Mindfulness To Manage Anxiety - SACAP
Applied Psychology

Mindfulness to Manage Anxiety

Feb 21, 2024 | By Saranne Durham
Businessman sitting in chair with eyes closed practicing mindfulness and relaxing in business office space alone

Anxiety can creep up on you little by little – much like a pot slowly coming to boil in the background. Or it can crash over you like a wave. Either way, it usually results in feeling overwhelmed. And at times can even stop you from being able to do things. Mindfulness to manage anxiety is an approach which can be constantly practised. As a result, it can be a highly effective way to prevent anxiety from escalating. Or alternatively, deescalate it to a more manageable level.

What is Anxiety?

People experience anxiety in different ways. However, there are common symptoms which occur. Not everyone will get all of them. Consequently, each person might experience different combinations the symptoms.

Common Anxiety Symptoms

  • Dizziness, nausea and pain.
  • Heart palpitations, racing heart, rapid breathing, hyperventilating.
  • Restlessness, trembling, increased sweating.
  • Fear of impending doom, obsessive thoughts.
  • Panic attacks.

The result of anxiety symptoms manifesting can be feelings of restlessness and difficulty concentrating as well as irritability. Some people experience insomnia, whereas others can’t seem to get enough sleep. Physically anxiety can make you feel sick, for example, have headaches, stomachaches or unexplainable pain. It can also lead to continuously feeling worried and being unable to relax. How badly it impacts everyday life varies. Thus, some people have high-functioning anxiety, whereas others are barely able to get through their daily activities.

What causes Anxiety?

Anxiety is caused by several things. And what triggers anxiety in one person might not do so in somebody else. Anyone, at any age, can experience anxiety which can also escalate to a point where it becomes a disorder.

An upcoming event can cause us to be anxious or it could be a result of several things that accumulate over time. Trauma and continuous stress often result in anxiety manifesting. Additionally, past experiences, particularly difficult ones, relating to childhood or adolescence, are common as underlying anxiety triggers.  Increasingly, high levels of anxiety have been linked to social media.

Is Anxiety Always Bad?

A certain level of anxiety is healthy. This is because it can be a motivating force in our lives. It can help highlight what’s actually important to us. Thereby, causing us to be more focused, which is a key ingredient for success. Anxiety can also ensure that we are adequately prepared, for example, for a presentation. It can help us realise we need assistance and therefore reach out to others. And anxious feelings can alert us to danger, such that we avoid potential harm. Thus, coping with anxiety can be a great life skill to acquire.

What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is a process by which you bring your mind back to the present moment. This is done by paying attention to what is currently happening around and within yourself. Therefore, in being mindful, you are making yourself aware of your thoughts, feelings and emotions. As well as how your body feels and your immediate environment. This process is a non-judgemental one, which is about taking stock of your current moment. Often your breath is used as a central reference point to help you focus while you practice mindfulness.

Why does Mindfulness Work?

We all tend to compulsively think of our problems. These continuous and reoccurring thoughts cause us to be focused on something that is bothering us. Ideally, this results in us finding a solution that helps us move on from the problem. However, often it results in feelings of anxiety, stress or being overwhelmed by an issue.

Mindfulness can help us to function better within a stressful world. It can do this because it teaches us that worrying thoughts are often the root of anxiety and suffering. What it does is decouples intense emotion from worry. Thereby allowing us to look at things from a less emotive and more logical perspective. This results in a sense of levity and calm. And enables us to approach an issue from a more rational angle. Thus, rendering us more likely to find a solution to the problem at hand. Or to be able to relax in a stressful situation. Overall, the result is a happier state of mind which benefits us both mentally and physically.

How to use Mindfulness to Manage Anxiety?

Due to its inherent benefits, mindfulness is a life skill which is worthwhile learning. However, it is one thing to know that mindfulness can help us, but sometimes another to put it into practice. The great news is that it’s not difficult to start to do. Moreover, anyone can become proficient at mindfulness by regularly practising it.

Some like to have a dedicated space and time to practice mindfulness. But, while this is a great habit to foster, it is not the only way to do it. You also don’t need to dedicate long stretches of time to practising mindfulness. Thus, mindfulness can just be a moment of pause wherein you refocus your attention on your current situation. By doing this you can assist your body to relax, feel more grounded and less flustered. You can also stop reoccurring thoughts. Which will enable you to think more rationally and successfully focus on what you trying to do.

There are many apps, paid and free, which can assist you in practising mindfulness. You can also begin right away by watching this guided mindfulness exercise or following these 6 steps.

6 Steps of Practising Mindfulness

  1. Begin by finding a comfortable position, either sitting or lying down. Then close your eyes.
  2. Notice any sensations in your body. For example, are you resting on something hard or soft? Is the air warm or cool as it touches your skin?
  3. Where are your thoughts? Are they skipping ahead, delving into the past or in the moment? And what are you feeling in relation to them?
  4. Turn your attention to your breathing. Do you feel your breath in your abdomen or chest more? How does your body feel as you breathe in and out?
  5. If your mind wanders away from the present moment, acknowledge your thoughts. Don’t get frustrated – rather bring yourself back to your breathing. Refocus on the current moment< and breath slowly in and out.
  6. When you are ready, focus your attention back on your immediate surroundings. Then, slowly open your eyes and carry on with your day.

Are you interested in deepening your understanding of things such as how mindfulness can be used to help manage anxiety? If so, consider studying in the Applied Psychology field. The study of psychology is a fascinating subject. It hones skills that will be of service to you in any number of career paths. SACAP offers a range of psychology courses. These can also help pave the way for a career in psychology. For more information about studying at SACAP, enquire now.

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