If you read the chronicles of my journey through the treacherous waters of anxiety, you’ll see that one of my pet peeves is empty self-help articles with things like “think positive,” “exercise,” “sit in the sun and stare at a butterfly,” etc. as viable roads to healing. Way to diminish the complexity of mental health conditions and the people who live every single day with them.
My struggle with anxiety disorders began four years ago, and any attempt for long-term healing has failed miserably. It is much more helpful to find ways to cope with the day-to-day symptoms of my anxiety while I’m seeking long-term treatment instead of only relying on counseling to bring me to the day where I will for once and for all be “cured.” I’m not sure such a day exists, but daily coping mechanisms give me hope that it does.
I used to read a lot of the mindless self-help articles. I even tried to implement some of their tips and tricks. It only left me disappointed when it didn’t work. Was I doing anxiety wrong? Why weren’t these things working for me? It took me a couple years to realize that people were just writing hogwash to get published.
Despite this, I’m not ignorant of the fact that exercise can be beneficial to the anxious among us even if it only grants an hour of reprieve. I’ve tried yoga off and on. Each time, I fall off the bandwagon after about a month of raving about how great it is. It’s kind of like drinking a lot of coffee. After a while, the amount that used to perk me up just sends me deeper into a depressive slump.
One yogic practice, however, stuck with me, and I use it at least once a week to alleviate anxiety. The best part about it is that you can do it anywhere because it’s a breathing technique! It’s called Nadi Shodhan Pranayama (or alternate nostril breathing).
Here is an article that talks about how to do it in depth, but essentially it involves using either a thumb and middle finger or a thumb and forefinger to press one nostril closed for an inhalation and the other nostril closed for an exhalation. Repeat until calmness washes over you.
I’ve used this technique in class, in the car, in my room, and pretty much in any number of the few places my anxiety allows me to go. With this tool quite literally at my fingertips, I can venture a little further from my comfort zone every day.
The technique helps with all things from run-of-the-mill anxiety to full-blown panic attacks. It can also be used to alleviate mild headache pain and any other ailment that could possibly benefit from a moment of solitude.
I wouldn’t share this if it did not work, and I am always open to natural remedies for anxiety as long as they’re actually doable as opposed to being empty and nebulous. There is hope for ultimate healing from mental health issues, but in the mean time, let’s work together to find ways to better cope.
This post was originally published on the Huffington Post website.