Mindfulness for Anxiety
Mindfulness for Anxiety
Anxiety is a general feeling of unease such as fear or worry, often accompanied by a tension held in the body. People also tend to experience other unpleasant physical symptoms, for example: a fast heart rate, palpitations, feeling sick, shaking (tremor), sweating, dry mouth, chest pain, headaches, fast breathing.
Why Do We Feel Anxious?
The physical symptoms are caused by the brain which sends lots of messages down nerves to various parts of the body when we are anxious. The stress hormones (such as adrenaline) are released into the bloodstream to prepare the body for an appropriate response – either fighting or running away from the situation, which are commonly called the ‘fight and flight response’. This physiological reaction effects the heart, muscles and other parts of the body and causes uncomfortable symptoms.
When is Anxiety a Problem?
Anxiety is normal in stressful situations, and can even be helpful. For example, most people will be anxious when threatened by an aggressive person, or before an important task. The burst of adrenaline and nerve impulses which we have in response to stressful situations can encourage an appropriate and timely reaction.
However, anxiety can occur in situations when we don’t really need it, and we can recognise that our anxiety is out of control when:
- It is out of proportion to the stressful situation, or
- Persists when a stressful situation has gone, or the stress is minor, or
- Appears for no apparent reason when there is no stressful situation.
Maladaptive Coping With Anxiety – Avoidance of our Experience
If we associate a certain place, activity or person with an anxious response, we will either try to avoid it in the future or will change our behaviour in order to control our feelings (for example sitting near an exit door or taking a painkiller as a prevention from a possible headache).
This protective behaviour is initially effective as it helps us to avert unwanted experiences but through avoidance and constant checking if we are safe, we limit our choices, diminishing the quality of our life, and our existence can eventually become narrow and restricted. All these reactions are based on our habitual responses, characterised by a narrow-focused attention and a general lack of awareness.
Mindfulness – an Alternative Response to Anxiety
How can Mindfulness be Helpful in Dealing with Anxiety?
- by widening our perspective, we realise that we are not identical with our anxiety
- by turning to our experience instead of avoiding it, we develop a friendly and compassionate relationship with our thoughts and feelings
- mindful observation teaches us to step out of automatic unhelpful reactions that often make the anxiety worse
- we can learn how to tolerate different states of mind, including the uncomfortable ones
- mindfulness helps us to embrace challenging emotions and physical reactions that accompany them with curiosity and self-compassion
- through seeing that we can choose how to respond to anxiety-producing situations, we increase our sense of control over our internal states
From anywhere in the world, you can access our One-to-One Online Mindfulness Sessions for anxiety.
If you are from Bristol, have a look at our mindfulness courses.