Anxiety is something we all experience from time to time. Anxious thoughts are a part of life and they should come and go. The problem is when anxiety lingers. Your thoughts, feelings, and emotions can spiral leaving you feeling overwhelmed.
Panic and anxiety can impact a person on all levels – emotional, cognitive, and physical. For example, anxious thoughts can bring out emotions like worry or distress, making you feel nervous or overwhelmed. Not to mention tense, stuck, ashamed, insecure, helpless, agitated – the list goes on.
These thoughts, emotions, and feelings surrounding your anxiety directly impact your behaviour and actions. When your anxiety strikes, there may not be any trigger or fear that you can identify, although it is typically a response to past thoughts or future worries.
Through mindfulness, you can become less reactive to your thoughts by becoming more aware. Here are three mindfulness techniques to regain your focus when anxiety strikes:
Connect to your breath
Your breath is like a tool you can use to focus your awareness on the present moment. When you become more present-minded, you open more space for perspective and close the gap for past and future worries. By simply sitting and observing what is happening around you, you physically slow down enough to observe what is happening in your mind.
As you take some deep breaths, follow each breath from the inhale to the exhale. Feel the rise and fall of your belly and chest. Notice any sounds around you and the temperature of the room. Try not to label anything. Be present and observant. Continue this as long as you need.
Observe your thoughts
When anxiety strikes, we often begin predicting and picturing the worst as a way to find control over the unknown. Worst-case scenarios seldom play out. However, anxious thinking can make them feel very real. One way you can combat anxious thinking is by giving your thoughts less power.
To start, become the observer of your thoughts. Imagine your thoughts as clouds passing by above you. Instead of trying to change anything, note their shape and let them pass by freely. This is the point where you cultivate more acceptance for your thoughts, disconnecting them from all the emotion – the emotion that causes you to react and continue the cycle of anxiety. Observe and let go.
Anxiety usually begins with one thought, and if we ride that wave, it doesn’t take long for the feelings, emotions, and panic to start flooding through. We cannot just stop it when this happens, and we can’t control our emotions, but we can learn to pause.
The problem with quickly reacting to our emotions, whether we panic or avoid them, is that we give our thoughts more power without taking time to process them. Anxiety takes an even firmer hold on you when you react to it instead of processing your thoughts.
Instead, hit pause to create the space to view your thoughts more objectively. Any time an anxious thought or emotion arises, take a few deep breaths. Be present and observe your thoughts so you can process them. Try not to let yourself get pulled away by your thoughts, or anxiety can consume you. In this space, you can challenge your thoughts and question their truth to become more mindful of how you respond. You will likely come to find that your initial thoughts are not in proportion to your current perspective.