Eckhart Tolle, who wrote a recommended book, “A New Earth: Awakening your life’s purpose,” has said that worry, stress and anxiety are caused by too much future thinking and not enough being in the present moment. He also mentions that worry and anxiety are forms of fear of the future. With this said, the solution for anxiety seems simple. To ease my stress and anxiety, I simply remain in the present, and remain hopeful of the future. But how does one truly stay present? How do I look to the future without some fear of the unknown? I notice for me, that during stressful times, mindfulness is easier conceptualized than realized. Yet, I do find that it is still attainable with some self-compassion.
Experiencing the mental and physical effects of anxiety are not easily wished away. It takes consideration to realize the purposes of anxiety and find helpful ways to address it. Anxiety is our mind and body’s way of letting us know to pay attention. Worry allows us to plan, to visualize potential problems and possible solutions. While anxiety can cause us to become stuck in fearfulness, mindfully paying attention to our anxiety can help us address the underlying needs and emotions in ways that create curiosity and choice.
To consider using mindfulness to ease anxiety, here are some suggested steps.
1) NOTICE your anxiety in the moment (i.e. I say to myself, “Pay attention here, you are feeling anxious. What are you feeling? What are you needing?”) – so that you may address it mindfully vs. reactively
2) BREATH, inhale a slow, warm intake of air to the count of four; gratefully caress (hold) the breath to the count of four; then graciously release exhaling slowly to the count of four – this helps us move from a reactive mode of fight/flight/freeze to a more responsive mode of creating choice while considering your needs and the needs of others
3) SCAN how your body is reacting to anxiety, check for any tightness, soreness, any shallow breathing, or any other physical reactions – noticing the physical responses may help you to relieve them, guided meditations can also be helpful
4) NAME THE EMOTION you are experiencing with empathy and compassion for yourself (could be and not limited to: frustration, confusion, worry, fear) – this helps to identify the cause and purpose of your anxiety
5) NAME YOUR NEEDS, noticing your anxiety, noticing the physical response, naming the emotion and breathing can be enough to ease your anxiety; at times it is also helpful to state a need that is coming up to request of yourself or someone else – this also identifies the cause and purpose of your anxiety and may also allow for a strategy to relieve it
While working with your symptoms of anxiety, be kind to yourself. If these steps are not working as you like, within the time you like, give yourself the opportunity to practice and explore. If you experience the symptoms of anxiety persistently, it may be helpful to seek counseling to gain support in uncovering the details of your anxiety and to ease its effects. Another recommended book is The Mindful Way through Anxiety: Break free from chronic worry and reclaim your life, by Susan M. Orsillo and Lizabeth Roemer. May you enjoy a day filled with compassionate connections, meaning, peace and ease.