If you are feeling anxious, overwhelmed or like you’re not managing change very effectively, it might just be time for a mindset refresh.
Remember when constant disruptions to daily living were… unprecedented?
If there’s one thing we can all agree on, it’s that the last two and a half years have been overwhelming – with natural disasters, the pandemic, the rising cost of living, and – for many – an increased sense of social isolation.
Maybe you’ve noticed that the lack of stability and the constantly changing goalposts has taken a toll on your mind or body.
When people are feeling anxious and fearful about what the future might hold, or what’s happening around them, our amygdala, which is the fear centre in the brain, becomes enlarged. Whenever the amygdala becomes active and enlarged, we don’t have access to our critical thinking in our pre-frontal neocortex. The amygdala puts the body into fight, flight or freeze as physical survival becomes paramount.
This is fine if we’re dealing with a physical threat from which we needed to escape or tackle but, for many people, they were left with a lot of circulating cortisol and adrenaline which impedes the immune system and stops our critical thinking capacities.
From the physical to the existential, here are some signs to look out for, and how to address them in a healthy way.
You’re feeling more anxious than usual
Feeling uncertain about what might happen next is quite common, now more than ever. Staying in an anxious state of mind for an extended period is exhausting and unsustainable.
If you’re feeling beyond stress or worry, chances are, you’re feeling anxious. And the first step to resolving anxiety is understanding it.
With over three decades working with people who experience anxiety, we’ve identified practical strategies that can make a profound difference.
Quest for Life’s Befriending Anxiety online course helps you to understand the various forms of anxiety and the pathways towards managing it more effectively.
Simple activities that address our physical needs – such as exercise, nutrition and good quality sleep – are the foundation of managing ourselves through challenging times. We can also learn to settle the brain and its chaotic thinking through activities like ‘coming to our senses’ or focusing on, and deepening the breath.
Some people find doing the ‘box breath’ helpful – we breathe in to the count of 4, hold for the count of 4 and breathe out to the count of 4. You can increase or decrease the number you count according to your preferences.
You’re losing sleep
Feeling… off? Chances are, your sleep, or lack of, has something to do with it.
In heightened periods of anxiety, it’s common to lose sleep over daily stresses and concerns. Which makes things difficult, given how important sleep is to overall health.
But a lowered sleep quality isn’t something you just have to accept – there are plenty of aids available to help.
We educate people about sleep hygiene and how we can best attain deep and refreshing sleep in our programs at Quest, as it is such a common problem for people. Sometimes our difficulty is falling asleep, while for others it might be staying or getting back to asleep. There are a host of simple, practical steps you can take to ensure that you improve the quality, length and depth of your sleep.
You might find it helpful to make a deep commitment to yourself to not think things through in the middle of the night. We know that the brain is literally in two separate functioning patterns during your sleep and, if you awaken and start thinking about your worries, you have no access to your critical thinking mind – your pre-frontal cortex. This is your ‘executive functioning brain’.
This is why we often come up with solutions in the middle of the night that don’t stand up to the light of day. I’m sure you know those nights when your mind goes over and over a problem and we end up wide awake, tossing and turning. If you wake up with an insight, that’s different. That comes in an instant and is not birthed through a long thinking process. If you’re not thinking with the right section of your brain, your choices and decisions are unlikely to be insightful, wise or considered.
If you are having trouble sleeping in the middle of the night, maybe, after 15 minutes, get up and read something, make a cup of tea or listen to a guided practice that will talk you back to sleep.
Don’t eat in the hour and a half before you go to sleep so that your body can focus on sleep rather than digestion. You could also create a ritual in that hour before you go to bed. Your brain will begin to recognise the signs of ‘winding down’ and it will cooperate.
Perhaps, before bed, have a bath or shower and wash off the day. Maybe use some aromatherapy so that you develop an association between that particular fragrance or aroma and going to sleep. Make sure there’s fresh air in the room, and that your bedroom is kept in an orderly way so that it’s a restful space for you to find that deep, refreshing sleep that we all badly need.
Quest’s Healing Sleep online course is designed for anyone experiencing issues with achieving good quality sleep. The self-paced course is delivered over 4 video modules and provides a foundation for developing a personal plan to support deep, healthy and restful sleep. There is an excellent relaxation practice designed to lead you into deep and restful sleep included in the Healing Sleep course.
Your breathing is becoming more shallow
The signs you need a mindset refresh aren’t all related to your mind. Physical manifestations of burnout and stress are a lot more common than is talked about.
Shallow breathing can be a sign of stress that shouldn’t be ignored. We need to deepen the breath, bring it right down into the belly. Breathing is one of the most important things we do, every single moment of our lives. Make sure you’re doing it right.
You’re holding tension in the body
Another physical symptom of stress is holding unnecessary tension in your body. Feeling a little more tight and sore than usual? Chances are your muscles are tightening to safeguard you against injury and pain.
However, this may be causing more pain than it’s saving.
Releasing emotional or mental stress is crucial to resolving your pain long-term. Activities like massage, yoga, and light exercise are your next step to help.
You feel like you’re at a crossroads
After many disruptions to our lives for over two years now, it’s no wonder so many people are questioning their future.
Many people feel that the workplace has changed, and they don’t want to go back as before. People may have found working from home has brought up some deeper questions about their own existence.
You may be asking yourself:
“Am I living the life I want to live? Do I want to continue in this work? Do I want a different career? Do I want to move out of the city?”— Petrea King
While looking at an unknown future may feel daunting, it’s an opportunity for shaping a new life that suits you.
This time of great change on the planet is not just in our personal life, but in our community life and in our national and global lives too. This change is happening on a planetary scale.
Change is always a little bit traumatic for most people because we’re leaving the familiar. But it’s also a bit exciting because we’re stepping into the unknown. And it’s at moments like this, those deeper questions of our own existence, often surface,
“who am I? What am I doing on the planet? Am I living the life I came here to live? If not, why not? And what am I going to do about that now?”
To help us adapt to these changes, Quest has created three online courses, incorporating the latest research in neuroscience, epigenetics and evidence-based lifestyle habits, to provide you with self-help strategies to restore and replenish your body, mind and spirit.
Feel like you’re ready for a change? Help yourself to flourish and sign up today to one of the Quest for Life courses for just $99 each or complete all three for $250.
Each course includes:
- 4 video modules
- Integrated course workbook
- Personal Plan template and guide
- Additional resources – research and links
- Downloadable meditation MP3s
Quest for Life can also help you through our residential program, Healing Your Life. Regain control of your life and move towards peace of mind by learning strategies and techniques to manage your response to life’s events and ways to calm an anxious mind.