yourself. It really is like physical therapy, you have to push yourself a little bit and keep regular with your challenges. And do it in situations where you feel safe or with someone you feel safe with.
Love & Friendship - In times of need we need our friends and to be surrounded by love. Spend as much time as possible with the people in your life who see you, understand you and love you.
Nature - Nature is incredibly healing. Make sure you are spending some time connecting to the earth - eat your lunch at the park instead of indoors, get a healthy dose of sunshine and Vitamin D, take a weekend trip somewhere that will nurture you, work in your garden regularly, etc… Our electrical bodies benefit from coming into direct contact with the earth. There are many new studies about this. Walking barefoot on the sand, grass or soil reduces inflammation, increases energy, lowers stress, promotes calmness, improves blood flow, reduces tension, supports adrenal glands, and boosts the healing process. All important things for our wellbeing but especially for stress and anxiety.
Tell your friends and family - This will help so much. You are not alone. Call on the people who love you to support you. Also, it will help them understand you and your needs.
Creativity - If you don’t use IT, it ends up using you. Stress and anxiety are energies, get crafty and DO something with those energies. Use your creativity to out create your anxiety. This might mean writing, painting, playing music, singing, etc… Most likely if you have anxiety something in you is trying to express itself.
Get a pet - A friend of mine has an emotional support dog and it has helped her so much. Animals are very grounding and healing.
Less Stress, Please
Helping to alleviate some stress in your life. One thing at a time.
Think of your daily routine and everything in it as a way to create an antidote to your stress. It might not be one thing you do, but more likely it will be many little things you do to help support your body to either lessen your stress, or to build a stronger foundation so that you can handle stress that is out of your control when it comes your way. Ideally you want to do both.
This is a really important concept. Especially right now in the wellness community. So many things being taught are ways we back away from things instead of face them. For example, the book The Empath’s Survival Guide. This is recommended a lot to people who are sensitive. If you are reading this I’d bet you are one of these people. I am one of these people too. I have read this book upon recommendation and found some things to be very helpful, but the thing that was missing was how to build up the self and build the muscle so you don’t have to go home and lay down after every social gathering. Yes, it is good to know your limits, and when you need some down time. But the book is creating a lifestyle that keeps people out of life! Stress, it’s a part of life, we can’t avoid it. We can do things to lessen it so we can be more healthy and happy. But, we can also prepare ourselves for it, so we can handle it differently and respond instead of react. The meditations will help with this.
Sit down and write:
TEN little stressors in your daily routine - things like: rushing, being on your phone too much, social media, reading the news before bed (even looking at your screen before bed), not getting time outdoors or enough time with friends, no time where your needs come first, over care-taking, working too long, staying up too late, having an extra cup of coffee, etc… And then pick THREE of these you can change - like setting your watch 5 min fast so you aren’t rushing, setting hours and time limits for being on technical devices, making a new bedtime routine, etc… See if you can identify the biggest stressors, the things that might not seem that big but accumulate over time.
THREE new things you want to incorporate into your daily routine, maybe it is taking a walk 5 days a week, eating better, setting time limit on your phone, only responding to work emails during normal business hours, getting a massage once a month, saying no to things when it feels overwhelming, letting yourself off the hook when you feel stretched too thin, meditating ;) … And then choose ONE of those you can start incorporating today into your daily routine today.
Keep this list and use it as a guide, and one at a time start to make changes and incorporate new things. Don’t try to change everything all at once. Go at a realistic pace. Maybe get a calendar and every week write on each day one thing you want to work on, either adding something supportive to your routine, or eliminating something. Having a calendar can be helpful as it makes things feel realistic and it feels really good to cross off the days. Also, tell a friend. Having to be accountable to another person is great motivation, especially if that person can double as a cheerleader.
The important thing here is to start to look at your life and identify the small things that over time build to create unhealthy habits and stress on you. And to start slow. Rome wasn’t built in a day. ;)
I swear by Alexis Smart’s Flower Remedies, they have helped me with so many emotional stresses, fears, and anxieties. I asked Alexis to talk a little bit about her favorite Bach flower remedies for anxiety and stress. You can purchase any of these on her website here.
ASPEN: The aspen anxiety is for people who feel anxious and don’t know why. The fear can manifest in physical symptoms like trembling and sweating and a general feeling of agitation. It’s also good for irrational fear and the kind of fear that comes from PTSD, where there has been a shock and the fear remains despite the will to move on. For those issues I like to pair it with Star of Bethlehem for healing shock/trauma. You can find Aspen and Star of Bethlehem in my formula “Safe and Sound” and “Magic Shield” for kids.
MIMULUS: This is the most commonly prescribed anxiety remedy, as many people suffer from the Mimulus type of fear. It is for known fears of anything you can name (going out, the dentist, public speaking, snakes etc.). People who need mimulus have delicate nervous systems, feel uneasy in a crowd and are generally more sensitive than others. This remedy gives courage and lessens over-reactivity. In my formulas “Safe and Sound,” “Peaceful Worrier," “Wallflower,” “Magic Shield” for kids and “Dream Boat” for kids.
ROCK ROSE: This is for extreme fear, panic and is useful for emergencies where terror has overcome the person. That’s why it’s in Bach’s emergency formula “Rescue Remedy.” I find this remedy to work very quickly when it’s needed, calming and grounding someone who is beside themselves with fear. It’s in my formulas “Safe and Sound” and “First Aid Kit”
RED CHESTNUT: For fear and worry for others. This is such a helpful remedy for mothers, empaths and people who work in jobs where they have to identify with others, like nurses, therapists and healers. Many of us worry about someone we love and can fear the worst when they don’t come home on time or don’t call… we imagine the worst and become hypervigilant. This remedy gives faith that everyone is taken care of and protected. It help empaths to separate their feelings from another. In my formulas “Peaceful Worrier” and “Unburden.”
VERVAIN: Great for physical and mental stress, perfectionism, overstriving, overstraining, feeling “all wound up.” I find it useful for stress headaches and muscle tension. Vervain brings calm and gentleness and helps us go with the flow. In my formulas “Unburden” and “Peaceful Worrier.”
ELM: For those times when we feel overwhelmed by responsibility. Often the cause of our stress is the feeling that we can’t possibly do what needs to be done, that we are not up to the task, that we are all alone, the “It’s all on my shoulders” feeling. Often compounded when other people are relying on us, so we are not allowed to fail. Elm flower essence helps you feel like you can stretch out time, that you have all the resources you need within you and removes the burdened feeling. In my formulas “My Personal Assistant” and “Unburden.”
Minerals are great tools to use during meditation or to have with you or around you to help keep you calm and grounded. While there are lots of minerals that could support more specific aspects of what is out of balance for you I am going to focus on minerals that either CALM or GROUND, as those are the two most helpful energies while dealing with stress and anxiety.
LEPIDOLITE is also sometimes known as the "stone of transition”, helping you to trust that everything will work out. This mineral is made up of many thin layers of mica — which is a perfect visual for transitioning from each moment to the next, traversing each step with trust, while keeping calm and centered. This mineral also has lithium in it which brings you some major relaxing and hopeful vibes. Great for dealing with stress or anxiety of everyday life, and especially during times of big change or transition.
PURPLE FLUORITE is wonderful for calming the body and mind (especially if you have an overactive mind). I often describe its particular energy like the way you feel when you leave the spa - quiet, calm, serene, still in the mind, soft in the body. It is very relaxing. This is a great one to put next to your bed if you have problems sleeping, or near you while you are working.
DANBURITE is a stone of the Divine. This is a wonderful stone to help you connect to spirit and channel all of the joy, light and loveliness that is found in that realm. It is a stone of sweetness and grace. It is a great stone for bringing a sense of inner peace to the heart and body, allowing the energy of the heart to radiate outwards to be seen. It will also bring you sweet dreams if you sleep with it under your pillow.
HEMATITE is one of the most important stones we can have with us. If you are working on yourself and the growth of your soul, or any kind of spiritual work then a piece of hematite will be so helpful. All of that work you are doing won’t really stick or have any real impact on your life if it isn’t integrated into the body. Hematite aids in grounding that energy into the body while moving old negative energy out. It’s also very protective, grounding for your emotions, and shields the overwhelming vibes (ie smog, geopathic stress, electromagnetic congestion) of our modern world.
BLACK TOURMALINE is another one of the most important stones of the modern age. Everyone should be carrying a piece with them. This stone has the ability to take negative energy and purify it, turning it into usable energy. It clears the body and surroundings of any negative, dark or unhealthy energy. It also a huge helper when it comes to protection and is particularly important for someone to have if they are very open, psychic or empathetic.
These are the people I have worked with in the Los Angeles area. If you live elsewhere do some asking around to find great people in your area.
Lara Elliott - acupuncture and reiki - Lara is an angel in the form of your new best friend healer. I always leave feeling so nurtured and cared for.
Bernie Soon - EMDR therapy - I went for a few months and learned a lot. If you have trauma in your life I recommend trying EMDR therapy. There are also a lot of great EMDR tools to use daily. She also recommended this book to me which is really interesting and helpful.
Alexis Smart - homeopathy & flower remedies - Alexis knows her shit. She helped guide me through so many stages of my healing with homeopathy and the support of flower remedies. (Also does phone sessions)
Shana Hill - massage - Self care is so important. This woman is the most gifted body worker I have ever experienced. Massage can be a very important tool when you are stressed or having anxiety.
Simone Gers - Quantum healer - incredibly gifted when it comes to all things Spirit - energy clearing / channeling / soul communication / Akashic Record Readings. She's the real deal. When my anxiety was starting and I had no idea what the hell was going on she helped reveal amazing insight and perspective. (All sessions are over the phone)
Daphne Javitch - @doingwell - For inspiration on eating well! Also - she has great stories on Instagram where she covers a wide number of health related topics.
Cosmic View - A lot of people are turning to CBD. Do not buy this in your health food store! They have not been properly tested and who knows what’s in them. Go to a trusted source and talk to someone who knows what they are talking about. I like this company a lot and they have an incredible and beautiful story.
Anxiety Support - I never leave home without this - and I have tried everything! Life saver.
Waking the Tiger - A great book about trauma and anxiety with some EMDR techniques.
Medical Medium - I found this book very helpful for my particular situation. It speaks to a lot of “mysterious illnesses” of which anxiety is often a symptom. It has great lifestyle and diet changes.
*I will update this when I find other helpful things. :)
Why is breathwork helpful?
This type of meditation is great for stress and anxiety as it nurtures your nervous system. Because it is an active breath it really supports your body, allowing you to engage it while also relaxing it deeply. This is key. Other types of mediation just deal with the brain, which triggers the nervous system for your body to relax and find more stillness. Great! But breathwork is especially helpful because the breath is clearing, so it relaxes the nervous system, AND has the addition of releasing energy out of the body, as well as engage the body and other energies in it to help you not just relax but move through the experience of anxiety.
I know it is hard to think about meditating every day. But try to do it as often as possible. Something that becomes a regular part of your routine has HUGE payoffs. Write it into your schedule if you have to. Meditate with a friend. I made a shorter meditation if you only have 10 min. And let’s be real… everyone has 10 min. There are 5 meditations here in total. So you have 5 new tools to use when you need them.
Grounding Meditation - this is a short one to do standing. This should be practiced most often. Daily.
10 min Breathwork - to help you relax and use more regularly in a short time.
20 min Relaxation Breathwork - when you have more time, maybe once a week, really spend the time to relax and release energy that has built up.
20 min Animal Meditation - Discover your animal that will help with anxiety. You can do this once to discover your animal, or return to it to continue the journey.
Alternating Nostril Breathing (video) - this is great to learn to have on hand if you are out and about and need to relax.
(also, If you sign up for the One 2 Three newsletter (sign up here) you get a new short 5-10 min meditation every month. There are a handful of mediations in the archive that you also get access too. These are short breathing exercises to help you in your everyday life.)
How does the breath help when you are stressed?
It has been scientifically proven that deep breathing has an effect on your brain, heart, digestion, immune system, and even your genes! The sympathetic nervous system is triggered during stress, which is our “fight or flight” response. Breathing deeply stimulates an opposing parasympathetic reaction, this is the system that will help to calm you down. It has been proven that even short spans of deep breathing can have an effect on the stress response in our bodies (down to our cells and even our DNA), which is pretty amazing.
The two part breathwork also stimulates your hypothalamus gland, a small almond shaped gland inside the brain. This gland maintains the homeostasis of the body, it has control over many functions in the body like your heart rate, blood pressure, sleep cycles, and it also produces substances that influence the pituitary gland to release certain hormones into the body. Hormones such as Oxytocin which is what is released when you orgasm and it is also the hormone connected to your ability to trust, and CHR which stimulates the adrenal glands to release corticosteroids which helps your immune system (this is one of the reasons you get sick when you are really stressed out).
Your adrenal glands are very important to take care of in times of a lot of stress. Stress can cause them to wear out and be fatigued, and this can be physical, emotional, or mental stress. Things like not getting enough sleep, drinking too much caffeine, eating too much sugar - long term these are just as hard on your system as going through a breakup, working too hard, traveling, etc… They can all cause the adrenal glands to be overworked. That is why in times of a lot stress it is extra important to take care of the body by getting enough sleep, eating whole and healthy foods, cutting back on sugar, caffeine and alcohol, and to regularly be getting a little sun, meditating, and moving the body every day in some way (swimming, a brisk walk, dancing, yoga, stretching, etc…)
*Breathwork was one of my big tools when my anxiety was really bad. I could do it in the car, on a plane, in my bed in the morning and before sleep. It was a tool I had with me all the time. And it is especially helpful because it calms the nervous system fast and gets nervous energy moving out because it is so physical. Any time I started to feel tightness in my chest or short of breath I would do breathwork. Even a min could help.
How to do the breathwork
Please listen to this intro recording if you have never done the breathwork before. It will teach you how to do the meditations and set up your space, as well as things you might feel while doing the breathwork (these are the things I get the most emails about, so please take a listen).
Why is grounding so important during times of stress and anxiety?
We all know that meditation is beneficial for dealing with daily stress, but what we aren’t taught is how to deal with the energy of stress and anxiety in a more engaging way. You have to develop a connection to the body. Disconnecting, repressing it or just plain ole trying to get rid of it never works. The more you pretend you aren’t anxious the more anxious you become. Because when you disconnect or repress you separate from your body, you have no power to deal with that energy, and when you are out of the body it just allows the anxiety to take over. How can you expect to be in the moment in your wholeness if you aren’t including the whole of your experience? Being connected to the body means learning to listen to it, and learning to access other energies in the body to help you move through your experience.
Stress and anxiety are naturally disconnecting energies. Have you ever noticed how it is difficult to make decisions under stress, you feel like you don’t have as much awareness or clarity, or it’s difficult to connect to yourself and other people? This is all because stress and anxiety (particularly anxiety) disconnect you from your body. When you are anxious you get that floaty feeling, and literally feel out of your body (and in a way you are!), which is very disempowering and allows you no chance to be able to move through what you are experiencing. This is why staying grounded and using the body is so important.
It is also important because when anxiety comes up you want to be connected to you body to know what the anxiety is about. It could be trying to tell you something, but you can’t know this if you are out of the body and it is running the show. To gain the wisdom you have to be in the body.
So, how do you stay connected to the body? You use the energy of the earth. I know it sounds elemental (sorry, for the accidental pun), but this is the most important tool and practice I can give you to teach you how to stay connected when you start to feel anxious. We naturally have the energies of the four elements in our body, and you can learn to awaken them and use them at the appropriate moment. At the core (sorry for another accidental pun), earth energy helps you move through the fear of the dark (energetically). Earth energy will help you move through your experience, owning all of it (even the fear or anxiety). Staying connected in this way and engaging the anxious feeling includes your whole experience, it is more authentic, and it will dissipate the anxiety, and take it out of the head.
This is something you should do more often than anything else. You should become so familiar with tapping into the energy of the earth that when you need it in times of stress or anxiety (even an anxiety attack) you can close your eyes and start to breathe through your feet. You are building an energetic muscle memory in your body. The more you activate this energy of earth in your body the more you will be able to access it in times of need. Like all the elements, the energy of earth has a wisdom. And if you are having a stressful of anxiety ridden experience, you want to use the energy of the earth to help you go through it! Not get out of it. But to stay with it, to stay in your body, so that something is revealed to you on the other side.
I know we want to check out and run the other direction when we have anxiety especially. It is so scary that we want to get as far away from it as possible. But that’s when we disconnect from ourselves, allowing the anxiety (or stress) to take over and run the whole show. And we never get any goodies. When you stay connected to your body (which includes so many more energies) and allow the anxiety or stress to be just a PART of your experience, instead of the whole experience, you also stay connected to your wisdom. And once you are through it something new can reveal itself.
If you practice this every day I promise you it will transform your relationship to anxiety. You can also do this meditation anywhere, at any time. This is an especially good one to do when stressed, anxious or nervous (those are the times we tend to leave our body).
music: “Orguitar Soir” by Ariel Kalma
10 min Meditation
A short meditation to do daily. We all have 10 min.
music: “Guests” by Roland P. Young, “Ocean Flow (Seahawks Deep Drift Mix)” by Laraaji
Relax & Release Meditation
Releasing pent up energy from your physical body is so important in times of stress. When we are stressed or anxious, we tend to contract, to hold things in, shrink. Breathwork is great for moving energy in the body, up and out! You want to create flow and movement in the body. That is a healthy body. Our digestion, physical exercise, tears even, all of it is about maintaining flow. Why wouldn’t we also do that on an energetic level? Enter breath! You can use your breath during this meditation to create flow and clear out anything that is stuck, while also relaxing the body. Relaxation also creates movement. It creates ease for things to move freely.
music: “Ink On Paper” by Michael A. Muller, “Talisman” by Nils Frahm, “Angelic Rays” by Crystal Voices, “The Bhodi Tree” by Chuck Jonkey
Animal Guide Meditation
This meditation will focus on going deeper into the energy of earth to help you ground and help with fear, as well as some water energy to help with fear of the unknown. And you will discover your body animal. You will be able to use the energy of this animal in the future when you feel anxiety coming up. The energy of this animal is like an archetype for you. Whatever comes to you in the meditation is coming from your own subconscious, so it means that the energy is already within you. And the more you use it the more it wakes up and you can embody its healing qualities in bigger and bolder ways.
music: “As Much as Possible” by Bing & Ruth, “Li Sun” by Judith Tripp, “Sequent C” by Tangerine Dream, “St. Francis” by Michael Stearns
How to use this mediation and your animal going forward:
When you have times of anxiety call upon your animal. You can breathe back and forth with it to call upon its qualities to help you embody it. If you liked this meditation and want to continue using it, once you get to the space in the earth find your same animal. Don’t look for a new one. And then go on a journey with it. Notice how the experience shifts over time to reveal new things to you.
Nadi Shodhana Pranayama
Alternate Nostril Breathing (also known as Nadi Shodhana Pranayama) is a great tool to use if you just have a few minutes. You can even do in the car or in your office before you have to give a presentation or make a difficult phone call. In just a few short min you can calm your nerves and balance out the energy in your body so you feel more present and centered.
There are many benefits to this method:
it activates the parasympathetic nervous system (like the breathwork from the previous meditation)
it improves attention and fine-motor coordination/performance
it is both integrating and grounding
it’s therapeutic for the circulatory and respiratory systems
it helps harmonize the left and right hemispheres of the brain, which correlate to the logical and emotional sides of our personality
it helps purify and balance the subtle energy channels, thereby ensuring smooth flow of life force energy through the body.
Alternate Nostril Breathing demonstrated in this video for 10 rounds then take a break, then 10 more rounds, then break.
Where to go from here
Change doesn’t happen overnight, but it does happen in time. Like everything, this is a muscle you must learn strengthen. And it does if you are willing to work at it, and have awareness and patients. Being consistent is the biggest gift you can give yourself. And if you think about it, you can heal so much with just a little time, your breath and your body. How incredible is that?! You and your mental, physical, emotional health are worth it. You are worth the effort and time it takes to incorporate tools into your life that will help you be less stressed, more open, grounded, clear and happy.
Please let me know how you are doing of if you have any questions.