I’ve been battling a few internal demons this last week – stuff from a LONG time ago that when triggered feels as raw as yesterday. This stuff has the potential to do some serious damage to my relationships and self-esteem, causes me panic attacks and periods of self-doubt and anxiety – so I consider it a priority to not shy away, but instead shine a light on, and bring awareness to what is going on inside.

As an ex mental health professional, I’ve been guilty of analysing this to death, and in some ways that has been useful – I think I have a pretty clear understanding of what happened and why I react to certain situations in particular ways. But I never quite managed to make the next step, into letting go. And that’s kind of the point really isn’t it? Work through it and let go. 

Just lately though, something seems to be shifting. As worries or stressful events have appeared on the horizon, my close family have been saying “Moll, go and do yoga”. Like I need any encouragement! But seriously, this yoga thing is helping – and my family and friends are noticing. Maybe it’s the breathing – I’m using it off the mat whenever I feel anxiety or stress building.  Maybe it’s the deep stretching which helps to release long-stored away emotions and tension. Whatever – it’s unexpectedly helping me through a process of letting go of old memories and subconscious emotions.  Just for once, I can’t really explain why.  And I think I’m realising – maybe I don’t need to. 

My three best tips for managing that anxiety moment: 

  • Alternate nostril breathing – hold down your left nostril with your right ring finger. Take a deep breath in through your right nostril. Close your right nostril with the thumb of your left hand and gently hold the air in briefly – then release your left nostril and let all the air out. Take a deep breath in on the left side, close off and hold briefly, then release the right nostril and let it all out. Repeat as many times as you like, best done in private if you want to avoid funny looks.
  • Be here, now. Reminding myself of the present moment is one of the most powerful tools that I use for relieving anxiety. Anxiety is a worry about the future – and the future never comes, it’s an imaginary idea! I use various approaches, one is to check in with my breath and body – where  am I right now? This helps my mind calm as I realise I’m not under any threat at this present moment, and slows my heartbeat. Our physical reactions to anxiety (rapid heartbeat, sweaty hands, shallow breathing) can feel as scary as the anxiety trigger itself, and spiral an even bigger stress response, so using this technique can be helpful in breaking that cycle.
  • Pigeon pose, childs pose, savasana. Pigeon pose should only be done with guidance from a yoga instructor, but childs pose and savasana need no instruction. Breath deep, calm your mind, and let go.