There are many simple mindful exercises you can do when you feel anxious. The exercises below can be done together, one after the other or just on their own.
Practice different ways of dealing with anxiety and see which ones work for you. Have a toolkit which you can rely on at any time you feel anxious.
The most important thing when you feel anxious is to stop what you are doing and give yourself some time.
During mindfulness exercises, you may find that the anxiety lessens or even leaves at times. It may come back but often the feeling isn’t as strong as it was in the beginning. Also, don’t worry if the feeling doesn’t lessen – it may not but mindfulness will help you however strong the feeling is.
Here are nine exercises:
1.) Just sit and do nothing for a while. Don’t try to do anything about the anxiety
Commit to giving yourself time to deal with the anxiety.
Don’t just push the feeling down or distract yourself in some way such as by looking at your phone, Facebook, Netflix or mindless Internet searching.
2.) Accept the feeling of anxiety
Accept that anxiety feels uncomfortable. As the old saying goes, what your resist persists. Resisting the anxiety you are feeling is often the main reason that you suffer. If you can accept the anxiety, the suffering goes.
Sit with the feeling for a while.
Notice where the feeling presents itself.
Notice that you are not the feeling. It’s separate from you. You can feel it, but it’s not who you are. It’s a separate ball of energy.
3.) Be curious about how it feels.
Don’t label the feeling / energy as anxiety. Get curious about it. Notice that the feeling is there and observe it but don’t call it anything.
Breath deep into your stomach and into where the feeling presents itself. Breath slowly and deeply in and slowly out. Let your body relax on each out breath.
Notice that your thoughts are separate from the feeling.
If any thoughts come up, notice that they too are separate from the anxiety.
5.) You can still act
Notice that even though the feeling is there, being mindful allow you to act with the feeling inside of you. It’s like a separate piece of luggage that you are carrying around. It is separate to you and it may feel a little heavy to carry. However, if you accept it rather than resist it, it can just be a companion rather than an energy that stops you doing what you want to do.
6.) Go for a mindful walk
Movement helps to free the energy of anxiety. Walking in the fresh air can give a new perspective and change your energy immediately.
It can feel difficult to start walking when you feel anxious but the feeling when you’ve walked for a while makes it worthwhile.
Writing can be a cathartic experience which can help release anxiety. Get present by feeling your body. Take a pen and paper or get your laptop out. Write whatever you feel.
8.) If You Slip Up – Bring Awareness To Your Actions
Next time you feel anxious and you do something that isn’t mindful in response to the anxious feeling, see what you do. Do you sit and worry compulsively and get involved in addictive thoughts which go through your mind over and over again? Do you reach for your phone in order to distract yourself. Or do you quickly look at Facebook, eat a cake or think ‘f**k it – I’m just going to sit in a chair all day”?
If you’re aware of the behaviours you use to try and bury anxiety, next time you can swap one of these behaviours with a mindfulness action instead.
This will help release some of the anxious energy in your body instead of burying the energy for it to come up another time.
Expand your awareness
Often we make the anxiety feel stronger because we focus on just the anxiety and nothing else. Our point of focus is small.
Continue to accept the anxiety is there but also expand your awareness by noticing the rest of your body, the area around your body and the room or place where you are. Sometimes looking at a point far in the distance (perhaps out of the window) or listening to sounds such as the birds (or any other noise you can hear) can help expand your awareness so that your focus isn’t just on feeling anxious.
Common Obstacles when You Use Mindfulness To Deal With Anxiety
Being mindful is simple but sometimes it doesn’t seem easy. This is the mind getting in the way. Find below some common problems you may face when trying to be mindful.
You think you don’t have time
Your mind may tell you, you don’t have time to sit down and do nothing or go for a walk. This is your ego trying to protect you.
The anxiety has been created as a protection mechanism as a result of previous events that have occurred.
You have a learned belief that anxiety will protect you from the repercussions of certain events. It may prevent you from acting in a certain way. It may think you have a certain element of control by worrying. Therefore your ego will do everything it can to keep the anxiety like telling you, you don’t have time to deal with it.
In fact, time is the exact reason why you should take a few moments to deal with your feelings.
Just think how much time and energy anxiety is taking in your life at the moment. All those moments when you distract yourself with Facebook, scrolling your phone, numbing the feeling with eating or alcohol, watching Netflix – or any other crutch you use to numb the anxiety.
If you can use mindfulness to release some of the anxious energy, it will give you much more time than you could imagine.
More time is the reason you need to use mindfulness to see your anxiety. If you see it, you can act in spite of it. You will have a bigger awareness when anxiety arises and he anxiety will have space to be and release.
You think it’s not working
You may think the mindfulness exercises are not working but they are doing more than you will ever know.
Like everything, mindfulness is a cumulative act. Even though doing it once can help, you need to keep doing it over and over again to build up on the benefits. The more you do it, the more you will see results.
Imagine what you can do if you have the skill to be mindful and act even though you feel anxious.
Imagine that every time you practice mindfulness it releases a bit of anxious energy that you have kept buried in your body.
If you keep releasing this energy, it will lessen and eventually it will leave. You will see that any anxiety you do have is just a passenger that keeps you company but doesn’t have to affect your behaviour and your actions.
Like going to the gym, you have to keep practising mindfulness to see results.
You Keep Forgetting
It’s easy to fall back into habits like scrolling through Facebook when you feel anxious instead of being mindful. If you do this, don’t beat yourself up. There are things you can do to make it easier to be mindful. Find some below:
A daily meditation
Commit to meditating every day for some time. Meditation simply involves sitting and feeling your feelings in the moment. If you commit to doing this everyday, you will find that you begin to do it throughout the day as well as during your meditation practice. It becomes your go to habit instead of looking at your phone!
Try and mediate for as long as you can. You could do 20 minutes every day or 1 or 2 hours. The more you do, the more you will benefit. If you think you don’t have time (read the point above) but also know that the reason you think you don’t have time, is actually the reason you need to do it.
For example, if you say you don’t have time to meditate because you have kids, your kids are actually the reason you need to meditate. Just imagine if you use mediation and become a parent who’s calmer and less anxious, how much is this going to benefit your child? A parent who is more present is going to be a better parent than one who is always looking at their phone.
A mindfulness chime
I once had a friend who had a chime that rang on her phone every hour to remind her to be present. If you have little reminders throughout the day, it can start to become something you think about even when the chime isn’t chiming. It worked for her and also for anybody who spends some time with her.
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