Calm: 5 techniques that worked for me
For most of my corporate career, I operated under this motto: ‘The price of security is biting off more than I can chew – I just need to chew faster.’
I believed the constant planning, scheduling and endless ‘to-do-lists’ were the only way to get ahead. And while I still firmly believe success requires vigilance and diligence, I now realise I’m not going to master the rest of my life in one day. I just need to master the day. Then keep doing that every day.
When we talk about designing a mindful life, we have to assume we have a calm mind. However, what happens if we are experiencing stress, burn out and anxiety, trouble relaxing, breathing or sleeping, or experiencing tension or rapid heart rates?
“…after eight weeks of meditating 20 minutes per day, the amygdala (the area responsible for stress and anxiety) decreases in size.”
I know what it’s like; I suffered severe postnatal depression and I tried everything – meditation, yoga, high intensity workouts, medication, therapy, integrative medicine, journaling, super clean eating, fasting, deep breathing… What helped me the most were these five techniques:
If you want to decrease anxiety, meditation can help. This is backed by sound clinical research that shows after eight weeks of meditating 20 minutes per day, the amygdala (the area responsible for stress and anxiety) decreases in size. You will notice you are less anxious, reactive and stressed.
2. Consistent sleep.
The quality of sleep is really important to overcoming your anxiety. During the month I cured my anxiety, I made consistent sleep one of my highest priorities.
3. Eliminate stimulants.
Cut the coffee ASAP. Here’s why. The food-mood connection is real. There are four main neurotransmitters that dictate our lives and our emotional stress response: dopamine, serotonin, epinephrine and GABA. GABA is a calming neurotransmitter – think of it as the brakes for your nervous system. Caffeine depletes GABA and inhibits its production, and if you are predisposed to anxiety your engine can get revved up faster than others. If you have a coffee it is harder to slow down as you may now have a GABA deficiency. If you love the taste of coffee, have a decaf or swap to herbal teas.
4. Fix micronutrient deficiencies.
Get your blood tested for micronutrient deficiencies. Have you seen an integrative doctor? If not, I highly recommend investigating this. Integrative doctors are medical school trained general practitioners. They have extended their study in order to integrate all the body systems. Integrative doctors focus on nutrition, gut health and optimising trace elements because nutrition is the foundation of your health. Integrative doctors can use prescription medicine, but if there is an alternative, the natural option is often preferred.
5. Get professional help.
This is the most important step. If your anxiety is taking control of your life, you need to speak to your general practitioner who specialises in mental health. They will work with you to create a plan of how to move forward. Whether that is engaging with a clinical psychologist or introducing a psychiatrist for medication.
Does your organisation view your people’s psychologically wellbeing as important?
I regularly run workshops, retreats and courses to give your people practical coping tools to decrease stress, and improve focus, memory, and productivity.
Chelsea Pottenger is founder and director of EQ Consulting, which delivers cognitive tools to recharge our brains in the corporate sector.