Overcoming Anxiety With Mindfulness

What Mindfulness Is: 5 Ways It Will Soothe Your Body and Mind

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So, you’ve tried everything you can think of for your anxiety, right?

You’ve tried talking to your friends or family, exercising, eating clean, and even medication. While you may find these outlets do help take the edge off, they often only go so far.

Maybe you don’t have the funds or transportation to visit with a mental health professional. Or, you may not be ready to take that significant leap just yet.

Are you tired of waking up every morning with high hopes for the day, only to find that you’re feeling agitated, stressed, or on the edge of your seat within a few hours?

If any of these situations sound like you, mindfulness practices may be the key to overcoming your anxiety and releasing yourself from the grip it has on your life. Let’s talk about what mindfulness is, and how implementing a few techniques can help you not only conquer your anxiety but improve your entire well-being.

What Does ‘Practicing Mindfulness’ Mean?

In the simplest sense, what mindfulness is practicing techniques that will usher in a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, emotions, bodily sensations, and our surrounding environment through a gentle, self-compassionate lens.

Mindfulness is focused on acceptance of our own thoughts and feelings, without being harsh or critical of them. The goal of mindfulness techniques is to allow yourself to sit in the current moment with all your emotions and baggage and simply be present. No regret from the past, or worries about the future should be plaguing your mind.

Of course, it’s always responsible to plan for the future, but when we constantly find ourselves in a state of worrying about what lies ahead we can become overly anxious. Mindfulness aims to step outside these stressors and tune in to what you’re feeling right here, right now.

Ways To Practice Mindfulness For Anxiety:

  • Breathing exercises

  • Guided meditations

  • Journaling

  • Single-tasking

  • Gardening

  • Mindfulness walks in nature

  • Observing your thoughts for 5 minutes at a time

  • Acknowledgment of fears and worries

  • Radical acceptance

  • Self-compassion

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5 Benefits of Mindfulness For Anxiety:

There are many other techniques you can use to calm your anxiety, accept what you’re experiencing, and acknowledge your ability to be present in the current moment. Mindfulness has been proven to not only help anxiety but relieve symptoms of depression, chronic stress, and anger.

Mindfulness Increases Body Awareness:

Anxiety is not a disorder confined to the brain. Anxiety spreads like wildfire and affects everything from our heart rate, to our appetite, to our sleeping patterns.

In order to overcome these intense feelings of anxiety and feel better physically, we must acknowledge their presence.

Many people with anxiety would rather run from these uncomfortable sensations rather than face them head on. This may lead to excessive alcohol or substance use, or simply ignoring them (in return, suffering day in and day out).

When we spend time practicing mindfulness, we force ourselves to feel those subtle changes in our bodies, allowing for greater self-awareness. Self-awareness enables us to regulate, and respond to feelings of anxiety when they arise. In addition, being able to identify anxiety ahead of time by spotting early physical symptoms can help us interrupt anxiety before it manifests further.

Mindfulness Regulates Our Sympathetic Nervous System:

Our sympathetic nervous system, or SNS, is our body’s built-in alarm. The SNS is responsible for our unconscious fight or flight response to distressing situations.

If faced with a stressful situation, our sympathetic nervous systems will jump into action sending stress hormones to help us either run or fight back. Once the situation has passed, our parasympathetic system then works to counteract this heightened state and return us back to normal.

If this system is unregulated, we can experience chronic anxiety. A nervous system can become unregulated through trauma, childhood experiences, or consistently high levels of stress. When our SNS is damaged we may perceive threats and danger, when there really is none. In addition, our parasympathetic system isn’t able to return us back to a calm, tranquil state.

When mindfulness practices are used, we are retraining our SNS to only respond to real threats. Techniques such as meditation activate the parasympathetic system, guiding our bodies back to a peaceful state of mind.

Spending time in quiet stillness will deregulate the SNS response, enabling us to see a situation more clearly and less as a threat. When we are no longer constantly ‘on guard’ our bodies can relax, ultimately relieving feelings of stress and anxiety.

Mindfulness Redirects Our Thoughts:

is especially true if you struggle with anxiety, as every situation may feel like a ticking time bomb.

Despite our worst fears rarely coming true, we still run through every outcome in our heads over and over again until it drains us from the inside out. We may imagine embarrassment, rejection, pain, or failures that seem like a hamster wheel with no end.

When we sit with our thoughts and acknowledge them for what they are, they lose their power. Identifying them as just that, thoughts rather than solid, concrete reality, we can begin to see our situation through a healthier lens.

Letting our thoughts, fears, and emotions come and go is a particularly important skill in breaking free from anxious thinking patterns. It’s encouraged to allow yourself to feel them, however, let them go. Holding on is likely to bring more harm than good.

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Mindfulness Enhances Our Physical Health:

There’s no doubt that the mind-body connection is incredibly strong. However, this connection isn’t often felt as vigorously than when it relates to anxiety. Think about how you may feel when you’re in the midst of an anxiety attack: you may experience painful headaches, stomach upset, and crushing fatigue. The same idea applies when we practice overcoming and healing from our anxiety, as well.

When we engage in mindfulness techniques, we begin to feel better from the inside, out. Mindfulness practices have been proven to lower stress hormones, treat heart disease, lower blood pressure, reduce chronic pain, alleviate gastrointestinal discomfort, and more.

No matter how much work we put into our mental health, if our bodies feel sick and rundown, our minds are likely to feel the effects. However, the emotional regulation side of mindfulness can make it much easier to cope with your feelings, increasing levels of happiness and life satisfaction. When we feel good mentally, we are much more motivated to make healthy choices, benefiting our entire well-being.

Mindfulness Improves Sleeping Habits:

Sleep is non-negotiable when it comes to both your mental and physical health. Sleep plays a crucial role in healing, restoration, and emotional balance. When our sleep is thrown off, the entire rest of our body is thrown off.

So, if you’re someone that experiences racing thoughts late at night, you may struggle with insomnia.

Mindfulness practices, particularly meditation, have been shown to reduce wakefulness at night, decrease the time it takes to fall asleep, and promote a deeper, more restful slumber.

Spending even a few minutes per night before bed to practice slow breathing and meditation can relax your body, increase feelings of peace, slow your heart rate, lower stress hormones, and send your body into a calm, primed state of sleepiness.

The benefits of a restful night’s sleep are enormous, ranging from a stronger immune system, lowered risk of diabetes and heart conditions, clearer thinking and decision making, emotional regulation, stress reduction, and much more.

Let’s Recap:

Mindfulness practices create a space for us to accept ourselves, thoughts, feelings, and emotions while becoming aware of the present moment. Focusing on the moment in front of us, rather than dwelling on the past, or fearing the future, gives our bodies and minds a break to observe our situation with a clear mind.

When we practice mindfulness we’re able to slow down, in turn becoming less reactive to the context of our thought (whether rational or irrational). This is why mindfulness techniques are so useful in relieving symptoms of anxiety.

While the benefits of mindfulness are vast, 5 ways you can soothe your anxiety include:

  • Increasing your body awareness of sensations and emotions.

  • Retraining your sympathetic nervous system to it can work the way it was intended to.

  • Redirect negative thoughts and stop them in their tracks.

  • Improving your physical health so you can feel good all around.

  • Fights insomnia and promotes all the benefits a healthy rest can bring.

If you're interested in learning more about how mindfulness can help anxiety, schedule an appointment today.

***The ideas, concepts, and opinions expressed in all Living Openhearted posts are intended to be used for educational purposes only. The author and publisher are not rendering medical advice of any kind, nor are intended to replace medical advice, nor to diagnose, prescribe, or treat any disease, condition, illness, or injury. It is imperative that before beginning any diet or exercise program, you receive full medical clearance from a licensed physician. Authors and publisher claim no responsibility to any person or entity for any liability, loss, or damage as a result of the use, application, or interpretation of the material.

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