April Anxieties: Mindfulness has some answers in managing anxiety and calming the fight or flight response.
It's a sunny morning, the birds are singing, the sun is shining its warmth on my face and I’m peacefully sitting in the garden.
But there is a heaviness in me today, and as I turn towards my feelings this morning, I realise it is a sense of anxiety; I can feel it in my tummy, my heart and in my throat.
The constant juggle of activities requiring my attention leave me with shallow breathing and a sense of panic rising in my chest.
Anxiety is a curious and frustrating human emotion; it can quietly creep up on you over time or it can hit you hard like running into a wall. However it emerges, it is a challenging emotion, but a natural emotion none the less.
For me, anxiety has come and gone throughout life, driven by internal and external life events. At times, anxiety is useful as it keeps us safe and it makes us cautious. At other times, it becomes debilitating and prevents us from doing and achieving our potential. Knowing your own anxiety and how it affects you will help you decipher when anxiety is a problem.
So how do you deal with anxiety when it appears....
Mindfulness has some answers in managing anxiety and calming the fight or flight response.
Breathing is the key as anxiety affects our breathing pattern and causes it to become shallower and more rapid, adding to that already present experience of panic and fear.
Tuning into the sensations and movement of the breath can help ground us. It can connect us to the present moment.
There are many different types of breathing exercises that can be used in the management of anxiety.
I have found 2 specific steps in supporting my own management of anxiety and I will share these with you below.
Step 1. The first stage of learning to deal with anxiety is the pure act of recognising when it is present in your body. Tuning in, paying attention and taking notice.
The second stage is becoming present; right now in this moment, tune into the senses of taste, touch, sight and sound .
Choose a sense to pay attention to. For me, tuning into the sounds of what I can currently hear instantly brings my focus to the here and now. But, we are all different, so tune into the sense that is most prevalent for you in this space and time.
Notice when your mind wanders away from your chosen sense and come back to that sense. Whether it be tuning into the noises in the room or the sensation of your body on the chair or ground beneath you.
When you feel able to move towards your breath, begin observing it at the nostrils or at the mouth and take some time to follow its movement through the body; at the chest, the ribs and the abdomen.
As you pay attention, allow yourself to experience whatever arises. This can be challenging and you may want to avoid and turn away from the emotions that arise, but where possible, turn towards your experience. Notice it and allow yourself some acceptance that this is how you feel in this moment, but it will change.
No emotion stays the same all the time. So remind yourself “This too shall pass”.
Every time you find your mind wandering in to 'what if’s', 'I wish I had' or ' I wish I hadn’t done that', gently come back to the movement of the breath in the body.
Step 2. As you focus your full attention on the body, breathe in through the nose and gently exhale through the mouth, allowing each breath to move deeper into the lungs and then slowly extending the exhale through the mouth. While inhaling slowly through the nose and steadily exhaling through the mouth, allow the breath to become slower and steadier with each breath.
Eventually, try breathing in for 4 seconds, holding the breath for 7 seconds and gently exhaling through the mouth for 8 seconds. Continue this pattern for as long as it feels appropriate to you.
Of course, anxiety is complex and it's important to note that if it persists and starts to have a long term negative impact on your quality of life, that you seek the relevant help.
You might need to look at life and your personal circumstances and identify the aspects and things that contribute to your anxiety.
If you'd like to learn how mindfulness can help with anxiety, we have a course that can help. All our online courses are user friendly and can be practiced at home in your own time. Click HERE to learn more.
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