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Last Updated on January 12, 2021

7 Simple Tricks To Bring More Mindfulness Into Your Life

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7 Simple Tricks To Bring More Mindfulness Into Your Life

As we move through our days, we are mindful of our surroundings, of other people in our surroundings, of the tasks that lay before us, and much more that is external to ourselves. And when we do have time for our own thoughts, they tend to be focused on personal obligations, family members, and what lies ahead at the end of the workday. If we ask ourselves how much time we spend going within, reflecting on our thoughts and feelings, we have to answer very little, if at all. This has to stop.

We need to recognize when we are stressed, anxious, worried, even scared, and often we don’t. When we don’t, we don’t take steps to reduce these negatives, and they take their toll — mentally and physically. Here are seven simple things you can do to develop more self-mindfulness.

1. Start a Gratitude and Self-love Journal

One part of mindfulness that we neglect is to spend time reflecting on is those positive moments and circumstances in our lives. It is so easy to get into a habitual mindset of all that we must worry about and all that is wrong — nothing could be more destructive.

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There are a couple of things you can do about this. First, put a sign someplace prominent with the word “Gratitude” on it. Place it where you will see it every day, like the refrigerator. Make it big and colorful enough that you will notice it.

The second thing you can do is keep a positivity journal. Every night, take a few minutes and write just one or two things that made you happy that day, one or two things that you were grateful for, one or two things that you did that made someone else happy. When you are especially low or cannot think of anything, start reading the other pages.

2. Squeeze in a Short Meditation and Some Breathing Exercises During the Day

Meditating is not that difficult to learn. According to QuietKit, it can be something as simple as closing your eyes, getting your body quiet, and focusing on your breathing. One of the pieces of advice given to job candidates before they go in for an interview is to take several deep breaths. This is so calming.

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During periods of great stress or anxiety or anger, stop. Close your eyes, take those deep breaths, and with each exhale, picture that negative feeling leaving your body. This will prevent you from acting impulsively and will “connect” you with your better self — someone who does not get upset, nervous, worried, or lash out at others. Negativity also impacts your health, especially your immune system. Don’t do this to yourself.

3. Increase Your Awareness

Ask yourself at several points throughout your day how you are feeling. Why is that feeling in the pit of your stomach? What is really bothering you? What is the reason for your lack of ease? When you can identify the real causes of your uneasiness, you can tackle them and counter them with thoughts of peace, with one of those quick meditations, with a happy memory, or by doing something randomly nice for someone else. Getting rid of negativity is something that we must push ourselves to do every day.

4. Master the Art of People Watching

This is fun and a wonderful diversion. And it develops some pretty important traits — observational skills, empathy, and great insight. When we observe others, we become much more accepting and non-judgmental, and when we can lose our need to judge others, we gain more peace.

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5. Stop Rushing

This is very difficult for what we identify as Type “A” personalities — the people who are driven, the workaholics, the people who must speed through every day to get just a bit more accomplished. Of course, there are times when we must hurry. There are appointment times to keep, there are kids to get somewhere on time, and there are others counting on us to get something done. But to develop this as a habit means that we do not stop, breathe, go within, and get ourselves “grounded” with important priorities — peace, awareness of what is positive in our lives, and loving and doing for others.

Learning to slow down takes practice, and, yes, there are apps for that. A recent study conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health identified what these researchers believe are the best mindfulness apps that will help people slow down and listen to themselves. The apps that received the highest scores based upon specific factors all included the following:

  • Attention to breathing and breathing exercises
  • Body scans
  • Seated meditations (especially helpful at work)
  • Meditations through walking
  • Sending thoughts of love to the self and to others
  • Letting go of negative thoughts and feelings
  • Visualizations of the self as geographical features (e.g. mountains, lakes)

Other features included timers and reminders, which some find helpful. One free guided meditations for beginners that includes many of these features is QuietKit. If you are a beginner, this is an excellent place to start.

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6. Become a Better Listener and Communicator

One of the great things that mindfulness accomplishes is that we become aware of the feelings of others as well as our own. When we do this, we are more willing to listen. Practicing the art of listening also means asking the questions that encourage others to express themselves in honest ways. It means developing trustful relationships with others and valuing them, though their views, principles, and values may be very different. When we do this, we open our hearts and minds. And our mindfulness of others improves cooperation, collaboration, and acceptance of one another.

7. Practice any Type of Mindfulness You Wish

The apps, the books, and the recommendations of others may or may not work for you. In the end, we are all different people and our mindfulness journey will be different as well.

You might be the person who wants to see progress in terms of “levels.” Then you will want to try Mindfulness Daily. If you need to be more mindful of identifying your emotions, then you will want Smiling Mind.

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The point is this: Your journey will take some time, but it is more than worth it. Your ability to increase your mindfulness, to spend more time on the positives in your life, and your ability to connect with those same things in others will make you a happier, healthier person.

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Published on October 15, 2021

Does Anxiety Make You Tired And Why?

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Does Anxiety Make You Tired And Why?

When you think of anxiety, several scenarios may come to mind: the endless tossing and turning of a restless night, dread over potential future events, pandemic-related overwhelm, or full-blown panic attacks. Even if you’re not diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, you’ve likely experienced anxiety symptoms at some point in your life. In these situations, you might feel a queasiness in your stomach, racing heartbeat, excessive sweating, chest tightness, some tension in your jaw/neck/shoulders, or worrisome thoughts as you prepare for the worst possible scenario. But does anxiety also make you tired?

After experiencing these symptoms, you may indeed feel fatigued. The sensation could fall anywhere on the exhaustion spectrum, from feeling like you just ran a marathon and need to sleep for two days, to just a little worn down and wanting a quick nap to recover.

Below are 7 ways anxiety zaps your energy and how to restore it.

1. Stress Hormone Overload

Anxiety can make you tired via overloading your body with stress hormones. The “fight or flight” response is a key connection between anxiety and fatigue. In fact, this process is made up of three stages: Alarm, Resistance, and Exhaustion. Anxiety triggers our body systems to go into high alert. This is a natural, involuntary reaction that developed in the human brain for survival.

When humans lived with the real, imminent threat of being attacked by a predator, it made sense for our bodies to spring into action without much preparatory thought. Such dangers are rare in modern times, but our brains continue to respond in the same way they did thousands of years ago.

The hormones and chemicals that flood our bodies to prepare us for safety can both affect and be affected by several body systems, and this interaction itself contributes to exhaustion. Adrenaline and cortisol are the two most notable hormones to address here. First, adrenaline is sent out, tensing the muscles and increasing heart rate and blood pressure in preparation to run. Later in the stress response, cortisol is released, enhancing the brain’s use of glucose. This is one of our main fuel sources, so it’s no wonder this contributes to fatigue (see #2).

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You can regulate baseline levels of these stress hormones by regularly practicing yoga, breathwork, meditation, and/or engaging in aerobic exercise.[1] It’s easier to lean into these routines for relief during stress when you’ve already mastered using them during times when you feel calm.

2. Elevated Blood Sugar Levels

Fatigue is one of the most common symptoms of hyperglycemia (high blood sugar), which is shown to be associated with anxiety in diabetic patients.[2] Many people who experience hyperglycemia report feeling tired all the time regardless of their quantity or quality of sleep, nutrition, or exercise.

Although this connection has shown more prevalent and prolonged effects in diabetics, it also occurs with nondiabetics exposed to psychiatric stress.[3] In fact, for all people, the natural stress response elevates blood pressure and heart rate as well as cortisol levels, all of which increase blood sugar levels.[4] This means that anxiety causes a double-hit of exhaustion related to blood sugar fluctuations.

Instead of reaching for comfort foods like chocolate during times of stress, take a calming walk around the block. Gentle movement alone is a great stress reliever that incidentally also helps to regulate blood sugars.[5]

3. Negative Mindset

Anxiety can also make you tired because of repetitive negative thinking (RNT), which is a common symptom of anxiety. RNT involves continuous thoughts via rumination (dwelling on sad or dark thoughts focused on the past) and worry (angst regarding the future). Some researchers argue that having a longtime habit of RNT can harm the brain’s capacity to think, reason, and form memories.[6] While the brain is busy using its energy stores to fuel negative thought patterns, the energy available for these other more productive endeavors is thereby reduced.

Negative thoughts can also disrupt or prevent healthy sleep patterns, keeping our minds racing at night and effectively wreaking havoc on daytime energy. (See #7)

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Reduce these patterns by reframing your feelings over anxious thoughts. Instead of staying stuck on “what if,” focus on what you can do in the here and now. What activity can you engage in for five minutes (or more) that brings you joy? What are you grateful for, no matter what’s going on around you?

4. Digestive Issues

It’s common for people to experience both intestinal and mental issues simultaneously. This suggests a strong connection between the central nervous system and the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, which is known as the gut-brain axis.[7] Simply put, what happens in our digestive tract (and as a result of what we eat) affects the brain and vice versa.

The gut microbiota is a complex population of GI tract microorganisms. When its balance is altered, the body can develop conditions that affect the gut-brain-endocrine relationship. The endocrine system produces and manages adrenaline, for starters. And the gut bacteria’s production of feel-good hormones (serotonin and dopamine—see #5) ties into this relationship as well.

GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) receptors are also found in gut bacteria. GABA is a natural brain relaxant that makes us feel good by helping the body to unwind after a stress-induced neurotransmitter release (e.g., cortisol and adrenaline). When GABA activity is low, it leads to anxiety, depression, insomnia, and mood disorders. These are just a few of the manifestations that demonstrate how gut bacteria influences behavior. All of these contribute to feeling both physically and mentally tired.

You can minimize the symptoms of depression and anxiety by keeping your gut microbiota balanced with probiotic-rich fermented foods. Yogurt with live cultures, sauerkraut, kombucha, kefir, kimchi, miso soup, and tempeh are great foods to include in your diet.[8]

5. Depression

Anxiety and depression often go hand in hand. Research continues to indicate a complex relationship between depression and decreased serotonin—a key neurotransmitter for regulating mood and feelings of wellbeing and happiness. Anxiety is also a direct symptom of serotonin deficiency. Serotonin helps with healthy sleep, mood, and digestion.

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Serotonin is produced in the gut, almost exclusively, at an estimated 90 percent. However, a small quantity is also produced in the hypothalamus, an area of the brain that is pivotal for transmitting energy balance signals. This small cone-shaped structure receives and relays signals transmitted via the vagus nerve from the gastrointestinal tract. It has a central role in mediating stress responses, regulating sleep, and establishing circadian rhythms. It senses and responds to a myriad of circulating hormones and nutrients, directly affecting our mood and energy.[9]

Dopamine is another mood-boosting neurochemical that is depleted in depression. It creates feelings of alertness and wakefulness and, when the body is operating normally, is released in higher amounts in the morning (allowing for daytime energy) and lower at night (preparing for healthy sleep). Stress is one factor that can deplete dopamine, thereby leading to depression, sleep disorders, and fatigue.

Studies show that dopamine levels in the brain can be elevated by increasing dietary intake of tyrosine and phenylalanine.[10] Both of these amino acids are naturally found in protein-rich foods like turkey, beef, eggs, dairy, soy, peas, lentils, and beans.

6. Breathing Problems

Breathlessness and anxiety are closely linked, and this is one of the ways anxiety can make you feel tired. Anxiety can lead to shallow breathing, which can cause shortness of breath while feeling breathless can exacerbate anxiety.[11] It’s a vicious cycle that often leads people to take rapid and shallow breaths, breathing into their upper chest and shoulders.

This type of breathing minimizes oxygen intake and usability. Despite comprising only two percent of the body, our brains consume 20 percent of the body’s oxygen supply. Oxygen is fuel for both mental and physical tasks. When breathing patterns compromise healthy oxygen levels, this can cause considerable fatigue.[12]

End the anxiety-fatigue cycle with focused breathing exercises. It’s important to practice this regularly while you’re not experiencing anxiety or stress, as this will help you to be prepared should a moment of breathless anxiety hit unexpectedly.

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There are several different styles of breathing exercises. There’s an easy one to try, called “Resonant Breathing.” Simply breathe in slowly through your nose as you count to five, then exhale for a count of five. Repeat this for a few minutes. It’s helpful to bring your awareness to any tension, deliberately relaxing your neck, shoulders, and jaw in particular.

7. Sleep Issues

Most of the elements we’ve already discussed inherently tie into sleep issues, which is often the reason why anxiety can make you feel tired. But it’s important to note that this is not always a directly linear cause-and-effect process. Much of it is cyclic. If we don’t get enough quality sleep, we increase our risk of excessive cortisol production, elevated blood pressure and blood sugar levels, depressed mood and mindset disorders, and dysregulation of appetite/craving hormones that affect our digestive health.

Sleep is obviously the number one antidote to feeling tired as a result of anxiety. But at the same time, many of these elements—including anxiety itself—lead to less-than-restorative sleep. We can improve our energy levels by addressing each element discussed here, as well as taking a proactive approach to our sleep health.

One simple habit to help recalibrate your circadian rhythm for healthy sleep patterns is to get outside in the morning. Sunlight exposure in the early hours of the day regulates melatonin production, helping us to feel sleepy at night.

You Don’t Have to Live Your Life Anxious and Exhausted

Times of extreme stress, like driving in heavy traffic or nerve-wracking situations like public speaking, can easily induce an anxiety response. Even “normal” everyday stressors, like feeling overwhelmed with work and home responsibilities, can build up to anxious feelings over time.

Our bodies’ response to stress and anxiety affects many of its functions in complex ways. When we unravel the interconnections of these processes, we can see how each part plays an intrinsic role in contributing to fatigue. By addressing each element individually, we can make simple lifestyle changes that resolve anxiety and diminish the ways it makes us tired as a result.

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Featured photo credit: Joice Kelly via unsplash.com

Reference

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