How to practice mindfulness when you’re anxious

Mar 21, 2021 — Patrick Bailey
How to practice mindfulness when you’re anxious

Anxiety plagues pretty much everyone at one time or another. There’s the standard anxiety, defined by Merriam-Webster as a sense of uneasiness, mostly about something on the radar, like an upcoming exam or a performance review.

Then there are anxiety disorders, which are more all-consuming and can grow worse without treatment. Anxiety disorders take on many forms, including generalized, panic, and phobias.

Generalized anxiety disorders are usually marked by excess worry, and are fairly constant, lasting for months or longer. Sufferers feel restless, have problems concentrating, experience irritation, and often have difficulty falling or staying asleep.

Panic disorders cause people to have frequent and unexpected panic attacks. Those are sudden and intense bouts of fear. They can occur seemingly at random or can be sparked by triggers. During a panic attack, a person will experience a pounding heart, sweating, trembling, shortness of breath, feelings of doom, or being out of control.

Phobias are an intense fear or disgust of certain objects of situations. One may panic even just thinking about encountering the object or situation in question and actively work to avoid what they fear. Phobias can focus on specific items or experiences like snakes or flying.

They can be more social or situational in nature, where a person might fear interacting with or performing in front of others, or of large crowds or enclosed spaces, or even of being apart from certain individuals (separation anxiety).

An estimated one out of every five U.S. adults - more than 40 million - have some form of anxiety disorder. It’s not limited to adults, however. Approximately 7% of children struggle with anxiety.

There are many people who suffer from anxiety and sometimes the anxiety can lead to health issues. No matter the situation we find ourselves in, we should know that mindfulness can help to relieve anxiety and improve our recovering lifestyle.

The first thing to note is that anxiety isn’t bad in every aspect. Having a bit of anxiety can remind us that we need to make changes in our lives. We need to do something to help ourselves feel better and reduce the chaos in our lives. With that being said, here are some tips for how to practice mindfulness when we’re feeling anxious.

Through meditation, we can develop a healthier relationship with anxiety by learning to observe the symptoms as they arise. Try the Stress & Anxiety meditations on Medito. Available for free on the App Store and Google Play.

Going Along for a Ride

Life is a series of ups and downs. We never know exactly what is going to happen. Yes, we can make plans and hope for the best. However, sometimes things are just out of our control and we don’t know what to do about it. In instances like these, to relieve the anxiety, it can be helpful to remember that we are going along for the ride.

Life isn’t predictable, so when it feels like we are barely making progress, we should remember that the ride will switch up in time. Take it as it comes and try to enjoy it.

End the Negative Self-Talk

Easier said than done, right? Yes, probably. However, when we end the negative self-talk, we can start to realize just how strong we are. Some people who experience anxiety feel they are weak. They don’t know how to block the negative thoughts or replace them with positive thoughts.

However, if we practice spotting the negative self-talk, we can start replacing those thoughts with positive ones. See if you can start by doing this just one time every day. Catch one negative thought and replace it with something good. See how great that makes you feel. The next day do it two or three times. In time, you are going to be able to end your negative self-talk and reduce your anxiety.

The Labelling Technique

The labelling technique is a useful tool to help manage anxiety. By incorporating labelling into our meditation practice, we can develop a greater awareness of our thoughts and feelings in the present moment. It's a simple technique -- just label each thought or emotion as it appears, and then let it go. You shouldn't think about this for too long -- just observe the thought very briefly, apply a label, and then return to the meditation.

For example, you can label thoughts as "remembering," "day-dreaming" or "judging." Similarly, you can label emotions as "uncertainty," "fear" or "worry." This practice will help us to become more aware of the way thoughts and feelings come and go, and will allow us to start observing them without judgment. This can have a really positive impact on our reactivity to negative emotions.

Mindful Breathing Techniques

Another way to handle anxiety is to practice mindful breathing techniques. There are many different techniques we can use when we’re feeling anxious, but the basics for all are practically the same. Start by acknowledging the anxiety. Once you do this, you can rest your breath and pay attention to your breathing. You will then inhale into your belly very deeply and picture the breath coming out of you.

All of your breathing should be done slowly, so you can stay aware of how you are feeling. Imagine that you are breathing out the anxiety. Keep doing this type of breathing until you feel more relaxed and calm. Don’t try to control the anxiety, just let it out. When you are finished, take note of how you feel and the benefits you got from doing this exercise.

These are some of the ways we can practice mindfulness when we’re anxious. Whether you experience anxiety all the time or every once in a while, these techniques can help a great deal.

Nontraditional Treatments

Whether a person suffers from everyday anxieties, or they struggle with an anxiety disorder, there are a number of ways to find relief.

For milder forms, even simple relaxation techniques, like deep breathing or meditation, or taking a quick break, can ease much of a person’s tension.

For anxiety disorders, psychotherapy and/or medications are frequently used. There are other approaches, too, including more nontraditional methods that can be used in addition to, instead of, or in combination with traditional treatments. Some timeless approaches suggested by the National Alliance on Mental Illness include yoga, meditation, tai chi, and exercise.

Any and all can improve mood and relieve anxiety.

Meditation can alleviate the symptoms of anxiety by making you feel calmer in the short-term, but also by reducing the appearance of symptoms in the long-term. Try the Stress & Anxiety meditations on Medito, the 100% free meditation app, available on the App Store and Google Play.

Author Bio: Patrick Bailey is a professional writer mainly in the fields of mental health, addiction, and living in recovery. He attempts to stay on top of the latest news in the addiction and the mental health world and enjoys writing about these topics to break the stigma associated with them.