Have you ever experienced a great deal of anxiety or stress kicking in without a warning?
Perhaps it is just when you wake up and all the thoughts about what you need to attend to during the day come to you… Or when something unexpected and out of the blue happens. An e-mail that you weren’t expecting announcing that you might be in trouble for the tiniest detail.
Whatever the reason might be, you are experiencing high blood pressure, a faster heart-beat rate, perhaps an increase in your temperature and your fingers are going numb… You are not going crazy – you are having an anxiety attack.
What’s happening to me when anxiety kicks in?
There has been something going on lately that you might be conscious about. For example, you have been thinking a lot about finances or how your relationship is proceeding. It could also be that you are entering a new phase in your life, a new job or you need to change something and are not sure how to go about doing that.
Well, when anxiety lands, usually we are having thoughts of things past and future. We are not totally in the ‘here and now’ because very few fears we have are actual fears. Imagine a lion that enters the room we are currently sitting in – now that would be a real fear. We would need to go into flight, fight or freeze mode to survive. However, in our room, there is rarely any kind of danger that is not rooted in our busy minds.
And that is precisely how mindfulness can help. Mindfulness can reconnect us with our bodies which are rooted in the here and now.
So what is the exercise that I can use when anxiety kicks in?
You need to be able to give yourself permission to have a 10-minute breather and a quiet place to sit in. Go somewhere you know you won’t be bothered and sit comfortably with your back sitting straight.
Focus on your breath. Don’t change anything. It can be fast or slow. You can close your eyes because it will help you focus. Notice your breath and allow some time to let it naturally become a bit deeper. It would be ideal if you could let the air go as far down as your belly. However, remember not to tamper with the rhythm of your breath.
Keep focusing on your breath. If any thoughts are taking you away from the task of focusing on your breath, relax your mind by confirming that you will attend to the thoughts afterwards. For now, you want to focus on your breath and you will attend to your thoughts later. Allow thoughts to come and go like ripples on a lake or clouds on the sky. Don’t give energy to them – just keep focusing on your breath.
Once you are feeling you had some deep relaxed breaths, go into feeling your body. Start from your left leg. How are the sensations there? How does your left leg feel today? Are there some areas that can be relaxed there? Allow your left leg to relax.
Do the same for your right leg. Then your left arm. Right arm. Torso. Back. Neck. Face.
Go back to your breath. Allow yourself to take some deep breaths before opening your eyes and reconnecting with your surroundings.
Step 5 and when this exercise for releasing anxiety might not be for you
Check how you are and how your body feels now.
Usually, this exercise will be quite safe to practice alone. If for some reason you are getting more agitated, it could be that your body is traumatised and you need to listen to it. Don’t push yourself more than you can handle. You need to go out of your comfort zone but not in a way that is unsafe for you. If you feel that this might be dangerous for you, allow yourself not to do this exercise. If it exacerbates your symptoms, it would be wise to do this in a group or with someone else and have some guidance with you when you are trying this.
What do you think? Has this been helpful?