How yoga can help you overcome stress and anxiety
According to mental health statistics in the UK, 1 in 7 people (14.7%) are experiencing mental health problems in the workplace which leads to 12.7% of all sickness absence days in the UK due to mental health conditions.
High-functioning anxiety is when an individual notices one misstep in the way someone acts towards you, consequently dwelling on the scenario for days, by replaying the whole episode and wondering what could have been done in that moment to avoid the subsequent ill-feeling. The person may attempt to appear unfazed, as if there is nothing wrong, because explaining it to someone who may be concerned might be too stressful.
High-functioning anxiety usually transforms itself into nervous habits of foot tapping, nail biting or running your own fingers through your hair. It’s the constant feeling of a “punch in the gut”, often accompanied with heart palpitations and nervous laughter. It is not knowing how to start a conversation with a person with ease – whether it’s at a local store, at work or in a college class. It’s about forming sentences in your head before being able to say it out loud in order to not feel judged by the other person.
All the while, anxiety appears perfectly calm because most of us are always looking for a way to channel that never ending energy in the forms of tasks that continuously keeps us busy like writing, painting and meditating.
The most recent Psychiatric Morbidity Survey indicates that there are around 3 million people affected with an anxiety disorder. The primary method of reducing anxiety is to tire out the thoughts stuck in your head, encourage breathing, meditating and finding inner peace which can be found by a complimentary, non-medicated exercise called yoga.
For more than a thousand years ago, yoga, developed by the Indus-Sarasvati civilisation in Northern India, has been used as a practice to promote calm and inner peace. Now that it has been established as a part of mainstream culture, there is an increased interest in using yoga as therapy for psychological problems such as anxiety. Today, western medicine is coming round to the idea of using it as treatment for anxiety.
In 2015, a paper was published by the Journal JAMA Internal Medicine, which looked at 47 studies of meditation and found evidence that mindfulness meditation reduces symptoms of anxiety. It explained further that yoga meditation encourages the practice of “staying in the moment” and embracing troublesome thoughts immediately in order to avoid bottling them up in your head for later.
One of the best benefits of yoga is how it helps a person manage stress which has overwhelming effects on the human body and mind. Dr. Natalie Nevins, a board-certified osteopathic family physician and a certified Kundalini Yoga instructor says, “Stress can reveal itself in many ways, including back or neck pain, sleeping patterns, headaches, drug abuse, and an inability to concentrate. Yoga can be very effective in developing coping skills and reaching a more positive outlook on life.
Regular yoga practice creates mental clarity and calmness; increases body awareness; relieves chronic stress patterns; relaxes the mind; centres attention and sharpens concentration.” Dr. Nevins adds, “Body and self-awareness are particularly beneficial because they can help with early detection of physical problems and allow for early prevention action.”
According to Dr. Nevins, aside from mental benefits from yoga practice, it also has a number of physical benefits including the lowering of blood pressure and reduced insomnia, met with improved respiration, increased flexibility, balanced metabolism and weight reduction.
Writer William Broad talked about yoga’s ability to improve mental health in his book, The Science of Yoga. He said, “The portrait that emerges from decades of mood and metabolic studies is of a discipline that succeeds brilliantly at smoothing the ups and downs of emotional life.
“It uses relaxation, breathing and postures to bring about an environment of inner bending and stretching. The current evidence seems to suggest that yoga can reduce despair and hopelessness to the point of saving lives.”
Whether you may be suffering from anxiety, stress or simply want to take some time off to relax, yoga is a helpful way of restoring balance to your life, giving you some time to calm your mind, which is worth adapting into your weekly or even daily routine.