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6 Ways to Soften Anxiety

HOT’s Zelly Restorick asked Spike Warwick – local evidence-based mind body practitioner specialising in pain, stress, trauma and anxiety relief – to write a few words about self-care in these challenging times. We are – as so often in the past – being fed a hugely overwhelming diet of fear. We – and puzzlingly, also the fear-propagators – are fully aware of the depleting effects on our physical and mental health of fear, stress, anxiety and depression. Here are some words of wisdom from Spike to help us counteract this bombardment.

There’s no doubt that many of us are feeling more anxious in these challenging times. For some of us, this means that our systems go into high alert: we experience racing thoughts, muscle tension, churning guts, sleeplessness, agitation or a pounding heart. For others, the natural physiological reaction is to space out, switch off, feel low, fatigued or disconnected. Why on earth does all this happen?

In the days of our ancestors, danger often appeared suddenly – and could be life-threatening. It made sense to be highly vigilant, ready to react quickly by running away or fighting, or, if the threat was overwhelming, to freeze and collapse into numbness to avoid the predator’s attention or the pain of the kill.

No matter what our own particular impulses may be – and we often swing back and forth between different reactions – it may be helpful to know that these are ancient and powerful evolutionary responses: they are understandable – and they’re a sign that our minds and bodies are doing the best they can to protect us. They were competent responses back in the time of hunter-gatherers; they’re just not so useful now, and we often have trouble switching them off.

So what can we do to calm these overactive protective reactions?  Simply thinking ‘I’m ok, no really, I’m ok!’ may not be enough. We need a variety of strategies that engage our minds and bodies in antidotes to the stress response. Here are 6 suggestions which you can adapt to suit you. As you try them, be creative, patient, and kind to yourself.

Attend to basic physical needs
Have a glass of water, a nutritious bite to eat, create a breeze by opening a window, or more warmth with a favourite pair of socks. Notice these simple, human achievements and dwell on the sense of satisfaction they bring to your body and emotions, no matter how subtle or mild.

Stay grounded
Being grounded means paying attention to what’s happening in the present moment.  Find simple ways to do this: notice the view from (or inside) your room, the pressure of your body against the chair or floor, the temperature of the air, the sound of cars or birdsong outside. Enjoying pleasant tastes and smells can help too.

Stay connected
Connecting with people we feel comfortable and relaxed with – it doesn’t have to be perfect! – is a great antidote to anxiety. It’s still ok to wave or smile across the road at a neighbour, to share an online chat with a friend or relative, and to remind yourself of all the people who care about you.

Divert yourself
Anxiety diminishes when we pay it no attention.  Gather together as many distractions as possible that fully engage you: brain training exercises, jigsaws, knitting, singing, or any other absorbing tasks that you really enjoy. Make sure to have a good range, including ones that mean you have to move about. Take up one of your beloved distractions anytime you feel a surge of anxiety.

Be playful
Play and silliness are powerful rebuttals to fear and anxiety. Even if you don’t much feel like it, when you find something playful or funny to attend to it can work wonders for your nervous system. What makes you laugh? Do you dare to disco dance?!

Be compassionate
Remind yourself that your own and others’ reactions are understandable, given the times we live in. They’re not always under conscious control, but we can soften the effects by having compassion, knowing that we’ve all struggled at some point, and that we could all use some extra kindness and empathy just now.

Reminders and celebrating each small step

In times of crisis, the most important thing is to remember to actually do the things that help, and so having reminders and instructions by the sink, by the sofa, by the bed, can prompt us back to more beneficial activities whenever we get caught up with worry.  Whatever you find safe, pleasing, comforting or amusing is likely to help.  Cheer yourself on, know that you’re not alone in feeling this way, and that you can take steps to regulate your system.  Be confident that you can make a difference, and celebrate every small success along the way.

Spike is a BodyMind Practitioner specialising in working with persistent pain, stress, anxiety and trauma. You can email her at:  Or for more information go to

Spike Warwick is currently Offering Online Treatments for Pain, Stress, Anxiety and Trauma & Massage Tuition for Self/Partner Care

(Pay only what you can in these challenging times.)

Posted 16:12 Wednesday, Apr 15, 2020 In: Health Matters

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