By Erica Deerinwater
I am always looking for ways to get out of unhealthy thinking and into the present. Unfortunately, I have a tendency to worry about the worst and miss the best. In my quest to do better at this in my own life, I have found some ideas about reducing stress without distractions or medications, and I’d like to share them with you!
Anti-anxiety medications, whether natural or pharmaceutical, can be a short-term fix for an overwhelming moment; for some, they are literal lifesavers. However, for the long term anxiety situations that many of us find ourselves in, they may not be our favorite single long-term solution. Of course, in using everything we have to help make our daily lives better, we want to use all of the options available to us in a way that is safe and in accordance with our providers’ recommendations… as you read this, please be careful and follow your own best path.
I frequently use a meditation app with soothing sounds, music, or a story to help me get out of the cyclic thinking that typically leads to anxiety. There are some decent free apps out there, but even just searching on YouTube for music that leaves you feeling better can help in that moment. Studies have shown that calm music is almost as effective as medication for reducing anxiety in those anxious moments.
There’s also something to be said about a physical change to help you get out of a mental rut. Splashing cold water on your face or putting a cool rag on your forehead and neck can lower your physiological response to your emotions. You can go even further and immerse your face in cold water for a couple seconds. Being open minded to new things is a healthy approach to old patterns.
It’s the age old recommendation: take a nice deep breath. This tried and true approach can also lower physiological side effects to anxiety by lowering your blood pressure and heart rate — both of which are best for a calm mind.
I find that box breathing is the most effective and doable for me: breathe in for four counts, hold for four counts, breathe out for six counts. Counting helps keep me focused on what I’m doing, instead of what I’m worried about. I set a goal for myself of 10 box breaths, and that is enough to at least bring me out of my unhealthy thoughts for that time.
Observational thinking is another one that can be beneficial… Instead of adding on to all the things I think I know are going to happen, I instead observe myself and my thoughts; no judgment, just noticing. When I have this thought, how does my body respond? When I hear this comment, what happens to my breathing, stance, or tension within me? Is my first response to react or shut down? How does that response sit in my body? What if I tried something else, how does that feel? I try not to let my thoughts run to “IF I do this, THEN that will happen.”
I will actually try a possibility and see what happens. Observing something requires it to have actually happened, instead of anticipating it. If something doesn’t work, then that is simply new information — and more information is always helpful to make a better choice next time.
If you’d like to read more, HERE is some more information about these techniques, and places to learn more about them. I hope that you find something that can help you in the moment — even if just for a moment. Sometimes that’s all we need to reset and start to form better habits!
Erica Deerinwater, our Billing Specialist, is a native New Mexican who has worked in and around medical communities almost her whole professional career. She was a stay-at-home mom in 2010 when her first child was born by cesarean. Her second child was born naturally at Dar a Luz in 2011. She enjoys helping Dar a Luz clients make the most of their insurance coverage, and feels so lucky and honored be part of such an amazing group of women and the birth center’s mission.