If you suffer from stress and anxiety chances are high that someone in your life has mentioned meditation as a means to deal with them. Psychiatrists usually recommend this therapy, for good reason, as research based on a few 19 thousand studies on meditation found that mindfulness meditation can ease psychological stress.
Despite this information, the meditation is not for everyone. And it may not serve the people who experience severe attacks of stress.
I suffer from chronic anxiety generalized, which means that I’m always experiencing some level of tension or stress. Most of the times you can control it, but once in a while, it hits me very hard without any warning, and my day is ruined completely.
In college, my therapist recommended I try meditation to relieve my anxiety. At first I was happy with the idea of trying it. I tried with a variety of styles, from meditation to Zen, which focuses on the breath, until the sound meditation primordial, that, as it is to make sounds primordial.
Nothing worked. Many times I felt more anxious after a session of meditation of 15 minutes that what I had been at the beginning. And I’m not the only one. In general, meditation can be more difficult for people with chronic anxiety because they have more thoughts provoked by the stress that normal people, according to the clinical psychologist Mitch Abblett.
That said, there are also other ways to achieve the same level of relaxation without sitting cross-legged on the floor. All have their origin in the technique called “method of distraction”. Part of the Therapy, rational-emotive behavior doctor Albert Ellis, who works under the idea that the way of thinking of a person is intrinsically linked to their emotional functioning.
The method consists of basic activities that can help you control your anxiety. The psychologist Anjhula Mya Singh Bais explains that distractions can help people to “look objectively at issues that cause discomfort in a way that is both pragmatic and useful in an environment of low intensity, low pressure and with little demand”.
What she wants is for people to relax by doing something simple and functional, it brings together and maybe reconsider a matter which was causing anxiety from a place that is more balanced.
Below are six suggestions of activities that may soothe your brain without meditation, based on expert opinion and in my personal experience.
1. Crafts, including but not limited to, coloring, ceramics or fabric.
Work with the hands brings the energy into something productive, and many times ends up being cute, or even a beautiful creation.
“Art calms the nervous system because when we focus on creative activities, our attention away from the constant concerns”, says the therapist new york Kimberly Hershenson. “This helps the nervous system to regulate and allows our brain to have space to process difficult issues”.
2. All types of yoga
There are a variety of benefits that come with yoga practice, and a calmer mind is one of them. Basically it is about meditating actively, which is wonderful for people prone to anxiety because it allows you to focus your breathing and your body without being stuck in the head.
“Yoga helps build concentration and is a good way of improving concentration in general”, explains Silvia Polivoy, a licensed clinical psychologist and co-founder of Thevine Spiritual Center. “In addition, it strengthens the memory and improves the brain’s capacity”.
If you are new to yoga, I recommend the online videos of Lesley Fightmaster.
It may sound very simple, but like yoga, walking in the open air, without a phone, it helps to relocate the energy of anxiety into a physical act and allows you to see the world around you. Here’s a good way to start, courtesy of the psychotherapist Melissa Divaris Thompson:
“The more you can get close to nature the better. Walk with awareness. Notice your breathing. Feel the surface that you step on every step you take”.
4. Singing, humming and whistling.
Many times a song or whistle for bringing me back to the present. It automatically lightens my mood and regulate my breathing if I’m hyperventilating. The best thing is that you don’t have to be good to sing for this to work.
5. Writes before going to sleep
This is especially good for people whose anxiety affects their sleep. David Ezell, clinical director and director general of the provider company therapies Darien Wellness, recommends to write with pen and paper to escape from the screens distracting.
“The goal is to relieve the pressure of thoughts, similar as what happens in a tank too full of H2O,” he writes in an Email. “I tell my patients to think that his arm is in a hose and that the book the container to where the water flows”.
The kitchen is full of basic tasks that allow you to focus in all kinds of shapes, smells , tastes and textures. Once you are done, you can practice mindfulness while you eat.
Your method of distraction personnel may not be on this list. But still experimenting with different strategies and you’ll surely find it.
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