Stress and anxiety are a part of life, especially during these times of uncertainty. However, we don’t need to be enslaved by our anxiety and instead can strengthen our mindful skills to ease our anxious minds, come into our lives and grow in confidence.
Anxiety affects all of us in varying degrees. You don’t have to be diagnosed with a clinical disorder to feel its insidious or intrusive effects. Fortunately, there are many ways to ease anxiety healthfully.
Mindfulness is one effective practice that helps to relax the mind and body. According to Jeffrey Brantley, M.D., and Wendy Millstine, NC, in their book Daily Meditations for Calming Your Anxious Mind, mindfulness is: … an awareness that is sensitive, open, kind, gentle and curious. Mindfulness is a basic human capacity. It arises from paying attention on purpose in a way that is nonjudging, friendly and does not try to add or subtract anything from whatever is happening.
Here are three practices that will resonate with you
- Ask Yourself This Question
When you catch your mind thinking the same thing, having the same worry over and over again, try asking yourself, Is this thought helpful? For example, let’s suppose you’re waiting for some medical test results. Your mind, of course, starts imagining what will happen if the test is positive and before you know it, you’re mentally preparing your funeral. These types of thoughts, known as catastrophizing, only fuel the anxiety and don’t help you to move in a constructive direction.
Other questions you may ask include:
- Is this thought (or worry) true? Is it absolutely true?
- Is there some other interpretation of the situation?
- What is the best outcome?
Not all anxiety is bad. Like most mental events, anxiety lies on a spectrum. When you’re feeling a lot of anxious energy, that could be stress or courage building up. Either way we need to release that. If your anxiety isn’t severe, you can actually channel that energy into something productive. If you’re nervously waiting to hear some news for example, get active—go for a brisk walk, clean, organize, or garden instead.
- Practice Self-Compassion
When we’re knee deep in anxiety swamp, we can make it worse by adding negative judgement about the anxiety.
Rather than logic or think your way out of this negative thought cycle, try shifting your mind toward self-compassion. This involves repeating phrases of well wishes towards yourself. For example:
- May I be happy
- May I know ease and joy
- May I be free from suffering
These phrases can soothe the agitated mind. You may find it useful to try a guided meditation to cement this practice.
In moments of moderate to intense anxiety the 3×3 practice can come in handy. Drop into three of your senses and name three things that you notice about them. In other words, name three things you’re seeing, smelling, tasting, feeling, or hearing. This can help interrupt the automatic catastrophic thinking that’s fuelling the anxiety.
- Trust Yourself
Recall other difficult life challenges you have overcome. Think of something you appreciate about yourself. Remember that you are resilient. Not only is anxiety painful enough, but we often get hit with a second round of self-critical thoughts.
Research indicates that the physical experience of anxiety, including panic attack, only lasts a few minutes. This means that if you allow the feelings of anxiousness to simply be there, they will pass. However, what often happens is that we continue to trigger the anxiety by adding negative or anxiety-provoking thoughts.
Trusting that the intense feelings of anxiety will pass, having faith in yourself that you can get through this and taking a gentler stance towards yourself are all key ingredients for working with your anxiety.
Ask yourself a simple question: Do the judgments make you more or less anxious? The answer is almost always, more. When you notice the self-critic, see if you can interrupt it by dropping into your heart and saying, “May I learn to be kinder to myself.”Leave a reply