Practising mindfulness and learning how to be present was a huge tool for me during Anxiety recovery. Anxiety thrives on future worries; if you take the future out of the equation and live in the current moment as much as possible you take away the fuel Anxiety needs.
Today I’m sharing five simple mindfulness exercises that I use when I feel anxious and worried, and that I hope will help you too.
Be mindful in nature
Being in a natural setting is one of the easiest places to begin mindful practice. When you begin to look more closely there are so many parts of nature you can study and connect with. To begin immersing yourself, start by choosing an object; a tree for example. Study the shape and colour of its leaves, feel the texture of its bark and listen to the sound it makes when moved by the wind. Consider its purpose and its place in nature.
If you’re experiencing a particularly difficult moment of anxiety or panic it might be useful to try some grounding techniques, this can be particularly handy if your distress has led to feelings of detachment or derealisation. The technique below focuses on using our senses for grounding but there are lots of other methods too which I’ll touch on in a future post.
- Look around the room or area you’re in in more detail, being sure to notice objects, colours & textures.
- Listen for sounds you wouldn’t usually notice – traffic, music, indistinct voices, the washing machine etc.
- Pay attention to your body; the feeling of clothing or a blanket against your skin, the solidness of the chair or floor beneath, the feeling of air moving through your hair or across your skin as you move. Pinching yourself may even help!
For Anxiety sufferers, there is so much power in the simple act of deep breathing. When we’re immersed in panic or worry we become physically tense and our breathing becomes quick and shallow. By becoming aware of our breath and taking intentional deep breaths we can go a long way to calming ourselves.
Breathing is at the core of the traffic light technique I discussed a while ago but it can also be much simpler than that. One of my earliest therapists taught me to visualise drawing a rectangle as I breathed; to draw the short side as I breathe in and the longer side as I breathe out.
Visual aids like this one can be really useful to keep you focused during this exercise.
Mindful eating & cooking
Mindfulness can be applied to lots of daily tasks and chores but it lends itself especially well to both cooking and eating. I know many of us (myself included) find cooking soothing anyway, and a great self-care activity, but if we can really pay attention to our ingredients (where they have come from, how they feel and smell etc) we can find a way to be more present during the cooking process.
Similarly, really paying attention to our food whilst we eat, without distractions like the TV or our phones, is not only great for mindfulness but for weight loss too!
Find out more about mindful cooking here.
Observe your thoughts
I used this technique a great deal during recovery, and now too when I find my thoughts and worries spiralling. It’s especially helpful for managing intrusive thoughts. It’s not our thoughts that cause us distress, only our reaction to them. Therefore, if we can become observers of our thoughts, rather than engaging with and participating in them we can firstly, lower the levels of distress they bring us and secondly, stay more present rather than running away with the “what if” scenarios.
If you found these ideas helpful please let me know as I find the subject fascinating and will happily create more posts around mindfulness.