How Can Mindfulness Skills Help With Anxiety?
“Worry is a thin stream of fear trickling through the mind. If encouraged, it cuts a channel into which all other thoughts are drained.”.
Nobody is immune to anxiety. Anxiety is part of life. While often anxiety is an uncomfortable experience, it does actually serve a purpose in our lives. For instance it can help heighten our awareness in potentially dangerous situations, and thus can be seen to have an important evolutionary function. When we feel fearful, our fight or flight response is activated. This is designed to protect us from the proverbial sabre tooth tigers that once lurked in the woods and fields around us, threatening our physical survival. At times when our actual physical survival is threatened, there is no greater response to have on our side. When activated, the fight or flight response causes a surge of adrenaline and other stress hormones to pump through our body.
However, it is when anxiety works in negative ways, causing irrational thinking and behaviour, that it becomes a problem. Given that we will all have the experience of anxiety, it is the question of how we are able to cope with the resultant thoughts and feelings that determines how much anxiety affects our actions and our emotional health.
If you can learn to change your relationship with the thoughts, memories, and images that trigger anxiety, as well as the feelings themselves, you can lessen the sting of these experiences. This is how mindfulness can help. Mindfulness is the mental quality of non-judgemental attention that allows us to see things directly as they appear in the present moment.
By practicing mindfulness you will be able to increase your ability to deal with anxiety. By learning to pay close attention to what you do throughout your day, you can discover your own habits of mind (such as anxious thoughts), and body, and be able to make the connection to how you feel. Mindful awareness allows you to notice both mental and physical discomfort. It can also provide you with the skills to better distance and analyze your thoughts and feelings. Mindfulness will help you to develop acceptance and compassion for your worries, anxieties, fears, painful memories and thoughts. Instead of avoiding the things that cause you anxiety, mindfulness will allow you to develop compassion for the most painful parts of your inner emotional experiences and will teach you to be able to open up to this pain and treat it with kindness.
Also, anxiety and relaxation are completely opposite states, you won’t experience one if you are feeling the other; and that’s why mindfulness is the perfect antidote to stress and anxiety. By turning off busy thoughts and engaging in present moment awareness, you can also begin to tame and calm an anxious mind and learn to enjoy feeling relaxed.