Mind-body activities like yoga and meditation are known for their healing effect. They help us switch off and relax after a stressful day at work, and they allow us to step back and take a moment to appreciate coming into the present moment.
In light of the recent pandemic, though, maladies like stress and anxiety have become prominent concerns that we all face. We’re worrying more now about our futures than we ever have, and we’re doing everything we can to keep sane and remain focused on what’s important while locked inside.
But this isn’t always an easy feat to achieve.
With meditation and yoga, you can begin to build a resilience to stressful situations and anxious feelings, all it requires is a little commitment to daily practice.
Stress is the modern mental bogeyman
Believe it or not, stress is in fact good for us. It helps us remain on our toes and in check, and it keeps us out of harm’s way, alerting us to potential dangers. Too much stress, however, and it’s system overload. We get overwhelmed and begin to lose sight of what we’re doing in the present moment, focused instead on the stressful ‘thing’ that is incessantly nit-picking at us.
We face too much stress almost every day. But, according to some studies, a daily yoga practice can improve our cortisol awakening response, which helps improve stress resilience. Yoga has also been proven to decrease inflammation in the body, promoting healing qualities and helping us better process the mental burden stress has on our spirit.
While too much stress is bad for us, practices like yoga can fight against these infectious ailments and help you reset your mind and body, reducing the physical and mental symptoms that arise as a result.
Coming into the present with meditation
When it comes to anxiety, our greatest strength against it is deep breathing. Oftentimes, a consequence of anxiety is shallow breathing, and this reduces our ability to think clearly and remain conscious. In short, it ‘ungrounds’ us from a state of present mindedness and propels us into negative past events or uncertain future ones. This is cause for concern.
A daily meditation and deep breathing practice will help you resolve these reactionary feelings to anxiety and will guide you into a calmer, slower space, a space where qualities like gratitude and thankfulness can begin to thrive.
But it’s not as simple as lying still for lengthy periods of time. You must remain conscious and focused on the rise and fall of your chest and stomach as you breathe deep, concentrating not on the uncertainty of the future, but instead on the way your body and mind feels in that moment. Only then can you begin to let go of those anxious feelings and find peace and contentment.
Building resilience by positive habit building
It can be easy to miss a day’s yoga or meditation practice and use ‘busyness’ and ‘work commitments’ as good enough excuses. But here’s the thing: they aren’t good enough. Building resilience to stress and anxiety requires daily commitment, it requires you to show up to your mat and, once you step on, switch off the outside world for a period of time.
The power of habit is a beautiful thing, and it is positive habit forming that will help you fight against your negative mental thoughts and feelings. To begin building positive habits, consider committing to these few daily rituals:
Ten deep breaths
An easy way to begin to reduce your daily stress is to breathe deep. Harvard Medical School discovered that slow and deep breathing relaxes your mind and body. Next time you feel stress rising, count ten deep breaths. After a while, up your commitment and segue this routine into a full meditative practice.
Oftentimes, the onset of stress comes as a result of feeling out of control. Positive daily affirmations, however, are powerful ways to improve our self-esteem and remind ourselves that we’re in control of our own lives.
Next time you’re at your mat, begin your practice by stating an intention to yourself. Some examples might be:
- ‘I have a positive life and I am thankful’
- ‘I am enough, and I have enough, for a rich and fulfilled life’
- ‘I am self-aware, conscious and grateful for my life’
Repeat affirming thoughts like these as often as you need throughout your day. Whenever you feel stressful or anxious thoughts and feelings bubbling beneath the surface, it’s positive affirmations like these that can help you fight against them.
You can find more intentions here.
Incorporate stress-relieving yoga poses into your daily practice
To help reduce the physical and mental effects of stress and anxiety, consider designing your daily yoga practice around stress-relieving yoga poses, including:
- Child’s pose
- Corpse pose
- Spine twist
- Standing forward bend
- Leg-up-the-wall pose
- Puppy pose
- Dolphin pose
You might also consider increasing your time spent in Shavasana and concentrating your practice on breathing, rather than flow.
Mindfulness and dedication are all it takes
The hardest part about dealing with stress and anxiety is knowing what causes it. For some, loud and distracting noises heighten stress. For others, it’s the constant ping of a mobile phone.
Whatever it may be, it’s important to remain mindful of your environment and how it impedes your mental health and to design your space in a way that nurtures positive thoughts.
During this unprecedented time of isolation and quarantine, your space is more important than ever. Sure, increasing your exposure to sunlight and acquiring new plants for the house are excellent ways to reduce everyday stress, but are they enough? To actively fight off stress and anxiety, you must remain mindful and conscious of your mind-body connection and design daily yoga and meditation practices that promote positive affirmation building, stillness and a sense of peace. All it takes is a little dedication.