This 20 minute Mindfulness Exercise is available as a free download thanks to our wellbeing expert, Kelly Wariner. We recommend downloading it onto your phone, grabbing your headphones and your trainers, and heading out for a walk whilst you listen. Kelly’s soothing voice will help you to relax and take a calming moment whilst stretching your legs and breathing in some fresh air. You could even grab the pram or strap baby to you and take the opportunity for a mindful walk during nap time. Then find out more about mindfulness from Kelly, how it works and how you can benefit from this technique more below…

For many new mums our anxiety manifests as a lack of focus or concentration. Our brains are running at a million miles an hour and we become overwhelmed, struggling to do anything efficiently or well.

Mindfulness is all about stopping, just for a moment, and concentrating on the present. A lot of people benefit from an exercise known as The Five Senses. When things feel overwhelming, stop and concentrate

What can you see?

What can you hear?

What can you smell?

What can you touch?

What can you taste?

How can we manage anxiety effectively?

Kelly Wariner, Wellbeing and Yoga

Space to Balance offers all-levels yoga classes, workshops and wellbeing coaching.

When you’re in that place of feeling anxious, worried or stressed, it can feel all encompassing. But you can do something about it and steer yourself in the direction of calm. Here are three simple techniques you can use to instantly reduce levels of anxiety and transport yourself back to a place of balance.

1. Breathe Deeply

When we’re anxious, we tend to breathe shallowly in our chest, which only increases the anxiety and stress that we feel. By instead breathing deeply into the belly, we counteract this and switch over into the parasympathetic nervous system, restoring normal breathing and reducing anxiety. Place your hands over your belly, and practice breathing deeply to expand the belly as you inhale and let it relax as you exhale. Breathe slowly and consciously, keeping your attention with your breath.

Another great way to calm the nervous system is by extending your exhales, making them slightly longer than your inhales. For example, if you breathe in for a count of four, try breathing out for a count of six – adjust the numbers to make sure your breathing is natural and comfortable. Our breath is the most powerful tool we have, and when we know how to use it properly, we can use it to help us navigate back to calm every time anxiety rears its head.

2. Notice it, name it, embrace it

Let’s face it, anxiety is not generally a nice feeling. We don’t want to experience it, and we might wish it would disappear. But in the wise words of psychologist Carl Jung, ‘what you resist persists.’ Resisting anxiety tends only to make it stronger and more overwhelming, so we can instead use mindfulness to become aware of anxiety, allow for it and feel it fully. As counterintuitive as it may sound, when we allow uncomfortable feelings to be truly felt, they usually subside a lot quicker.

Try these three steps.

Notice it – become aware that your anxiety is trying to alert you to something it perceives as a danger and pay attention to it.

Name it – whether you say to yourself ‘anxiety is here’ or even give your anxiety voice a name, naming it can help to reduce its intensity.

Embrace it – instead of fighting it, let the feelings of anxiety wash over you. Imagine you’re standing in the sea and a huge wave is approaching – you can brace yourself and fight the inevitable, or you can dive into it headfirst and get through it with more ease.

If the anxiety continues to feel strong, you could also try questioning your thoughts to gain some perspective. Is this worry realistic? Is it really likely to happen? What’s the worst-case scenario? Could I handle that? Practice catching your negative thoughts and challenging them to stop them from overpowering you.

3. Tune into your senses

Becoming aware of the five senses is a wonderful way to instantly get out of your head and into your body, into the present moment. A popular technique is the 5-4-3-2-1 method. Take a deep breath and then notice five things you can see around you, four things you can feel physically, three things you can hear, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste. You can list them in your mind, or out loud. Then take another deep breath, and notice how you feel. Tuning into the senses in this way really helps to calm the nervous system and lower levels of anxiety.

All of these techniques are based on principles of mindfulness, which shifts us from ‘doing’ mode to ‘being’ mode. When we allow our mind to slow down, we escape the autopilot that we usually live our lives on, and instead take more notice of our present moment experience. Rather than focusing on our incessant thinking, we improve our ability to acknowledge them and recognise that they’re just thoughts – nothing more.

When we’re clear-headed and have tools to help us cope with anxiety, we’re better able to focus, solve problems and respond to our environment in a healthier way. Remember that however bad anxiety may feel at the time, it will always pass and you have the ability to manage it.

We have lots more techniques...