I’ve been having anxiety flare-ups for years, long before I even knew the word for that tightness in my chest. My anxiety disorder has manifested in various ways over the years, from uncontrollable, violent full-body shakes to vomiting and palpitations. It’s always as horrendous as the last time. It never gets easier. When I first saw a therapist for my anxiety and depression, one of the things he taught me that has stuck with me ever since is how to use mindfulness as a way of managing how I feel in that moment.
Mindfulness has gained traction in recent years as a way of lowering stress, and it can be really effective in helping you take yourself out of those negative anxious thought cycles. Anxiety is exhausting, both mentally and physically, and finding ways that can help minimise that are always welcome in my book. Mindfulness is all about paying attention to the smaller details of life that we typically overlook – it’s a way of turning the volume down on your brain chatter and help you regain focus.
Here are five methods you might find beneficial when you’re feeling anxious.
Follow a Guided Meditation
Meditation is one of those things that seems really complicated to the uninitiated, but in reality, it’s as simple as finding a YouTube video or app that allows you to follow along with a guided practice. This is a great way of getting used to meditation to quiet the mind and reduce stress, and you don’t have to be sitting there for hours for it to work. Just five minutes can help.
Go for a Walk
I’m a big believer in the power of nature to help reduce stress. If you find yourself anxious or unable to switch off, going for a walk can really do wonders. When you’re walking, pay attention to your senses – the sounds you can hear, how the wind or sun feels against your skin, how the different textures of the ground feel as you walk on them.
Brew a Cup of Tea
Tea is well-known as a soothing remedy for poor mood and the practice of making a cup for yourself can actually be a great method for practicing mindfulness. Pay attention to the smell and colour of the leaves as you pour them into the cup, notice the smell that envelopes you when you pour over the hot water and how the colour of the liquid changes over time. Some great herbal blends that can help soothe anxiety include chamomile, lavender, peppermint and catnip.
Put Pen to Paper
You’d be surprised how effective writing down your thoughts can be to help reduce anxiety. Journalling is a great practice for those anxious moments and it doesn’t matter if you only scribble down a few lines – getting your thoughts out in front of you can really help calm down your mind. But you don’t have to journal just when your thoughts are negative – gratitude journals are also a great idea to help take you out of a negative cycle and help you notice the positive aspects of the things around you too.
Note the Thought…And Let It Go
As horrible as anxiety feels, it’s actually your mind attempting to protect you. But just because you have a thought, it doesn’t make it necessarily true or helpful. A technique used in meditation is to notice a thought, acknowledge it and then let it go so you can return to focusing on what you’re doing. This method takes practice and it’s a long-term strategy to help you deal with anxious cycles, but it can be really effective in helping you move on from anxious moments. So, the next time you are at work or an event and notice yourself becoming consumed by an anxious thought: notice it, acknowledge the thought and then refocus your attention on what is happening around you at that very moment. And simply repeat as often as necessary until the anxiety passes.