Often an issue with our physical bodies is accompanied by an emotional or mental health issue, too. Sometimes feeling lousy physically can dampen our spirit.
Many with a thyroid condition experience depression and anxiety. Properly treating the thyroid is the first step in addressing any accompanying depression or anxiety. While there’s no substitute for a trustworthy care team, we can complement this care with lifestyle modalities to support our mental health symptoms.
A yoga practice is one such modality that offers tools to take control of our own physical and mental well-being.
To be in a perpetual state of stress or anxiety is to deplete all aspects of your health. When your mind starts churning with anxious thoughts, your cortisol level shoots up. This signals to your body that you are under attack, triggering the fight-or-flight response. Your nervous system essentially reacts as if you were being chased by a dangerous beast that terrorized our long-ago ancestors. Your breathing becomes shallow, your muscles tense, and you prepare yourself for the onslaught.
Blessed are we to no longer be chased by tigers, so we need new coping mechanisms to manage these modern-day stressors. Below are several simple techniques that may help.
It’s nearly impossible to use this technique and not feel calmer afterward. Strange as it may sound, “don’t knock it ‘til you try it,” as the saying goes.
To use the left-nostril technique:
You can modify left-nostril breathing in a number of ways:
Play with the numbers for inhaling, pausing, and exhaling to see what works best for you. If your anxious mind gets hung up on the count and no longer feels relaxing, bring your focus to the sound or feeling of your breath.
When we engage in an activity - physical or mental - we create neural pathways in our brains. These pathways are like shortcuts so that when we engage in the activity again, it becomes easier.
Our brain does this for both positive and negative behaviors, which is why it can feel so hard to change our behavior. We have a well-worn groove to coast along right in our gray matter.
Counting backward helps us interrupt our familiar behaviors by giving us something else to focus on:
This technique works because it gives our minds something to do that is just challenging enough to hold our attention. While counting backward, it’s difficult to pay attention to our anxious thoughts.
When our thoughts quiet down, our breathing slows, our bodies relax, and a positive cycle begins. Practicing this or any calming technique can help build new neural pathways to express healthier behaviors.
This yogic mantra, used in kundalini meditation, is similar to counting backward because it gives the mind something to focus on besides anxious thoughts.
Saying the sounds out aloud creates a small vibration in the throat which yogis believe triggers a relaxation response.
Try on a cognitive-behavioral technique that works in a similar way to Sa Ta Na Ma - by giving your mind something to do. When anxiety hijacks our thoughts, it takes us away from the present moment. This technique helps bring you back to the here and now.
Notice when you feel anxious and try the following:
Use these techniques not only when you feel anxious, but also to create a consistent practice. A few moments of your day invested in purposeful relaxation can create new habits and truly rewire your anxious mind.
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