When you have anxiety your mind is always cluttered with a million different thoughts at any given time. Sometimes the thoughts are fleeting, triggered by something you saw on the news or as you scrolled through your Facebook feed – that article about a deadly car crash has you marveling in fear that can happen to you or a family member, right? But often, anxiety sufferers have the same fears, worries, and scary thoughts on a day-to-day basis for long periods of time.
We become so tangled in our own minds and thought patterns we find it a never-ending battle to free ourselves from the dark and dismal nooks and crannies of our mind. Anxiety becomes a habit and we all know that habits can be extremely difficult to break.
So, what can YOU do to help gain some control back over your own mind? When you break anxiety and anxious thoughts down to its core, it’s your own mind creating these terrifying and uncomfortable thoughts. It’s not your fault that you created these thoughts, but one must take responsibility for letting those thoughts control them. Once you admit your own mind is feeding the anxiety, you take back your power and realize you have complete and total control over your mind.
In this post, we will explore what mindfulness is, how it will help your anxiety, the basic beginner steps to practicing mindfulness, and how it will retrain your brain.
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is the practice of being, well…mindful! But what does that mean exactly? An anxious mind wanders all over the place, uncontrollably. The mind has absolutely nothing to tether itself to when you don’t give it something productive and healthy to focus on. When you’re floating around outer space with your deepest and darkest fears and you’re not living in the here and now, your anxiety will spiral out of control.
To combat this issue, practice the art of being mindful. That means turning total focus on the present. What are you doing right now? Reading this blog post of course. How are you sitting and how does sitting feel? Are you comfortable? Do you feel any aches? How do the words look on the screen? Is your computer screen bright? These are all things you would never take note of unless you are being mindful and living fully immersed in the present.
Why is Mindfulness Helpful?
Mindfulness is so helpful for people who deal with anxiety disorder for 2 reasons:
1) It helps train your brain/mind that it has the ability to focus on something other than anxious thoughts
2) It distracts your mind from those anxious thoughts instantly so you can give your poor head a break from all that worrying you do!
Is Mindfulness Easy?
It’s very important to remember practicing mindfulness will likely be quite challenging in the beginning. It’s not something you are going to master and excel at in the first day. You have to retrain your mind and that is going to take some practice, consistency, and dedication.
When you first begin practicing you may find it hard to remain focused on being fully present and stopping your mind from wandering, and that’s normal and okay! Be patient and gentle with yourself, always softly bringing your attention back to the present. Don’t judge yourself when you fall off course or you struggle to keep your mind focused on the present. Mindfulness is less about stopping bad and anxious thoughts, and MORE about letting those bad thoughts come and go without judgment and dwelling on them for too long.
If you are dedicated and consistent with your daily mindfulness practice, you will see results and it will become easier. I promise. This may feel like a big undertaking as you sit here and read this for the first time, but take baby steps and don’t let yourself become overwhelmed. Remember…always be gentle and patience with your mind because you owe it that ☺
Your 1st Steps to Practicing Mindfulness:
1) Start with small “sessions” at any time throughout the day. Maybe you will start with once a day, or maybe you want to take a crack at it in the morning, afternoon and night. Do as much as you feel comfortable. Try to be mindful for 5 seconds at a time, if you can do more, awesome if you can only do 2 seconds, still amazing! Everything is an opportunity to be mindful. Practice while typing, walking, cleaning, cooking, watching TV, listening to music, etc.
2) Slowly build up how long you can successfully immerse yourself in the present. For instance, maybe you will add 5 seconds onto your time every week. Building gradually we help train that mind of yours without feeling too overwhelmed.
3) When you are feeling comfortable with your mindfulness practice try and incorporate the practice into the moments when your anxiety starts flying high and you begin to lose your mind. Stop, take a deep breath and focus on the immediate world around you. Where you are, how your breath feels, what you can see, feel, and taste. Ground yourself in the present so your anxious mind can remind itself it is in the here and now, and not in tomorrow, 3 months from now, or worrying about something that will probably not ever happen.
Suggestions for How to be Mindful:
• When you wake up in the morning, before you get out of bed lay there for a minute or two. How do you feel? How does your body feel? Are your eyes heavy or dry? Do you have a taste in your mouth?
• When taking a shower, how does the water feeling running down your skin? What is the temperature and how does it make you feel? How does the water feel when it hits your body? Are you calm?
• Sweeping or vacuuming the floors, cleaning tables and counters, etc. – notice what sounds you hear when you’re sweeping, notice the dirt pile up as you sweep it into the dustpan, what does it look and feel like when you wipe down a table or counter? Notice every movement you make, notice the rhythm you feel in your body when cleaning.
• When idle, notice all of the sounds, smells, touch sensations around you. Let everything in the space come to you, feel everything with all of your being and senses.
• When working out, notice how the muscles feel when you’re lifting weights or running. Imagine those muscles contracting and getting bigger and stronger. How does your entire body feel? Does anything hurt or feel uncomfortable? How is your breathing pattern? Are you out of breath or comfortable with your breath? What are the people around you doing? Feel the sweat all over your body. Enjoy the sensations of your body in movement and pushing itself. Appreciate your body.
• Go for a walk. Feel the sunshine on your skin. Hear all of the sounds around you. Smell everything that comes to you. Notice how it feels when your feet hit the ground. Count the houses or the trees that you pass.