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Anxiety is an issue for so many people.

I have wrestled with anxiety on and off my whole life. 

It is like the quiet house guest who you forget is living in your house until they become really demanding and spoil your day. ​​Like many

Like many emotional states there are varying degrees of anxiety. For some people it is something which makes them feel sick and as though they don’t want to do something. Others though are completely crippled by its impact on their lives. Anxiety can make it impossible to leave the house, spend time with friends and even get a job. So can something as natural and ancient as mindfulness really help?

The short answer is yes, it really can.

The longer answer needs some science and some techniques, which will hopefully help you if you are struggling with anxiety. 

Are you ready? Take a deep breath and let’s dive in!

Let’s get the science out of the way then we can move onto the more fun parts of this longer explanation. When you feel anxious there is a physical change in your body, your breathing becomes more shallow and your heart rate increases. This change is then detected by your brain which sends chemical responses round your body; sending more energy to your heart, lungs and muscles and redirects blood and function to those areas and away from your brain.

This is where things start to get difficult because at this point our ability to think logically and remember all the times we have survived this situation before vanishes. Our brain is incapable of rational thought, problem solving and even recall when we go into this fight, flight or freeze state. 

In order to feel more calm and regain this mental function, we must breathe. Sounds simple doesn’t it? Unfortunately our state of mind is causing our breathing to be shallow and fast and unless we consciously change our breathing we will remain in this state and it may even escalate into a full panic attack. 

Learning some mindful breathing techniques is a great way to quickly and easily calm yourself when you feel this way. Something as simple as 7:11 breathing (7:11 breathing is simply counting to 7 as you breathe in and 11 as you breathe out) or following a video like this one I created for my Calmer Classrooms programme, can help you to calm down really quickly. The advantage of many breathing techniques is that you can do them without anyone being aware that you are implementing a life changing strategy.

Prevention not cure

These techniques are great when you are already in the grips of an anxious episode, but the real magic of mindfulness is that it can help prevent you from reaching that point. 

Mindfulness is the process of being present, being in the moment, being reflective. It helps us to appreciate what we have and doesn’t worry about what will be. It teaches us to focus on the task in hand and deal with what is coming when it arrives. Given that anxiety is effectively a fear of the future, of what might happen, just by shifting your focus to what is happening you are reducing your ability to feel anxious. Given that research has proven time and time again that as little as 9% of our worries actually come true, that means that up to 91% of our worries are actually worth worrying about. 

journaling

Mindful journaling

Another mindful activity which can really help with anxiety is journaling. The process of writing everything down that pops into your head allows you to process the thoughts more easily and often see the reality of the spiral you have got yourself into. Just buy yourself a notebook and take time every day to just write until you have no more thoughts left. Don’t think about what you are writing, just whatever comes into your head – write it down.

This process also helps you to see how infrequently our fears become reality. The other really useful activity is a gratitude practice. Writing down every day all the things you are grateful for. This helps to train your brain to look at the positives in your life rather than the negative, worrying thoughts. Once you realise how fortunate you are, you have a roof over your head, clean water to drink and clothes to keep you warm, you will worry less about what might be, but in all likelihood, won’t ever happen.

Mindful movement…

Living mindfully is also about listening to your body. Mindfully moving when we need to, and we do need to. Particularly if you are an anxious person making sure you get enough exercise is vital. When we exercise our body can process all the stress chemicals our body releases when we worry, so just going for a walk if you start to feel anxious, will instantly calm you down. It doesn’t have to be strenuous movement, just movement. You can dance in your kitchen, take the dog for a walk or do a spin class, just move! In addition to the checmical impact movement will have on your anxiety, moving will change your state and allow your brain to start seeing the situation differently. You will begin to process the information you are working through in a more effective and calm way and you will feel so much better.

Get outside, take a big deep breath of fresh and and move that body! 

If anxiety is an issue for you, or a loved one, start small. Implement small daily changes and begin to see how these little changes can have a huge impact on your reactions and how you deal with situation. You can get through this.

I have, and still do. One day at a time. 

 

For lots more mindful ideas to fit into your daily routine check out my article: Every day mindfulness or why not download my free ebook: You’ve Got This for lots of easy to implement mindful ideas.

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