Hello fellow mindful travelers,
Happy March! I hope you are enjoying the transition into 2017 and that this newsletter finds you well.
This month I am going to address Anxiety, and how to use mindfulness to heal your anxious mind.
First of all, everyone has anxiety, to some degree. This goes back to our evolutionary history. It is an evolutionary advantage to be on the lookout for danger more often than not.
Imagine a hunter-gather who was super optimistic. He hears a rustling in the bushes and thinks “oh that’s nothing, life is great!”
Yeah, we don’t have those genes. The optimists, sadly, were not as good as surviving as those that worried all the time.
The worriers lived longer and thus passed on genes for a human mind that tends to focus on what could go wrong at all times – hence anxiety.
So if you have anxiety, congratulate yourself for being a well-adapted human. The problem, however, is when anxiety gets out of hand and interferes with our ability to function well.
How can we use mindfulness to help with anxiety?
A simple way to start is to notice your anxiety on three levels: your body, mind, and emotions. Let’s break each of these down.
Body: Where in your body do you feel your anxiety? Head? Neck? Shoulders? Back? Stomach?
Just take a moment right now, close your eyes, and notice…Pause for 30 seconds and just notice your body and where anxiety shows up for you…
Noticing anxiety in the stomach is so common there is even that saying – having butterflies in your stomach.
Next up, the Mind: What anxious thoughts typically zip through your head? Worry about the future? Fear that something bad is going to happen?
Again, just take a moment to notice…. Perhaps you can write a few of those thoughts down on paper and just look at them from a distance. Take a few minutes to notice thoughts…
Writing thoughts down is a nice way to start to notice the patterns of your mind.
When you’ve done that, let’s check out Emotions: Anxiety often boils down to Fear.
See if you can notice the feeling of anxiety/fear in your body for a moment…. See if you can give it a color and shape…What is this feeling really like for you? Perhaps it has a movement, in addition to a color and shape.
Take a moment to just notice the emotional aspect within you…. Give yourself a minute or so.
And take all the time you need with noticing these three levels of experience…
It may be helpful to write down what you noticed in this exercise or draw a picture of your anxiety and see what you notice.
Here’s one more thing to try: See if you can Breath into the anxiety…Take a few slow deep breaths and see if you can give the anxiety space to just be… as it is…without judgement…
Just see what happens when you do that…When you allow it to unfold naturally…
Does it change form? Or stay the same? What happens to anxiety when you give it space to just be?
And that, my friends, is some mindfulness! Being present and open with our anxiety is really the most healing thing, in my opinion, that you can do.
Remember, mindfulness is not about changing the anxiety, just about being present and open with it.
So that’s it for this month. I hope this was helpful and useful for you. Shoot me an email and let me know if it was helpful and if there are any topics you would want to see covered in future newsletters.
Thanks for reading!
Until next time,
Ellis Edmunds, Psy.D.
If you, or someone you know, is struggling with anxiety and could use the support of a professional, it would be an honor to be of service. I offer Individual Therapy and Mindfulness Groups in Oakland, California.
P.S. Next month I will be giving away a free copy of my therapeutic board game, The Mindful Bus, to one lucky subscriber, so be sure to open that email to see if you’ve won!