Anxiety is a common experience for many of us. It often exists on a scale, with some experiencing more manageable levels that subside once triggers have passed, whilst others experience prolonged periods of ongoing harmful and debilitating anxiety.
Once anxiety becomes an ongoing state, it can feel like an overwhelming force that just won’t go away. It can affect every aspect of our lives, leaving us feeling disconnected from meaningful relationships and with our life governed by worry, fear, distress and dis-ease.
If you are looking for ways of reducing anxiety, read on! I will explore anxiety and why understanding anxiety and giving it your gentle attention can help. I’ll also share some short take away tips.
Remember, anxiety doesn’t define you.
Labels stick and once we label ourselves or others as anxious people, we can begin to feel that anxiety is fixed and permanent. If we choose to reframe anxiety and separate ourselves, becoming a person or people who feel anxious, we can start to see anxiety as something more detached and outside of ourselves and our being.
When you label yourself as an anxious person, see if you can reframe it and remind yourself you feel anxious.
Practice compassionate mindfulness or awareness
Reducing anxiety often begins with awareness. It can help if we understand what is happening inside our bodies. We can learn to make compassionate observations so that we can recognise the signs of anxiety as they begin.
Changes in how we are feeling, as we leave a calmer state to one that is more aroused, and closer to something termed fight or flight, can be quite subtle. A gentle awareness can help us from becoming hijacked by a flood of anxiety driven emotions, thoughts and feelings.
Our fear of feeling anxious and the subsequent avoidance can feed anxiety. So, gently facing what’s happening, with a greater compassion and understanding, can begin to return us to a place of feeling more in control.
See if you can become interested in anxiety rather than running away from it. Be gentle with yourself and take your time. You can practice being more present with anxiety using a gentle breathing exercise. You may find moving helps you, perhaps something very gentle like walking, or something rhythmical like rocking or swinging, even just tapping your fingers gently, moving from your hand left to right can help.
Take mindfulness inside and outside your body
Mindfulness is often encouraged to help manage an anxious state because it can help us to pay attention, to be more present and aware of what is happening in the here and now.
When we are mindful, we become more aware and may notice, for example, how our breath is feeling, fast, slow, or shallow and where it is in our bodies and its quality.
To bring a more mindful approach to life and specifically feeling anxious we don’t have to sit with our eyes closed, stop moving or even go deeper inside ourselves, because this can actually make some people feel more anxious.
Mindfulness can also help us develop a sense of self-awareness, which can be helpful for recognising when our anxiety is starting to escalate and to help us manage anxiety.
You can practice mindfulness by doing things like meditation, ratio breathing with a lengthened exhalation. Or you can take your attention outside of your body and simply pay attention to your surroundings when you are still, or on the move.
You are not alone
Please remember that feeling anxious is something many of us share. If anxious thoughts begin to tumble over and over like clothes in a tumble drier, you are not alone.
Compassionate strangers are waiting to listen and support you. If you don’t feel ready to seek professional support, please share how you are feeling with friends or family.