Self-discipline exercises that will help your anxiety
Written by listed counsellor/psychotherapist: Noel Bell BA (Hons), MA, PG Dip Psych, UKCP
30th July, 20150 Comments
Self-discipline has been shown to be a key principle in overcoming feelings of anxiety and in feeling happy in life. Whether you are stuck in a rut or looking to improve your happiness, self-mastery ensures that you can make better decisions with your life choices.
A wise man once said that discipline weighs ounces but regret weighs tonnes. It is important, therefore, to delay your gratitude. Your self-esteem will improve as a result of being self-disciplined. Try not to be the person who eats dessert before the starter or the main course for self-discipline is a habit.
Everything in life can seem hard before becoming easy. It can be a daily battle to avoid the pitfalls of procrastination, avoidance or pure laziness, which will only increase your anxiety. That’s why it is important to do the worst task first. Then you can do the things you don’t want to do first so that you can do the more pleasurable things at a later stage.
Here are seven exercises you can start to do right now which will help you to improve your self-discipline and ultimately relieve your symptoms of anxiety:
1. Free your mind of congestion
Take time to think. Fast decisions can often be wrong decisions. In order to decide what to do it can be fruitful to have some time alone, up to 30 minutes if you can, to allow your intuition to take over. Try to have this time in a quiet place and concentrate on your breathing and allow your mind to relax. Mind calming can help your wise inner voice to shine through. Natural sounds (such as birds singing, the waves of an ocean and crickets chirping) promote relaxation and recovery from stress and anxiety. Write everything down and draw up the pros and cons of a difficult decision. There are few decisions where you don’t have the time to sleep on the matter.
2. Improve your sleep hygiene
The stress of modern life keeps adrenaline pumping that it may sometimes feel like we hardly ever need sleep. However, higher levels of stress hormones are bad for us. Not sleeping well adds to this effect by keeping higher levels of stress hormones in circulation. Individual variations show people need anything from six to nine hours of sleep. You need to discover what you need yourself. If you are tired during the day, find yourself yawning or wanting naps, you probably need more sleep. There are many freely available resources online that can inform you about the importance of sleep hygiene.
3. Set daily goals
Focus and concentration are essential for any successful strategy of implementing self-discipline. Set yourself 10 goals every day. It doesn’t matter how insignificant they seem. The importance is in ticking the task as completed. This will give you a boost and will work even if your list starts with the routine tasks of showering followed by getting dressed in the morning. As you get into the habit of achieving your goals this will produce greater energy flows and your goals can become more ambitious.
4. Set a daily time management schedule
It helps to write down everything you need to complete. The ABCDE technique can be useful in creating clarity in your mind. The A tasks are must do tasks, the B ones are should do, the C tasks are ones that it would be nice to do, the D ones are tasks that you could delegate and the E ones are those that you could actually eliminate from the list. So, each day go to work on your A tasks first thing in the morning before anything else.
5. Develop courage
Try to do the thing you fear the most. So, identify what you are most conditioned to avoid and try to confront that fear. A useful exercise is to pick a fear and see it as a challenge. Don’t worry if there are some things which you could never imagine doing. There will be ones which will feel are within your grasp if you look hard enough. The usefulness of this exercise is to identify something that will provide sufficient challenge without overwhelming you or making you feel unsafe.
6. Improve diet and exercise more
A happy mind is helped by a healthy body. Scientists have shown the benefits of consuming superfoods such as blueberries, omega-3 fatty acids (found in abundance in cold water fish), green tea and curcumin (the yellow colour in the curry spice turmeric). Cut out sugar, salt and flour.
Find an exercise that you enjoy and regularly do it. Your brain and body were designed by evolution to move about and to exercise. It is unnatural to sit in front of a computer all day or to watch television for hour after hour.
7. Practice mindfulness exercises
The two main practices that help brain function are mindfulness practices and devotion or compassion practices. It has been proven that regular meditation practice produces a response in the body that activates the parasympathetic nervous system. Devotion and compassion practices also bring about a larger hippocampus, increased blood flow, and an increase in positive feelings, empathy as well as reduced anxiety.
The benefits of improving your self-discipline are greater energy levels and productivity, more personal power, higher levels of self-esteem and personal pride, more perseverance, decreased feelings of anxiety and more self-confidence. Persist at these seven exercises and you will feel better.
Working with a therapist can help to unlock your automatic negative belief system so that you can transform your way of being. A therapist can also encourage you when you feel like wanting to quit the healthy choices and can be someone you share your worries with.
About the author
Noel Bell is a counsellor/psychotherapist based in London who has spent the past 20 years exploring and studying personal growth, recovery from addictions and inner transformation. Noel draws upon the most effective tools and techniques from the Psychodynamic, Cognitive Behavioural (CBT), Humanist, Existential and Transpersonal schools.
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