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Understanding Anxiety & 6 Mindfulness Strategies To Reduce It

Have you ever woken up with a feeling of severe dread or worry? Or better yet, at the end of your day, you have a million and one things on your mind like things you needed to do that day but didn’t get the chance to so you are laying in bed thinking about tomorrow and if you will have time to get those tasks done all while wondering if your colleague hates you because of that joke you told at lunch?! Yeah, I’ve been there too!

Anxiety can be defined as apprehension, tension, or uneasiness that comes from real or perceive danger or threat, which may be internal or external. Real or perceived danger causes a rush of adrenaline, which in turn triggers anxiety reactions within a fight, flight, or freeze response. The duration or severity of feelings of anxiety will often be out of proportion to the original trigger or stressor. Here are some symptoms one might exhibit when experiencing anxiety:

  • Thoughts or beliefs that are hard to control due to worry or fear

  • Restlessness and tension

  • Physical symptoms, such as a pounding or rapid heartbeat, unexplained aches and pains, dizziness, sweating

  • Trouble concentrating

  • Trouble falling or staying asleep sleeping

  • Changes in eating habits

  • Avoiding everyday activities you used to do

But what’s the difference between anxiety and what many know as anxiety disorders? Well, when it interferes with one’s ability to function on a daily basis it becomes an anxiety disorder. There are many types of anxiety disorders and I suggest not doing a google search or taking an online test to determine if you have one. GO SEE A MENTAL HEALTH PROFESSIONAL! They can assess you appropriately and set you up with the care and resources you need. My goal with this article is to help manage those anxious thoughts and feelings with some of my favorite holistic strategies but before I do so, let me tell you a bit about my journey with anxiety as a mental health professional.

Growing up I have always been really active and busy. Gymnastics, dance, cheerleading, and academic programs on the weekends and during my summers to help set me up for success. When I got to college I was still super busy. Volleyball, dance, my studies, internships, and trying to maintain a social life (and did I have a pretty darn good social life!). I honestly didn’t have time to worry about things…not until I graduated, started my first big girl job, and worst of all, the death of my mother. I was an anxious mess but still pushing through, telling the world I was A-OK! Real as well as perceived fears consumed me and I felt alone in the world even though I was surrounded by friends and family. My anxiety grew more and more as life continued moving forward and I wasn’t sure what do to about it.

So I went to therapy. Three different times. The first therapist, not very helpful so I just kept on pushing. Honestly, the anxiety wasn’t too bad at this point; I just felt off. The second therapist introduced me to a few of the strategies I will be talking about very soon as a way to manage my symptoms of anxiety but it just wasn’t enough. I implemented routines for myself as a result of that second experience in therapy combined with my own clinical knowledge of treating anxiety and was able manage for few years. I got a divorce and was experiencing disrespectful amounts of anxiety, primarily in and surrounding romantic relationships and that is when I met my now therapist.

Working with my current therapist has been a life changer. I have been able to find so many tips and tools to help keep my thoughts, feelings, and behaviors in check while having a safe, unbiased person to listen and support me while I figure my ish out in my growth and healing journey. With these last two therapists and in the work I have done with my own clients, mindfulness is a hot topic and I thought why not tell you about it and how to use it to the reduce anxiety you might be experiencing.

Quickly though, mindfulness is awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, and without judgement. Two words that come to mind when I think of mindfulness is “intentionality” and “purposeful”. Wouldn’t you agree?

So here are the 6 mindfulness strategies that may help you to reduce your anxiety:

  • Body scan- A great way to relax and promote self-awareness is to do a full body scan. Bring your attention to each part of your body, from your toes to your head, noticing any tension or discomfort, as you breathe fully and deeply. On each exhale, imagine releasing any tension you notice in your body.

  • Grounding techniques- I talk about grounding techniques all of the time with my clients and even my friends (when they let me!). Focus on your senses to help reduce your anxiety. In each of my offices, I have a stone or crystal on the desk or table next to me. I grab it when I’m feeling overwhelmed or activated and it really helps!

  • Meditation- I mean, who would I be if I didn’t talk about meditation?! Mindfulness meditation helps to switch your attention from your internal thoughts to the external environment. It can help you focus on what’s happening right in the present moment instead what has or might happen. So, find a quiet space, close your eyes, and listen to a guided meditation. Here’s one that might be helpful (Guided Meditation for Reducing Anxiety).

  • Journal- Writing down your anxious thoughts and feelings helps you acknowledge and understand your emotions. It also helps you prioritize any problems, fears, and concerns you may have as well as provides a space to track any symptoms and possible triggers in order to find ways to manage and hopefully eliminate them.

  • Deep breathing exercises- Breath alone can heal you. It can help calm your nervous system and bring your attention to the present moment. Look out for more on breath in upcoming entries.

  • Yoga or stretching- These practices combine movement and mindfulness, helping to alleviate anxiety and increase body awareness.

So give them a try. See what works. If something doesn’t work, that’s okay. I love the saying “if it doesn’t apply, let it fly”. And remember, don’t use the internet or social media to diagnosis yourself. Seek a professional evaluation if you see anxiety has been impacting your daily functioning. You don’t have to suffer. Help is out there waiting to do what it does!

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