Anxiety can raise its ugly head in many forms! It can be so bad that we need professional help to deal with the pain and trauma that can actually stop us from functioning properly. Anxiety is something that everybody experiences at one time or another, but it can be on many different levels. From being anxious about walking into a room of people to it being so debilitating than getting out of bed for fear of something happening to you can be your everyday battle.
One powerful tool that can help you navigate anxiety is mindfulness. Being aware of the present moment without judging it, and allowing the experience to happen without trying to change it, can free you from the pain of your anxiety as well as help you understand its underlying causes.
Ok, so how can I achieve this? Anxiety can come on in a second. You can go from being calm and relaxed to a state of stress. By trying to live our lives moment-to-moment and realising that some of our bad habits and ways of thinking are causing us to become anxious we can deal with our anxiety and try to recognise what causes it in ourselves.
Our thinking patterns greatly influence how we see ourselves, others, and the world at large. As a consequence of our early interactions with parents, peers, and society, we create various thought patterns that continue to evolve throughout our lifetimes. Most of the time, we’re unaware of these patterns, so they can end up dictating a great deal of our lives.
As an example, if you were repeatedly told as a child that you weren’t good enough at football, you are very likely to have taken that on board subconsciously, and in turn, it will stop you from ever becoming good at football because you have been conditioned to think that way.
As you get older if you are ever faced with playing a game of football you will get anxious straight away as you believe you will fail at it as your mind is conditioned to think that way.
Your mind will revert back to the child in you, being told you aren’t good enough. Having a mindfulness practice can help us see our actual process of thinking, giving us some space from our thoughts.
The next time you are faced with this situation, try snd listen to your mind and see if the voice that is in your head telling you that you aren’t good enough is in fact the voice of the person who actually said these things to you when you were young?
This may help you to realise that it’s not your own voice that is saying these things. This may in turn help you to stop listening to these thoughts and replace them with positive ones.
Anxiety is an emotion, and we all have those! But by developing mindfulness we can learn to deal with and tolerate the more difficult emotions like anxiety. When you allow an experience to be just that, an experience, you can learn to put it into perspective and the harmful emotions lose control over the well-being of your mind.
Nobody is saying this will happen overnight, and it takes practice but it can happen. The more you use mindfulness the more you come to understand yourself and your emotions and the more you can put your experiences into perspective and not let them become bigger or more debilitating than they need to be.
Emotions begin in the body, and so anxiety can show itself in the body, too, in ways such as a tightening of the chest, heart palpitations, your stomach feeling like it's tied in knots, and so on.
As we develop the capacity to use mindfulness we can learn to pick up on emotions sooner and help stop our bodies from reacting to them.
What goes on in your head, affects your body and the reactions it has. Practicing mindfulness helps us to notice how our thoughts impact how we feel, how our feelings impact how tense our bodies are, and how our physical experience impacts our thoughts and feelings. The great news is that by becoming aware of any one of these processes, all of them begin to shift, harmonize, and flow.
If you would like to chat more about putting some of these ideas into practice, or you feel that you can’t do it alone, that’s ok. I’m here to help, feel free to contact me and we can’t start finding ways you can use mindfulness in your everyday life.
Jimi D Katsis Bristol-based consultant psychotherapist specialising in recovery from trauma, depression, and, anxiety.