In today’s society, we’re all coping with anxiety. There’s a lot to be anxious about and it always seems like life is ready to throw us yet another curveball. It is not necessarily the simple act of life that’s stressful, however, but the way we handle these stressors. It can be tempting to ignore them in hopes that they’ll go away or become infuriated by them without finding ways to solve them. But not coping with your stressors will only bury them, encouraging them to come back stronger the next time.
When stress isn’t dealt with for a prolonged period of time, mild anxieties turn into major ones, and small worries can turn into full-blown panic attacks. Unfortunately, there’s no way to stop unwanted stress from entering our lives. Thankfully, there are methods of reframing or diminishing them. One of the tools I’ve found most effective in coping with anxiety is the practice of mindfulness. In a previous blog post, I outlined the details of mindfulness. In this post, I’m going to give you examples of how to practice it.
3 Mindfulness Exercises
These common mindfulness exercises are a great start to coping with anxiety.
Also known as “anchoring”, the act of grounding is one of the best mindfulness tools to calm yourself when your anxiety feels unmanageable. Grounding includes paying attention, physically, to where you are at the moment. Take a seat and place both feet on the ground. Focus your attention first on the way your feet feel connected to the floor. Pay most of your attention to the lower half of your body as it relates to the place you’re in. Focus on the sensations in your toes, the balls of your feet, and your heels. Work your way up to your calves and thighs.
It can help to look around the room and name 5 things you see – what color they are and what function they serve, etc. Really anchor yourself in the moment in which you are physically present.
What if I told you that you could calm your anxieties just by taking deep breaths? With mindful breathing, it’s true. Sit or lie down comfortably, close your eyes, and begin to take slow, deep, breaths. Mentally narrow in on where your breath is coming from – in through your nostrils and out through your mouth. Focus on how your body feels when you take the deep breaths. Are you relaxing your shoulders or are they tight by your ears? Where do you feel your breath coming from? Your abdomen? Chest? Nose/Mouth? Pay attention to the air that enters your body, and the air that leaves it. You can practice mindful breathing for as long as you like, but I encourage a minimum of 5 minutes to enter a meditative state.
Mindful Awareness and Appreciation
Do you know what muscle memory is? It’s the automatic way a calligrapher holds a pen or a tennis player grasps a racquet. You can train your mind to engage in muscle memory as well. Most of us have trained our brains to respond to fast-paced and overwhelming situations with stress. But, just as with your other muscles, you can retrain your brain as well.
One of the best ways to do this is to become aware of and appreciative of the good in your life. This can be done anywhere at any time. Give yourself a few minutes to sit with your eyes closed while mindfully breathing and then think of three things in your life you’re especially grateful for. They can be people, memories, previous situations, etc., as long as they’re things that really speak to you. When you create more room for gratitude you have less room for anxiety.
These are just a few of the many mindfulness exercises proven to reduce stress and anxiety. One of the greatest things about mindfulness is that you don’t need anything but your body and your brain. Coping with anxiety can be incredibly difficult, but when you include mindfulness in your life, you’ll be surprised by the difference it will make.