Sometimes it’s hard not to let our imagination run wild and see dangerous threats lurking in every corner.
While being aware of our surroundings is our body’s instinctive way of trying to keep us safe, we also want to make sure that we’re not being overly vigilant to the point that it’s getting in the way of our everyday happiness, and creating more stress.
Hypervigilance is the state of being acutely aware of your environment and assessing it for danger.
Hypervigilance can be a symptom of post traumatic stress, but it can also be exhibited during other times, like when we experience a fear of public speaking or when another ordinary situation feels fraught with chaos.
There are various ways to help manage hypervigilance, from mindfulness exercises to relaxation techniques. Before embarking on any treatment, it’s always a good idea to consult a medical professional first so that you can find a treatment that is best for you.
Mindfulness and relaxation techniques
Mindfulness helps bring your attention and thoughts to the present moment. While mindfulness is often associated with meditation, there are several activities that can bring you to a mindful state.
Here are some ways that you can cultivate mindfulness to help you relieve stress and anxiety, and manage distracting thoughts.
There’s a reason why walking is so restorative.
A brisk walk gets the blood flowing and the heart pumping and also promotes the release of endorphins—which means our mood is instantly lifted after a walk. Even a 40 minute walk at a leisurely pace can do wonders for our energy levels and our mood.
Walking is also an activity that cultivates mindfulness.
Walking puts us in touch with our senses. When we take a solo walk without our devices, we’re naturally more aware of the present moment. Without the distraction of a podcast or incoming messages, we are able to relax and enjoy the present. We notice little details on our walk. Maybe the flowers blooming in a neighborhood garden or a pretty sunset or the way the cool breeze feels on our face.
Walking can help us clear our heads and be more attuned to the here and now.
Try incorporating long walks into your daily routine. You can take a break in the middle of your working day or take an evening walk to decompress after a long work day.
You can also try our Gratitude Stroll worksheet if you’re looking for some simple, but engaging exercises to make your next walk more mindful.
Coloring isn’t just for kids.
Coloring has been known to offer several emotional and physical benefits for adults. From relieving stress and anxiety to sparking creativity and inspiration, adult coloring books are popular for good reason.
Coloring allows us to focus on the task at hand. When we’re stressed or anxious, our mind tends to revert to the past or jump ahead into the future. When we’re stuck in the past or future, we don’t appreciate what’s right in front of us in the present.
But coloring grounds us into the present moment. By turning our attention to the page, we are able to turn off the static noise in our mind. Whether it’s choosing the right colors for our design or taking the time to color in the lines, coloring helps us shift our concentration to the present moment.
You might think that coloring is too easy and simple to offer any benefits—but that’s why it’s so great! It’s easy enough that we can do it for long stretches of time, without getting frustrated. If it were more complicated it would be overly taxing on our brain—and that’s the last thing we want to do when we’re feeling stressed or anxious.
You can break out the coloring book and markers the next time you’re feeling stressed. Create a soothing environment by lighting a candle or making yourself a nice cup of tea.
Another relaxation technique that you can try is journaling. Everyone from Marcus Aurelius to Michelle Obama have turned to journaling for solace and guidance.
Journaling allows us to release our thoughts onto the page. When we write things down, we have an easier time letting go and moving on. Also, seeing our thoughts on paper can offer us a change of perspective. We might see that the problem may not be as big as we had imagined. Or we may even find a solution to our problem.
The act of writing in a journal can also be deeply soothing. When you press your hand down on the paper, you feel a sense of physical relief. It’s as if all the big feelings are leaving your body and being transferred onto the page. Journaling can also provide an emotional release. When we find the words to express the vague, abstract thoughts we have floating in our mind, we can feel like a huge weight has been lifted from our shoulders.
You can write in a journal as often or as infrequently as you like. Some people like to write in it everyday whereas others turn to their journal whenever they need to vent or express their emotions. The great thing about journaling is that there is no wrong or right way to do it, and you won’t be judged for what’s inside. Your journal is for you and your eyes only.
Repeating a mantra
A relaxation technique you can use to bring your focus to the present moment is to recite a mantra. Repeating an inspirational quote or a mantra can help collect your thoughts and bring you to a more relaxed state of mind.Some people like to verbally recite mantras, and repeat them until they start to feel calm. Others like to record their mantra in a journal. Mantras can be exercised whenever you’re feeling stressed. Or they can be incorporated into your daily routine. You can try adding them to your morning routine to get your day off to a positive start. Or add them to your evening routine to help you wind down and relax before bed.