First, what is anxiety?
According to The American Psychiatric Association (APA), anxiety is a normal reaction to stress and can be beneficial in some situations. It can alert us to dangers and help us prepare and pay attention. Anxiety disorders are not the same thing as normal feelings of nervousness or anxiousness. They involve excessive fear or anxiety. Anxiety disorders are the most common of mental disorders and affect nearly 30 percent of adults at some point in their lives. But anxiety disorders are treatable. Treatment helps most people live normal lives.
Signs & Symptoms
- Irrational and excessive fear
- Apprehensive and tense feelings
- Difficulty managing daily tasks and/or distress related to these tasks
Tools You Can Use on The Go Daily
Photo by Christopher Burns
To help you understand what being mindful is and how it can help manage anxiety, I reached out to my good friend and mindfulness expert Allan McGrath Isbell. Allan is a mindfulness facilitator, speaker, and trainer serving executives, organizations, schools, and individuals to cultivate personal wholeness, balance, health, and well-being.
What is mindfulness in short?
Mindfulness is the moment-to-moment art of being aware, in the present moment, without judgment.
Who is it for?
Anyone! Mindfulness is not limited to any kind of person, group, or sect. No matter who you are or where you come from, we all have the innate capacity to experience and practice mindfulness.
Where can you practice mindfulness?
There are some “formal” mindfulness practices that are best done in a quiet setting where you can be still, but mindfulness really can be practiced anywhere and anytime. You could be walking down the street, in a conversation, on a date, sitting in meditation, or writing an email and be mindful in any and every situation.
When should you practice mindfulness?
It’s really up to every individual to explore and find the best time for them. Some will find it best to practice mindfulness first thing in the morning before engaging in their to-do lists or schedules, while some will find it the perfect way to settle in before going to sleep. It’s about being flexible, not judging yourself if you miss your practice, and starting every day with a fresh intention.
Why should it be part of my wellness toolbox?
There are so many reasons that maybe the question should be why mindfulness wouldn’t be a part of your wellness toolbox! If you want to become more present and engaged with your life, increase your resiliency to challenges and stress, improve your ability to focus and concentrate, improve your relationship skills, and create more happiness and joy for yourself and others, then you’d want to think about starting to practice mindfulness.
How can mindfulness help cope with anxiety?
Mindfulness is a state of open, relaxed, non-judgmental attention to our present experience. The experience of anxiety however usually leaves us in the exact opposite kind of internal state. When anxiety is present, it is very easy to go down endless rabbit holes of thoughts and emotions filled with judgment, fear, panic... the list goes on. The simplest tool we can use in those times is to practice being aware of our breath. By observing the breath as it is, moment by moment, without trying to change it, the mind will naturally become calmer and still. Almost like a snow globe, our thoughts and emotions of anxiety shake up our internal stillness, sending those little snowflakes of panicked thoughts flying about. By mindfully observing the feeling of our breath, we are setting that snow globe down, and watching it curiously, patiently, and without judgment, as the dust settles and crystal clarity appears once again. But be aware: even as we do this, the mind will tend towards shaking up those anxious thoughts! It’s no big deal though, it’s just the mind following its old patterns. As soon as we notice we’re heading back towards those anxious thoughts and feelings, we have the opportunity to return our attention mindfully back to being with the feeling of our breath. By doing this time and time again, we are practicing a more empowered response to the anxiety that presents itself and decreasing its sway to overcome our peace and ease.
Photo by Mohammad Metri
For this tool, I had a conversation with my good friend Alexandria Santaguida. Alexandria is a musician, sound healer, yoga teacher, and reiki master.
What is sound healing?
What are the benefits of listing to calming music?
- Decreases anxiety
- Emotional release
- Lowers stress
- Lowers blood pressure
- Resets the body and mind
- Relaxation and rest
- Improves sleep
As you can see there are many benefits to listing to music/sounds with specific frequencies and beats per minute. Enjoy this free playlist of calming music that we have curated to help you manage your anxiety on the go. If you are interested in the full Sound Healing experience, check out Alexandria’s album Sounds From Above on her website.
There are a number of things people do to help cope with symptoms of anxiety disorders and make treatment more effective. Stress management techniques and meditation can be helpful. Support groups (in-person or online) can provide an opportunity to share experiences and coping strategies. Learning more about the specifics of a disorder and helping family and friends to understand better can also be helpful. Avoid caffeine, which can worsen symptoms, and check with your doctor about any medications.