At any given moment in our lives, there are so many things calling for our attention, so many unknown outcomes, so many possibilities to plan for. Add in the daily news and politics and it’s enough to make anyone feel anxious — and that’s outside of those of us who struggle with clinical anxiety.
I have found mindfulness to be an ideal tool for navigating anxious moments.
Here are a few tips to try next time you feel anxiety rising inside of you.
Talk about your feelings.
You can use the R.A.I.N. acronym to mindfully and compassionately explore how you’re feeling. Labeling the emotion engages the thinking brain and calms your system down.R Recognize your feeling and name it (i.e., “I’m feeling frustrated. I feel upset. I feel scared. I feel angry.”). A Allow your feeling to be there without judging it. I Investigate gently with curiosity why this feeling is there. N Nourish yourself. What do you need to hear or do right now to make yourself feel better? What could you choose to do right now that would be helpful?
BONUS: Change the channel by popping in a positive mental state from a memory. Really feel that goodness for a breath or two to transform it from a mental state to a neural trait. Rewire your brain for more happiness and resilience.
Practice deep breathing.
Deep breathing calms the nervous system. Take several deep breaths; try counting to four on the in breath and exhaling for six. Practice at night, in the morning, in traffic, or whenever anxiety strikes.
Access mindfulness with a physical object.
Focusing on an object helps to shift the mind from worrying thoughts. Go exploring and choose a stone for this purpose. It doesn’t have to be fancy; it just needs to feel nice in your palm and fit in your pocket. Anytime you feel anxious or stressed, reach for it, feel its texture, and focus on that physical object instead of your worries.
Focus on gratitude.
You can’t be grateful and worried at the same time. Keep a gratitude journal. Write in it at least once a day, answering two questions: 1) What did I enjoy today? 2) What am I grateful for today?
If you’re not already a meditator, give it a try! It’s easier than you think to jump right in, and it’s great for managing anxiety. Try a free meditation app like Insight Timer (my favorite!).
Mindfulness helps us pause and take a step back from overwhelming feelings. It provides a calming strategy for challenging moments, and helps to bring us back into balance.
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