If you are experiencing anxiety, you are not alone! In the 9 years of teaching mindfulness programs, many of the participants mention anxiety as a major challenge.
I have had this experience as well over the years and it reminds me of the way that anxiety can shrink your view of yourself and your place in the world. I have even heard that the experience of anxiety can feel like a prison, which limits our views and possibilities.
Learn the practice of mindfulness – There is significant research that shows mindfulness will significantly reduce the symptoms of anxiety.
Here are 5 mindfulness strategies to consider and learn that are well documented to be effective in reducing anxiety.
Strategy 1 – Remind yourself that the experience of anxiety is not permanent. It comes and goes just like any other human experience. It is possible to learn how to manage and learn from the experience of anxiety.
Strategy 2 – Develop an attitude of friendliness and willingness to get to know the experience of anxiety. See if you can make room inwardly for the kaleidoscope of thoughts, emotions and physical sensations. This can be very challenging to do and the practice of mindfulness can show you how to make this happen.
Strategy 3 – See the experience of anxiety as a human reaction to stress and challenge and let go of thoughts and judgments of being defective. In my experience, it is very easy to conclude that you have a defect and use it as a reason for denying compassion for yourself.
Strategy 4 – Learn to practice compassion for yourself. I have been highly influenced by Sharon Salzberg, a mindfulness teacher and author of “Lovingkindness, the Revolutionary Art of Happiness”. Among the many practices that are available, one of my favourites is to repeat phrases silently including the following:
“May I be safe and protected
May I be peaceful
May I be healthy and happy
May I have ease”
The spirit of this practice is to plant the seeds of potential in us for these kinds of minds and body states. Loving kindness practices have been used for thousands of years to help cultivate compassion and kindness.
Strategy 5 – Let go of harsh judgments that surface in your mind during periods of anxiety such as: “ I’m so stupid to feel this way”, “I am defective”. These thoughts are part of your automatic reaction to anxiety and it is possible to learn to see these judgments as unhelpful and not necessary. Often they arise as habitual responses that can be changed.