Ever experienced lying in bed for hours – worrying about the things you need to do, obligations you need to meet and the toxic relationships you can’t quite escape from – and you’re just not able to sleep no matter how hard you try?
Yeah, us too. It sucks, doesn’t it?
When you feel overwhelmed and stressed out, it’s so easy to start panicking and thinking the worst. And, even though you know that worrying is not at all productive and won’t even help you solve your problems, you can’t seem to stop. It’s like when you have a toothache – your tongue just won’t quit touching that aching tooth.
So what do you do? Other than implementing a good mental health habit early on so that you don’t even start worrying, what can you do when you’re already right smack in the middle of a major worry-fest and you can’t see any light at the end of the tunnel? Or worse, you’re so deep down the funk that you’ve started believing that that light is a bullet train coming right at you?
Yes, you don’t think there’s anything to smile about. Everything is going down the drain and your heart is heavy. And how can you smile when you’re not happy? It turns out, you don’t just smile because you’re happy. You can also be happy because you’re smiling (if you’re interested in the psychological study of smiling, check out this article).
It’s called facial feedback. Because the brain is paying attention to what the body is doing, smiling acts as a signal to the brain. How does this work? When the brain senses the movement of the facial muscles required to smile, it interprets it as “I must be happy.” And vice-versa. If you’re not using that muscle, then your brain thinks, “ I must not be happy”.
Basically, it’s like you’re faking it til you make it. Except, you’re deliberately engaging your “smile” muscles to help lift your spirits. We don’t know about you, but we find it’s very difficult to worry when you’re smiling. So give it a try – go in front of a mirror and smile as if you mean it. It will help.
And when you combine that with the next two steps, you get a powerful trinity that will definitely help curb the anxiety, depression and stress that comes with too much worrying.
2. Breathe deeply.
This technique is all about counteracting the body’s usual response to stress – which is anxiety and shallow breathing. When you breathe deeply, your heart stops racing (or at the very least, slows down), your mind clears and you find the mental space to start relaxing different muscles.
Try this Qigong breathing technique next time you’re caught up in an anxious cycle of worrying.
- Lie down in a comfortable position (on your bed is fine).
- Place your hands on your lower abdomen, just below your navel.
- Inhale slowly through your nose and into your lungs, letting your abdomen push out against your hands.
- After your abdomen has expanded, keep inhaling as deeply as possible.
- Then exhale slowly through your nose, pulling your abdomen in towards your spine and completely emptying it of air.
- Repeat several times.
If you’d like to find out about deep breathing from a Qigong master, take a look at the video below.
Psychological studies have shown time and again that the practice of writing, or rather effective journaling, can help people dealing with mental conditions or those working towards a more positive frame of mind.
According to the psychologist Barbara Markway, “There’s simply no better way to learn about your thought processes than to write them down.”
So, how exactly can journaling help?
According to the Positive Psychology Program, journaling has the following overall general benefits:
- Boost your mood/affect
- Enhance your sense of well-being
- Reduce symptoms of depression before an important event (like an exam)
- Reduce intrusion and avoidance symptoms post-trauma
- Improve your working memory
In fact, a study published in the Journal of Affective Disorders in 2013, had 40 people with major depressive disorder engaged in either “expressive writing” about a particular emotional event or just descriptive writing about a non-emotional event. The participants wrote for 20 minutes each session, three days in a row. In the end, those who wrote about their emotions showed a significant decrease in depression.
So, how do you engage in effective journaling? Well, the one way we found most helpful was through bullet journaling. As we mentioned here, we’ve just recently started the habit but the results so far have been impressive.
Want to see how other people use the bullet journal for their mental health?
There are loads of examples on Pinterest but we personally adore Elizabeth’s (Jihi Elephant) layouts.
The combination of these three things have done wonders for our mental health and we hope they’ll help you too.
DISCLAIMER: If you feel that your emotions are spiralling out of control or you suspect that you are suffering from depression, anxiety or another mental illness, please don’t hesitate to contact your doctor. Mental illness is a medical condition and needs to be treated seriously.
How about you?
What do you do to combat worrying?