Counselling Twickenham, Whitton I work with:

 

individual counselling

couples counselling

counselling for depression

counselling for anxiety

bereavement counselling

anger management

relationships

life crises

panic attacks

PTSD counselling

stress counselling

domestic violence

sexual abuse

survivors of rape

sexuality

gender identity

eating disorders

paranoia

phobias

compulsive behaviours

assertiveness

self-esteem

presenting skills

meditation

mindfulness skills

Greg Savva, Counsellor in Twickenham, EnduringMind

 

 

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On Being Vulnerable

Mindfulness exercise at Counselling Twickenham

By Gregori Savva, Jan 27 2016 11:15AM

 

Experiencing Vulnerability in Relationships:

 

People often ask me to help them build confidence and self-esteem, but may wonder whether going down the counselling route is self-indulgent or a sign of weakness. To my mind understand your vulnerabilities is a strength. At Counselling Twickenham EnduringMind, I encourage clients to practice exercises for you to learn to tolerate and accept your own vulnerability. We often develop childlike states of mind when we are under pressure, going through stressful periods or in a personal crisis. However, being aware of your own vulnerability is essential if we are to restore our confidence and sense of empowerment. It may even allow you to open up to the idea of it as a positive emotional experience - building up your awareness of vulnerability in a variety of situations through mindful exercises.

 

Try not use these experiential exercises to expose yourself unduly to sensations or feelings, which seem unmanageable, distressing or overwhelming to you. Take responsibility for yourself and your own experience. Try to create a sense of balance between safety and challenge in any situation where you feel your vulnerability is present. Put in a safe boundary at the same time. Do not contrive situations to make yourself feel deliberately vulnerable. And take incremental steps rather than push yourself unnecessarily.

 

• Create an awareness of your vulnerability in real time; both alone and with others when you notice it is present

• Try to tolerate and accept that vulnerability, noticing sensations, feelings and emotions attached to it as they arise in different situations, with different people

• Notice the negative/disadvantages of your vulnerability – e.g. pain, hurt, loss, desensitization, anxiety, loss of boundaries

• Notice the positive/benefits of your vulnerability – e.g. noticing your limits, taking reasonable risks, feelings of liberation and empowerment, being enlivened, challenging yourself, deeper connection with others

 

At first notice vulnerability by yourself. When you feel ready and more confident begin to express it in some ways to others, without losing your boundaries or sense of self-control

 

At Life Through A Prism

By Gregori Savva, Oct 4 2015 09:44PM

 

I find this Mindfulness Practice is a more accessible, open way of stepping back from a situation and gaining a sense of perspective. Often in a crisis, when we’re under pressure the stress can be overwhelming and we feel unable to act without reverting to what’s known or familiar. But just because it’s familiar doesn’t mean it’s helpful. For example, I might tend to over-rely on memory when I am performing a new task, whilst forgetting to adapt to a changing circumstances. Or when I'm in relationships I may judge or react to the people I love, based on experiences of past relationships. As well as choosing to play it safe, when I need to take a risk when an opportunity arises. Making such decisions can be fraught with anxiety and lead to errors or preconceived outcomes. So we tend to rely on a narrow vision of what’s possible; making binary choices or relying on black and white thinking, when we actually need to pause and reflect on our options. Being right, isn't always the best strategy.

 

For this reason, I would like to recall a metaphor that seems fitting here. I imagine looking through a prism and watching a ray of white light refracted through a triangular lens into several waves of coloured light – each one representing the colours of the rainbow. This helps me realise there is very rarely one version of the truth, or that life is rarely characterized by decisions that are as simple as right and wrong. There are often multiple truths, many different sides to reality and a diverse range of viewpoints depending on the position I take. For example, you walk into the office late and your boss stares at you and says: ‘I need to see you later’. May be he wants to talk about your time-keeping. May be he wants an update on a recent project. May be he’s just taken an important phone call on your behalf. May be he wants to pass on a message from a colleague. But often you might jump to conclusions, such as: he wants to shout at you for being unprofessional and is going to fire you. So you get caught up in a cycle of anxiety and rather than imagine the alternatives. You get the idea.

 

There can be many different alternatives to one way of thinking under pressure and learning this is the purpose of the next exercise. As in most mindfulness practices first begin with your breath. Find your own relaxed rhythm by breathing neither too slow, nor fast, neither too deep, nor shallow. Ensure you are inhaling through your nose and exhaling from your mouth, breathing directly from your diaphragm. This means as you breathe your belly should push out with the in-breath and pull in on the out-breath. Try at first to focus your attention only on the sound and sensation of your breath. Do this a number of times until you have reached a point of continuity. Once you have found that point of singularity where it works, imagine you are walking in an open space. Remember, this exercise is to teach you to look for multiple possibilities and alternatives for a single conundrum. If you like it’s more of a thought experiment, than a puzzle. One you might find

 

First, imagine as you are walking along you feel something fall on your head…in your mind’s eye visualize seven possible causes. Then, when you are done return to your breathing…

 

Second, imagine as you are walking along you step into something wet…in your mind’s eye envisage seven possibilities. Then, when you are done return to your breathing…

 

Third, imagine as you are walking along you glance at someone smiling… in your mind’s eye try to conjure up seven reasons why. Then, when you are done return to your breathing…

 

Finally, imagine as you are walking along and you come to a door. You open the door and in your mind’s eye try to picture where you are going next. Then, when you are done return to your breathing…

 

This mindfulness exercise teaches you to tolerate uncertainty, change and It allows you not to seek black and white answers, or become defensive, needing to be right all the time, or constantly needing to fix other people’s problems, even the ones that can’t be fixed. It allows you to appreciate there may be many solutions to a problem, many sides to an argument, multiple points of view and many alternative choices when you’re confronted with a complex problem or an opportunity. Remember, limiting yourself to black and white certainties, only serves to cause blinkered vision and closed-mindedness. See also: My Life Is Spiralling Out of Control

 

Seeing Is Not Believing

By Gregori Savva, Sep 26 2015 04:17PM

 

In Mindfulness a great deal of emphasis is put on 'being in the moment'. What this really means is using our five senses to observe our experience right now. For example: observing the sunset, feeling pain and pleasure, tasting a chocolate, smelling a rose or listening to birdsong. This means being conscious of our sensory experiences in the here-and-now. Not recalling memories or imagining what the future might be. Mindfulness is a practice I often help clients with. You can book a session at EnduringMind, Counselling Isleworth.

 

Mindfulness shows us that by focussing more on the present moment, we feel less anxiety, fear or discomfort. This means letting go of the past or our need to predict what will happen next. By paying attention to what is happening now; not what we think of it or remember after the event. This allows us to accept the continuous flow of our feelings and sensations without trying to control them. It also allows us to let go of the need for certainty - realizing nothing stays the same forever. Everything changes. And when we accept this, we can stop feeling anxious about the future and embrace change by adapting to it. When we try to impose our beliefs and thoughts on the world, we become rigid and judgemental, trying to make it conform to how we would like it to be. Trying to make it look more like the model inside our head. Instead mindfulness teaches us to observe and accept the world as it is and go with it...So when I say: seeing is not believing I am not trying to be cryptic. I am pointing out the difference between 'observing' something as a 'physical event' and forming 'beliefs' which represent 'mental events'. An example of a physical event I can observe is: 'the sun setting'. An example of a mental event I believe is: 'the sun will set everyday'. So when the 'sun is setting' there is very little I can do about it, but observe and accept it is happening.

 

When I say 'the sun will set everyday', I am talking about my expectation of a future event, based on reasonable evidence from the past. I may hope the sun will set every day, but I cannot be absolutely sure of it. Just like the Mayan Indians or the Egyptians, I might anxiously record the positions of sun and moon just in case it disappears one day. The point of the philosophy lesson is this: philosophy is only worth anything if we practice it not if we believe it. So practice observing the world as it is, not as you'd like it to be, not as it once was, or how you believe it might end up.

 

Observe...Do not judge.

 

Observe: what is happening now...Let go of what might happen next.

 

Observe: while you breathe freely and easily...Do not become preoccupied with the past.

 

Observe: your sensations...Do not get caught up in the drama of your beliefs.

 

Observe: the present moment.

 

And practice this while breathing at your own pace and rhythm, without following your train of thoughts or listening to the constant chatter of your mind. Notice what it feels like. If it feels good, do it again sometime. You might feel less anxious, angry or depressed. Find free mp3s and downloads for mindfulness practice on my website,

 

Observing Sensory Experience – at EnduringMind

By Gregori Savva, Sep 23 2015 08:31AM

 

At Counselling Whitton TW2 I try to help clients overcome stress, anxiety and depression with Mindfulness Practice.

 

One Mindfulness Exercise I find very enlivening is to practice the art of listening. It’s an exercise I use to focus my mind, to relieve myself of anxiety and generate a sense of catharsis after a period of stress. But that is not the same thing as meditating, empty the mind or cleansing yourself of negative emotions. If anything the practice encourages you to become more aware of your physical sensations and emotional states rather than avoiding or ignoring them. It also helps you to connect yourself with your natural environment.

 

This Mindfulness Practice can be used to stimulate and revitalize you, or create an internal state of calm and serenity. It means listening with focussed attention and awareness, while being attuned to the subtle nuances of sound, tone, pitch, cadence and rhythm. I find this is best practiced when listening to water.

Find a location where you can sit comfortably and listen to a body of water like a river flowing. Just listening to the patter of falling rain, the surge of waves crashing on a beach, the flow of a fast moving river or water chiming in the rapids.

 

You can start by settling the mind and body with Mindfulness of Breathing as laid out in previous exercises: finding your own breathing rhythm, inhaling and exhaling from the diaphragm and turning your attention to the sound and sensation of your breath.

 

Once you have found your rhythm, starting drawing your attention to the outside world, closing your eyes and listening to water flowing. You can even do this in the shower.

 

For example, go into a stand up shower with the light blocked out, closing your eyes and the bathroom door so that you are not interrupted. Turn up the shower jet so you can feel the water massaging your scalp. Find a spot underneath the shower where the water falls directly on the centre of your skull, and runs into your eyes, blocking every other sensation out other than the rushing sound of the water. This creates a state of almost sensory deprivation other than sound. Focus your attention at this point on the patter of water, the tingling of your scalp and the feeling of relief as your head, neck and shoulders relax. Simultaneously pay attention to the sound of the water rushing, or gently reverberating in your ears. Then gently begin to rock your head back and forth beneath the jet stream. This should open up your mind, bring about relief and create a semi-trance like state that is both sensual and pleasurable.

 

You could also sit on a bench by a fast flowing stream or waterfall, closing your eyes and listening intently to the flow of the water. At different phases or intervals during the mindfulness activity you can focus on the tone, pitch and sound the water makes, as if you were trying to attune yourself to a particular musical pattern or melody made by the water. Also pay attention to the pace, rhythm and flow of the water. Alternate between these two states of listening, to the exclusion of all other sounds and see what internal sensations it creates in your mind and body.

 

The Intricacy of Things

By Gregori Savva, Sep 9 2015 06:35PM

 

When I am stressed and weary, but cannot easily find peace of mind or restfulness, I try to find a simple way of being in the present moment.

 

One of the Mindfulness exercises I find most absorbing of all is when I spend time on my own observing the exquisite details and intricacies of natural objects – such as the filigree of veins in a green leaf, the papery tongues of bark on a Silver Birch, the lacquered sheen of a Green Shield Beetle or the mackerel feathering of cirrocumulus clouds drifting overhead. Not only does this kind of exercise remind me of that wide-eyed sense of wonder I possessed as a child, but I feel enlivened by rediscovering the intrinsic beauty of nature.

 

Left to my own devices I could spend hours like this - exploring my environment like an old-style naturalist rapt in trance as I meditate and attune myself to the things around me I wouldn’t ordinarily notice. For this reason I have developed a number of practises I think everyone can relate to.

 

The first thing to do is spend a little time identifying and selecting natural objects on which you can focus your attention, while you breathe mindfully and quietly observe your sensations. Think of collecting things like stones with fascinating patterns and textures, shells from a beach, fallen leaves, coloured toadstools, a piece of bark, clusters of grass or flowers, and soon-to-be-liberated insects inside a glass jar. Choose objects that stimulate your five senses: the scent of roses, the sound of stones tapping together, the colours of autumn leaves, the texture of drift wood, even the taste of herbs and berries. Allow yourself to develop a deep sense of curiosity and interest. Choose a pleasant open space to sit or rest with your objects on a park, garden, beach, or cliff. Focus your mind and let your body relax.

 

As with most mindfulness practices you need to start with the breath. Find a relaxed comfortable rhythm and begin by focusing your attention on the sound and sensation of your breath; breathing from the diaphragm, inhaling through the nose and out through the mouth. Ensure you have stretched your muscles or rolled off any tensions in your neck, back and shoulders.

 

Once you have noticed you are beginning to settle, place your collection of natural objects in front of you and using only one of your senses transfer your attention onto them. Approach your objects with a playful attitude and using your imagination allow your mind to wander freely as you did when you were a child (like when you pictured images in the clouds or the embers of a fire). You might begin to notice a sense of calm and wonder, or an enlivened mind. This will keep you attached to the present moment and allow you to focus your attention on physical sensations. After a while you may begin to connect with yourself and feel a sense of oneness. You may even feel slightly transported and lose any sense of yourself as an embodied being. I offer Mindfulness at Counselling Twickenham (counseling Isleworth)

 

Trapped In The Body

By Gregori Savva, Sep 5 2015 11:38AM

 

I offer mindfulness exercises at Psychotherapy in Whitton, Twickenham using resources such as the Body Scan mp3 to guide you. Click the above link to view my Mindfulness page.

 

Anxiety and depression are as much feeling states and sensory experiences in the body, as they are psychological conditions or mental events in the mind. We know this because when we perceive a level of threat in the limbic region of the brain it can often trigger a “fight and flight response” in the autonomic nervous system, which affects how we react using sensory-motor nervous system in order to act. But what causes this anxiety and depression to remain trapped in the body and mind? What keeps it simmering away in the musculature, bones and nervous system only to be recycled by other stressful sensations?

 

If you feel, touch or press your skin, muscles and subcutaneous connective tissue wherever you hold anxiety or depression in the body, as a rule you will notice hard spots, tightening and contractions. For example, tightening around the muscles of the neck, shoulders and spine where your body primes itself for a defensive posture when the fight and flight response is triggered. Or a feeling of constriction around the chest, throat and windpipe, restricting the flow of breath during panic attacks. Or a deep feeling of aching joints, muscles & lethargy during depressive episodes, restricting movement & causing you to feel fatigued.

 

Bodies under stress are sensitive to the touch and may feel tense or painful, precisely in the region where anxiety and depression is felt. You may hold yourself in a continuous stoop, with your head hanging down, shoulders hunched or even crouching when you are attempting to relax. This kind of contraction becomes embedded in your posture as remain hunched and bent forwards. Any attempt to “hold yourself straight” doesn’t necessarily help, because the defensive posture does not come from weak back muscles or being lazy. It’s the result of chronic muscle contractions in the abdominal, chest and neck muscles. This pulls you forward: restricting movement and constricting breathing. Breathing is carried out by muscles, tendons and ligaments which are situated mainly at the front of the body – intercostal muscles, diaphragm and suspensory lung ligaments. The contraction of lung muscles and constriction of breathing is a central event in anxiety and depression.

 

During anxiety or panic attacks breathing difficulty is countered by hyperventilation, as you take in rapid, shallow breaths. This in turn throws the body’s balance out of kilter, which explains why we experience heart palpitations, breathlessness, trembling, weak knees & dizziness. In depression, people tend to under breathe, respiring too shallow and too little. As your posture is bent forward it causes contraction in the neck muscles and constricts the blood vessels so the oxygen supply to the brain is impaired. This means the body is supplied with too little oxygen, leading to apathy, exhaustion & a lack of movement. This also sends neurotransmitters to the brain which cause hopelessness, despair and a lack of confidence.

 

How do we get such continual contractions? Like all organisms, we contract when we sense the threat of danger such as a snail whose antennae contract when touched, or a tortoise retracting in its shell or a hedgehog in a tight ball. Remembering unpleasant, painful feelings repeatedly triggers our autonomic nervous system, warning us to avoid or defend against such situations in the future. If this reaction is provoked repeatedly, a continual state of contraction develops. When our reflexes are conditioned to react, we become hyper vigilant and ever more sensitive to further threat, even if it’s in your imagination from memories or anxieties about a future catastrophe.

 

These contractions are not usually visible to the naked eye, but as the affected person you can learn to ‘feel’ where they are located when anxiety is triggered. Only you can say what something feels like. Only you have the ability to attune yourself to the physical sensations and restricted movement in your body. But there is one problem, most people who experience chronic anxiety or depression have tried to numb the source of their painful experiences, by becoming detached and dissociating from their bodies – retreating to their heads. Slowly through the process of observing, body-scanning and attuning to your sensations you both enliven the body and create greater self-awareness. Therefore if you practice the ‘body scan’ as a daily exercise you will improve this and slowly ween yourself off defensiveness to restore feelings of empowerment, enablement & confidence.

 

Mind The Gap – ‘Pause Before You Act’

By Gregori Savva, Sep 2 2015 06:41PM

 

When I find myself experiencing more stress than usual, or I am confronted by someone who is angry, I have noticed how quickly the pressure builds up and results in defensiveness or impulsive behaviours. Reactions such these seem to happen automatically without control and is usually the outcome of a ‘fight and flight response’ triggered under stress, but if it’s not kept in check it can lead to anxiety, helplessness and frustration. I might lose faith in myself or feel unable to trust my instincts.

 

So in a fast moving situation it helps if you have a brief moment to reflect before you react.

 

I have found it useful over the years to create a pause where I can step back in the preceding moments before I react to a crisis, a confrontation or a serious problem that needs solving. This pause may last a matter of milliseconds, creating a slim window of opportunity for me to stand back and observe events, before I make decision. This means I get to settle any intense feelings and slow down racing thoughts, before I act This is why I help clients with reflective practice at Counselling Twickenham This enables them to pause before they get caught up in events and panic or have an angry outburst.

 

I use the word ‘act’ rather than ‘react’, for good reason. In one scenario, where I am acting, I have an internal frame of reference, so that anything I do becomes a conscious choice, by acting with self-awareness. In another scenario, where I am reacting, I have an external frame of reference, where I am merely responding to events as they happen, because I feel dependent on the actions of others before I respond. So this pause is vital. What this pause offers me is a gap where I can take a breath, collect my thoughts and take a balanced view the situation from a wider perspective. It’s as if I have created two states of mind – the experiencing self – the bit of me which feels what’s going on – and the observing self – the bit of me that is observing what is going on.

 

That’s all very well – I hear my client’s say – easier said than done. If I could do it, I would. And they’re right: it’s not easy because it takes time to train yourself to regulate emotional states effectively. But there is a simple enough technique that everyone can learn how to create a small pause under pressure, before they react. This is a simple breathing exercise which is designed to help people who experience impulsive reactions to stress, anxiety, panic attacks and anger.

 

Start by breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth with a gentle easy rhythm, not too deep and not too slow, but just right. Ensure that as you inhale your belly pushes out, and as you exhale your belly pulls back in again. This means you are using your diaphragm and full lung capacity, without under-breathing or over-breathing. While you are breathing focus your attention entirely on the sound and sensation of your breath, to the exclusion of all other thoughts and feelings. If your mind does begin to wander or get distracted by thoughts, simply turn your attention back to the sound and sensation of your breath. Slowly, as you become attuned to this state of relaxed concentration try to shift the focus of your attention slightly, on the gap between the in-breath and the out-breath – the moment your diaphragm becomes fully extended and is just about to bounce back again.

 

You will notice there is a momentary pause. Do nothing else but notice that pause. It will create no more than a fleeting gap in which you become aware of the silence and the break in motion. This teaches the brain to find the necessary gap we need before initiating the next series of actions or events. At first you are only training the brain to notice there is a gap. Very soon you will be able to use it as an intervention in a crisis, as you step back, take a breath and allow yourself to pause before making the next choice. It allows your conscious awareness to exercise freewill, rather than react unconsciously and impulsively

 

Noticing Your Autopilot

By Gregori Savva, Aug 31 2015 04:12PM

 

Noticing Your Autopilot. Very few of us pay close attention to the daily routines and tasks we perform on a regular basis. Some of these tasks have become so simple and habituated we do them without thinking. Tasks such as making coffee, reading emails, brushing our teeth or driving to work every day are completed with almost mindless monotony. We are often unaware how much our mind becomes distracted and begins to wander. Or gets caught up unnecessary chatter, such as repetitive cycles of anxious thinking and worrying. As if we had just embarked on a runaway train.

 

This often frequently causes undue stress, frustration and overwhelming feelings of despair as we walk the treadmill. We do it instinctively without due care and attention, setting up conditioned responses and automatic cycles of behaviour. I refer to this act of ‘mindless thinking’ as our autopilot. It is something we do instantly without focus or conscious awareness. It feels robotic and inevitable. A clear example of this is driving our car on automatic pilot. During our journey home at the end of a hard day’s work when we are tired and stressed out, we might switch on the radio or some music and listen in a weary daze, without noticing anything of about our drive. We're so familiar with the journey we barely take account of the whole series of decisions we take, or the tasks and manoeuvres we perform as we drive home.

 

Perhaps you’re not convinced by this story, so let’s spend a moment to remind yourself. Try to recall a journey you made to a familiar destination only recently. After arriving at your destination do you have any clear memory of the journey whatsoever? Think carefully: from beginning to end. Do you remember? If not; it’s highly probable you simply sat at the wheel, pointed the engine straight ahead and drove without any conscious awareness of how you got home at all. You can’t recall the route or what you observed about the other cars, the people on the street, the traffic signs, the road names or the outstanding features of the landmarks. You don’t even remember turning, braking or accelerating from standstill. Somehow, unconsciously you drove home responding to most things in a trance.

 

It’s only when you realise this is happening that you have broken the cycle. This is what I call ‘noticing your autopilot’. It’s also true in many other situations where we perform a routine, daily tasks without thinking too much. What I am asking you to do is break the habit simply by noticing your autopilot. Try to do this a few times day for a week. Remind yourself to reflect back on your experience after each routine task, especially where you're most likely to follow a mundane procedure out of habit. Notice whether your concentration seems to drift, whether you lose focus or your mind begins to wander. You may even become detached from your sensations, hold onto your breath while sitting, get caught up in a task and miss lunch or forget to go to the toilet.

 

Eventually, each day, with every new task try to notice what sensations have been missing from your experience as you drift onto autopilot. Can you recall if you felt anything at all? Do you notice if what’s missing are: physical sensations, emotions, your sense of conscious awareness or your connectedness to others? Other examples where you might begin to ‘notice your autopilot’ are during routine tasks such as eating, reading the paper, travelling by train, watching TV, writing out a list or making small talk with other people. Noticing you do this, is the first step to creating a mindful environment. It is a way of switching back onto small gaps in our awareness that begin to add up: missing out on small pleasures, forgetting to relive ourselves, ignoring pain and stress and avoiding contact with others. You can choose to be an automaton, or a sentient being. It’s up to you. Thanks for reading at Counselling Twickenham, EnduringMind.

 

 

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Deactivating Anxiety and Stress

Sunday 20/11/2016

 

According to neuroscience an optimum state of mind, is more likely to be achieved when it is both relaxed and focussed: paying attention to the present moment. This can be difficult for us when we lead busy and demanding lives, as we endeavour to make plans, meet deadlines, solve problems and make difficult decisions about the future which cannot be ignored. However, in order to generate clarity of mind we also need to take the time and space to be more mindful. This can be achieved with regular restore points throughout our day, so we can discharge the build-up of stress and anxiety. If we don’t, we are much more likely to develop symptoms of physical and mental stress.

 

Many people seem to tolerate overwhelming levels of stress without ever realising how much they actually contribute to it. When we ignore these symptoms we can become internally dysregulated and miss the early warning signs of emotional overload before they happen. This means creating daily routines which allow us to slow down and pay attention to our physical sensations, thoughts and emotions. Daily practice rewires the anxious brain, and deactivates the symptoms of stress, helping us to relax and focus on the present moment. Using mindfulness exercises can support our ability to self-regulate physical sensations and emotion states with mindfulness of breathing, stretching, exercising and grounding techniques that discharge the neurochemicals which cause anxiety. You need some degree of conscious effort as you improve self-awareness and make better decisions in the moment – learning to slow down and develop healthier routines which promote wellbeing. There are times when disproportionate levels of anxiety are accumulated which have been built-up over time and need to be discharged. This can be worked into a schedule of five phases throughout your day or week.

 

Phase 1: Slow down: find a few moments in your day to actively focus on paying attention to slowing down your breath and physical sensations. Close your eyes, sit upright and remain still for a while, simply breathing at your own pace and rhythm. Paying attention to the flow and movement of your breath as you inhale and exhale, breathing from your diaphragm. On each in-breath and out-breath focus on following the sensation and movement of your breath while incrementally slowing it down until you notice your heartbeat slowing down, becoming less agitated, your muscles relaxing and letting go of tension.

 

Phase 2: Being still: after slowing down your internal state of being, attempt to develop a sense of stillness, while sitting or standing motionless in a quiet place with your eyes closed. You might like to try this on a park bench, in a church, by the river or even on a busy street in rush hour. As you notice the rest of the world hurries on around you – bursting with sound, movement and sensation, close your eyes and remain as still as possible without fidgeting or giving into restlessness.

 

Phase 3: Being grounded: symptoms of high anxiety may sometimes trigger an absence of feeling, detachment or dissociation as you become numb or go into a trance like state. This kind of dissociation is often used as a way of disconnecting oneself from the distress and intensity of fear states. This is can leave you passive and vulnerable to being manipulated or intruded upon without asserting your boundaries or standing up for yourself. You can counteract dissociation by anchoring yourself to the ground so that you remain fully present and in contact with yourself. Stand upright with your feet spread wide apart and pressed firmly into the floor. Find your centre of gravity and drop your weight onto your hips. Stamp your feet, grip your hips and try pushing against a wall. Keeping your eyes open, look around the room, notice objects and name things out aloud. The point is to create a feeling of stability and safety without dissociating.

 

Phase 4: Movement: pay attention to the rhythm of your breath as you walk, run or dance. Also pay attention to the movements of your limbs, body and posture. You can vary your pace, rhythm, fluidity and balance; noticing the lightness of your limbs, elasticity, strength, stability and flexibility as you move.

 

Phase 5: Attention on the five senses: focus on each of your five senses by using a variety natural environments, objects and situations in which you can stimulate the five senses. Such as listen to sounds in a park; developing a keen sense of smell and taste as you carry out the rituals of food preparation and cooking; or developing your physical sensations as you face the elements on days when the weather is much more intense or changeable than usual.