Anxiety can be both mentally and physically exhausting and can drastically reduce your quality of life. Once upon a time, it was believed that the only way to treat anxiety was through prescription medications that served more as a band-aid than an actual cure. Worse yet, these medications come with many adverse side effects, and over time, patients developed a tolerance to them, requiring gradually increasing the dosage..
The good news is that research shows us that there are several alternative approaches to combat anxiety, one of which is through mindfulness. Practicing mindfulness is easy and requires little more than your body and mind. When you combine the following techniques with other lifestyle changes, you can reduce your symptoms of anxiety and live a more relaxed and fulfilling life.
Practice Breathing Exercises
Breathing is one of the simplest yet most effective ways to get on the path to a more mindful existence. To turn this innate function into one that improves clarity and focus and reduces the symptoms of anxiety, you need to give it your undivided attention.
Find a quiet place to sit and relax. Once situated, close your eyes and breathe. Pay attention to each breath you take and the way your shoulders, stomach and chest rise and fall with each inhale and exhale. Feel the way your limbs tingle as they’re able to relax, and the way your eyelids flutter. When your mind begins to water, as it is apt to do in the first few days of your practicing breathing exercises, bring it back to your breathing. You can start with just 10 minutes a day and gradually increase the time to whatever meets your schedule.
Notice Your Thoughts
When your thoughts threaten to spiral out of control and overwhelm you, stop what you're doing and engage in an activity that forces you to pay attention to them. One of the best ways to do this is through journaling.
Journaling is a great way to separate your thoughts and give each its undivided attention. While this may seem counterintuitive (After all, isn’t the goal to escape anxious thoughts, not indulge them?), it can actually be quite helpful in getting the thoughts of your head and out into the open. Once your mind is clear, read through your journal entry and reflect on what concerns you laid bare. Separate those that are valid from those that are not by asking yourself a few simple questions:
- How likely is this fear to come to pass?
- How do you know?
- Are you certain?
- If what you fear does happen, will it really be as bad as you imagined? Could its occurrence actually be a positive event?
- What can you do now to better your circumstances or to prevent your concern from happening?
- What can you do now to prepare for changes that the event might trigger?
By challenging your fears and anxieties in this way, you effectively accomplish two things: You gain control over them and your future, and you gain some much-needed perspective, two outcomes that improve symptoms of anxiety.