Whether you struggle with anxious thoughts moment to moment, in your every day, or in social settings, this article is for you. Let’s just call it like it is — living with anxiety sucks. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), Generalized Anxiety Disorder affects 6.8 million adults yet only 43.2% of the population are receiving treatment. That’s a lot of people…
I’m here writing this because I struggled with chronic anxiety for years. Anxiety kept me from getting to sleep at night, it held me back from going certain places, seeing certain people, and living authentically. If you’re here, I’m guessing that you or maybe someone you know is struggling with anxiety or depression, too. Maybe it looks similar to my journey and maybe it looks very different, but either way, I want to share some of the practices that helped work my way through out of chronic anxiety.
I’ve never had an anxiety attack, but I know for certain that living with anxiety can be really hard. One of the most challenging parts about it was the fact that it’s such an inward journey; I had so many people reach out to me and say, “I had no idea you had anxiety!” It took me a while to find different tools and practices that helped ease my anxiety, and slowly I started to implement them throughout my day and into my daily routine. This sense of stability, structure and support was exactly what I needed to heal my own anxiety.
Yoga Therapy Practices for Healing Anxiety
My journey into yoga therapy didn’t start because of my anxiety. I actually found yoga therapy when I had chronic pain and was working full time as a dental hygienist. After years of struggling with chronic pain from years of bad posture and a car accident, I stumbled into my first yoga class. After a few classes of hot yoga, I started to feel better. It was the increase in energy and decrease in general discomfort that prompted the download, “You get to heal your own pain then help others heal theirs.”
Fast forward through 1,000+ hours of studying to become a Certified Yoga Therapist, I no longer had chronic pain. Once I felt better physically, I really started to feel the mental and emotional benefits of Yoga. Now, I help people all over the world ditch chronic pain, stress and anxiety inside my monthly Yoga Therapy + Wellness program, Aligned. It is such an honor to share the practices that have helped me so much, so let’s dive in with a few here.
Practice One: Create A Morning Routine
This Healthline article talks about anxiety, and the fact that most people that experience anxiety, feel it in the morning time. Furthermore, our stress and overwhelm levels are sky high when we wake up in the morning, According to a report from NCBI, the levels of cortisol, the “stress hormone,” are the highest in the first hour of waking people with an increased level of stress.
First, it helps to create structure, stability, and support for your wandering and worried mind. It can ground you and bring you into the present moment. It can be the one time every day for you to be present in your body and your heart. For those of you who struggle with anxiety, you know how important those are.
Your morning routine can be anything you’d like but I suggest you start simply. Here’s a few steps to help you get started:
- Set some lose guidelines so you don’t wake up in the morning wondering what to do.
- Let this be an exploration: some of the practices may not resonate with you and that’s okay, focus on finding what works.
- Be clear: how much time will you spend?
- Be clear: what does your morning routine entail? (Write it out + start simple)
- Set a goal for yourself and add in a fun prize if you hit your goal!
If you’re looking for some practices to add to your routine, check out the ones I suggest below. If you’re interested in live classes and on-demand classes that are specific to anxiety, consider joining Aligned, my affordable monthly program.
Breathe Deeply as a Natural Remedy for Anxiety and Depression
Now let’s talk about utilizing something that you do all of the time as a natural remedy for anxiety and depression — breathing! Breathing is actually a really common form of psychotherapy used throughout the world. When you learn how to use and shift your breath, you have the capacity to heal anxiety in your physical body. Honestly, I didn’t believe it until I actually tried it, which is why you might be wondering how that’s possible!? Let’s dive in.
According to the Australasian College of Nutritional and Environmental Medicine, this article discusses how people with anxiety tend to chronically over breathe or hyperventilate. If you’ve ever experienced high levels of anxiety, or an anxiety attack, this probably makes sense. Luckily, there are different breathing practices in yoga therapy that focus on creating the opposite affect–instead of hyperventilating, you slow down your breath. Regulating your breath helps to calm the nervous system and bring the body into a state of relaxation, also known as parasympathetic nervous system.
One example of breathing practices for anxiety is to slow down your breath, and more specifically, slow down your exhalation. Simply slowing down your exhalation allows the body to shift into a state of relaxation, where healing can happen. Not surprisingly, according to this article on NCBI, the slower that you breathe, the longer life you are expected to have. That’s right, all you have to do is focus on slow breathing and not only will you minimize anxiety but also expand your capacity to live a longer life.
You can do this by letting each breath that you take get longer and longer. The longer and slower your breathing, the more at ease you’ll feel. Try it now. Start by noticing how your breath feels right now: the inhalation and the exhalation. Is it long? Short? Fast? Slow? Rigid? Easy? Pay attention. Then start to stretch it out so that each inhalation gets a little longer (try for 1 second longer) and each exhalation gets longer. Just like with anything, this can take some practice, but believe me, if I can do it and completely shift my breathing pattern, so can you.
Richard Miller, author, Yoga Therapist, Founder of IRest Institute and Breath Facilitator, recommends doing breathing practices every day that focus on lengthening your breath. Start in the morning or before you go to bed at night–set an alarm for a couple minutes, explore your breath and notice how you feel afterwards. Again, like with anything, it simply takes practice.
Move Your Body to Heal Anxiety and Depression
That’s right, moving your body can help to decrease anxiety, so choose a movement practice that you enjoy doing and do it more often. I truly believe that when we take time to move our bodies, we tap into deeper healing capacity in our bodies. From Yoga therapy and exercising to shaking and dancing to your favorite song, getting into your body is EXHILARATING. Let’s talk about why that is.
- Moving your body helps to release muscle tension, which in turn helps to reduce feelings of anxiousness.
- Increasing your heart rate helps to change your brain chemistry, increasing the availability of important anti-anxiety neurochemicals, including serotonin.
- Exercise activates the frontal regions of the brain which are responsible for executive function, which helps control our reaction system to real or imagined threats. Regular movement helps to build the resources in our bodies that create resilience against the up and down waves of emotion. In fact,
- according to NCBI, engaging in exercise can divert you from the very thing you’re anxious about.
Types of Movement to Help Heal Anxiety
- Yoga therapy
- Running or exercising
- Shaking exercises
- Dancing to your favorite song(s)
Set an alarm in your phone or a date for yourself on the calendar to dive in. I highly recommend daily movement. If you have no idea where to start check out my free Anxiety Guide on my website to help you dive in deeper!
Simply Sitting with the Anxious Thoughts
Before I dive in, I want you to have an open mind with this next subject, because I understand that a lot of people’s initial reactions to this is, “That can’t be true.” Most people with anxiety and stress, tend to avoid sitting with their emotions. We get good at keeping it close enough but ignoring it at the same time. However, learning to listen to the feelings, thoughts and subtle cues hidden beneath the layers of anxiety. The layers that make you feel less than or different than others. It’s time to slow down and start to pay attention.
First, I would recommend that you incorporate a deep awareness and listening practice into your daily routine and perhaps in addition to, or combined with, your breathing and movement practices. GAME-CHANGER!
Secondly, there’s no “comfortable” way to dive in, just dive in. If you’re not used to getting quiet and paying attention to your inner world, it can feel really challenging, overwhelming and confusing.
Thirdly, set parameters for yourself. Whether you want to do this practice “on-the-go” when anxiety hits or you want to incorporate this every day, be clear.
Lastly, just listen, notice and feel. Here’s a few steps to help guide you:
- Connect to, follow and slow down your breathing.
- Feel your body relax and soften
- Ask yourself, “What/how do I feel?”
- Where do you feel this in your body? What’s it telling you?
- Can you breathe into it and let is soften, relax or release?
- If needed, ask yourself, “What’s beneath that?”
Using Natural Remedies for Anxiety and Depression
Your body holds deep wisdom and the healing codes you need; keep digging with a sense of curiosity.
Don’t forget to grab my free guide for Anxiety, and if you’re interested in trying other breathing, meditation and movement practices to help become your own healer and ditch anxiety, check out Aligned.
Aligned is an affordable monthly membership program designed to help you live pain free, ditch stress and anxiety and start connecting with your truth, power and passion. With 100+ on-demand yoga therapy classes, live classes every week, and more, this program will help assist you into deeper levels of awareness and healing.
I hope this helped! I’m curious to see how these practices resonate with you, so feel free to share in the comments below; I’d love to hear from you!
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About the Author
My name is Caitlin, I’m a chronic pain survivor, Certified Yoga Therapist, Registered Dental Hygienist, and founder and CEO of Caitlin Parsons Yoga Therapy, a yoga therapy and wellness company. I recently made my dreams a reality by quitting my full-time job as a dental hygienist to pursue my passion and purpose helping others get back into alignment.
Now I use my personal and professional experiences with chronic pain, stress and anxiety, and injury recovery to help women step back into their own alignment – in their bodies, minds and throughout their lives. I help empower women to create balance in their bodies and minds so they can access greater levels of freedom in their lives inside my monthly membership program (Aligned), group coaching program for hygienists (The Aligned Hygienist), a Yoga + Coaching Program for Dental Teams, and private yoga therapy coaching.
I love to share my knowledge and expertise on mindfulness and therapeutic yoga for back pain through my blog and social media platforms as well as guest appearances on other inspiring and like-minded podcasts.
Client Success Stories
“I started working with Caitlin because I was tired of being in pain all the time and had learned about yoga therapy from a friend. I had such bad hip pain, it hurts to sit down, get up, exercise and walk around. The pain moved down my leg sometimes and up into my low back.
Now I feel amazingly strong, am able to actually bend down and reach my shoes so I can tie them! I gained an immense amount of strength in my hips as well as have learned many things I can do on my own to keep going in the right direction. I really enjoyed the one on one time! And the fact that Caitlin came to my house was amazing. I had no excuses to not show up for myself and the results paid off! I have already recommended Caitlin to my friends and will continue to do so.” – Cary
“I started working with Caitlin because I had recently gotten surgery from a brain tumor. I had very little mobility in my shoulder and arm. I was concerned that the lack of mobility, discomfort and reduced strength would increase chances for more pain and injury. Working with Caitlin was amazing, I would recommend her personal approach to anyone. She is dedicated to her work, has great knowledge and communication. Caitlin does a wonderful job guiding you back to your body and yourself.” – Ania
“I started working with Caitlin because I had chronic low back pain and regular flare-ups. I was told by multiple doctors that I would always be in pain and my posture would never improve unless I had surgery. The pain got so bad that I couldn’t play volleyball anymore, which created a negative spiral in my mood, energy and throughout my life. The results I got with Caitlin was amazing. I no longer have chronic pain or chronic acid reflux which I was on medication for. I’m much healthier and happier now than I ever have been!” – Russ M.
“I started working with Caitlin because I had neck pain, shoulder pain, neck congestion and ringing in my ears. I was working a lot, taking care of my family, and I was beginning to spiral downwards in a state of stress and pain. With all of that, life became a chore. I wanted to learn how to take care of myself so I could live a happy life and take care of my responsibilities from a place of joy, not dread. I wanted to get my neck to a place where it wasn’t painful and tightening every time I was stressed.
Now I no longer have neck pain or tightness, I’m stressed and ear ringing has greatly reduced. My body feels so much better as a whole. Caitlin helped me find peace. Caitlin has an innate sense of knowing how to tailor each session to fit how I’m feeling in my body and what I need. Caitlin helped me change the way I react to stress; now I’m more mindful of my reactions and the way I take care of my body. I’m stronger in my body and mind now which has positively affected my entire life.” – Donna M.
“I started working with Caitlin because I was completely disconnected from my body because of a genetic disease, having constant, chronic pain, extreme trouble sleeping and anxiety living in my own skin. I wanted to feel better- I wanted to have less pain and have a better quality of life–building strength and reconnecting with my body were a bonus. Working with Caitlin exceeded my expectations- I sleep so much better now and my pain has improved significantly. I’m less anxious and have practices to help when my symptoms flare. I’m more grounded and embodied, I have a daily yoga practice that continues to build on the foundation Caitlin helped me create.
Caitlin is incredible, she validated me and helped me work on my whole self. She customized everything to work specifically for me. I 100% recommend working with Caitlin. She believed that healing was possible and she held that vision for me and brought it to each session, and eventually I believed and embodied it too. She helped me find the power in every single baby step towards a more whole and healthy life, and I am completely transformed by it. This work isn’t the quick fix, it’s deep, holistic, soul-led healing.” – Hayley
“Working with Caitlin was the best thing I ever did for myself. I thought that I would always have pain because I’ve done so many things to try and help but they haven’t worked, until yoga therapy with Caitlin. Now I am living with less pain, my posture has improved, I am getting stronger, and my clothes are getting looser.” – Joan
“Before I came to Caitlin, I was taking Motrin and Tylenol on a daily basis like clockwork. I would skip going to the pool or out with my family after work due to the pain in my body. I was very depressed and isolating myself from activities that I really enjoy doing with my family and friends. I had pain on a daily basis in my lower back, shoulder blades, hips and left knee. Some days I had so much pain and inflammation in my body I felt like I couldn’t make it through the day.
Since starting FTF I am slowly starting to get control of my pain and inflammation through the online program one-on-one sessions with Caitlin. Inflammation is decreasing, I’m sitting up taller and I’m more aware of my posture both at work and in my daily routines outside of work. I am no longer having to take Motrin and Tylenol on a daily basis and I am able to walk longe distances without pain in my knees. “
“I never thought I would get out of back, knee, and postural pain. I also have a curvature in my back that I have been told most of my life cannot be changed. When I came to Caitlin, I wasn’t playing my favorite sport and I was miserable at work. Even doing simple things was really painful. Caitlin completely personalizes her services based on your needs. She takes considerable time to answer all of my questions and targets my sessions for exactly what I need that day and what my goals are. Caitlin always asks me what is going on and listens really well. She is a wealth of knowledge about yoga, human anatomy, and how humans should move. No two sessions are the same. We changed the way I move while doing simple things like sitting in a car or at my desk, putting dishes away and bending over to clean dog poop so that my back is protected from re-injury. I am healing my back partly to return to playing volleyball. I now understand how to be in my volleyball stances and movements so that I can avoid injury when I get back to playing. I am already standing up much straighter and feel more confident. I never thought I would feel this good in my body and I am so wow-ed by Caitlins mastery of her craft.” – Russel
“Caitlin really knows how to curate yoga program for sustainable strengthening. My shoulders and core used to be weaknesses but after a few sessions I see my posture has improved and the range of motion in my shoulders. She’s caring, fun, and a pleasure to work with. I’d recommend her to anyone interested in trying yoga therapy.”
“Caitlin is fantastic. I’ve gone to many of her classes, specifically those with a focus on healthy backs. I’ve worked with her as a therapist on issues I have with my neck and shoulders from work. She’s patient, attentive and offers focused one-on-one sessions. The exercises I’ve done really help me combat the negative effects of sitting at a desk all day, highly recommend working with this lovely and professional woman!!”
“Caitlin has helped me grow and learn a lot about myself. She helped me realize the strong power of breath when I was over stressed and unaware of my mental needs. Caitlin helped me focus my energy, both good and bad, on my breath. With every deep inhale and cleansing exhale, I felt my stress and anxiety lessen and lessen. Eight years later, my main mantra is to ‘just breathe.’ It has literally changed my life. Along with the power of breath, Caitlin has helped me keep a constant awareness of how I physically hold myself. Not only has my posture changed, but I have also become stronger and my confidence has increased. I recently began running and was having pain in my hip and side leg. Through working with Caitlin, my pain subsided. She put together an easy to follow yoga sequence that helped my muscles and ligaments heal. I fully trust in Caitlin as a yoga professional, and recommend her gentle way of teaching to anyone.”
“This program has been so amazing for my pain. In just one class, my neck and shoulder tension released more than it has in years. This program has been so instrumental in managing and controlling my stress. It’s so easy to be “on the hamster wheel”. I look forward to my yoga time and meditation and have noticed a huge difference in my pain level. My family has even noticed my calmer demeanor. I couldn’t believe how much my pain was linked to my stress.”