In my classes, participants commonly comment on their experience of anxiety which is often reported as challenging. There is always lots of interest in how mindfulness can help with this condition. The purpose of this blog is to provide an overview of how a mindfulness approach can help.
Let’s start with a short definition of anxiety. I often use Jon Kabat-Zinn’s description of anxiety as “a generalized state of insecurity and agitation that can be triggered by almost anything”. This insecurity and agitation is made up of a mix of thoughts, emotions, and body sensations. The mix will not be the same for everyone as we are unique in our reactions.
The experience of anxiety can be quite unpleasant and people will often search out ways to cope. Some coping strategies are maladaptive. For example, the over consumption of alcohol, food, and/or drugs. Mindfulness offers an approach that is not addictive and is potentially transformative in how we relate to anxiety.
When anxiety arises in the mind and body, a natural response would be to want to get rid of it, as many of the symptoms are unpleasant. This is an observable response and one that challenges us. It is important for us to train ourselves to meet and allow the disturbing sensations to present themselves.
A mindfulness approach reminds us that everything happens in the present moment, including our minds and bodies interacting in an ever-changing way. Anxiety happens in the moment and for this reason, the learning needs to begin with what is happening the the present moment.
Through the formal practices of mindfulness, one can begin to know and recognize a stable and calm inner core that is reliable and dependable. This strength is needed in order to face the experience of anxiety rather than “running away”.
The mindfulness approach is about developing a way of being that will become more powerful than the anxiety experience. When anxiety arises, we ride the waves of the unpleasantness moment by moment. Holding the experience with an attitude of compassion and kindness is essential to tolerating this emotional state. Through this we are able to train our mind and heart to overcome our habitual reactions to anxiety. The mindfulness approach will not eliminate anxiety, but, it will help you to manage it and understand it. With practice, the symptoms of anxiety will reduce due to our changing relationship with this powerful and challenging experience.
On Saturday, June 8, I am offering a 6 hour workshop titled: “Calming Your Anxious Mind with Mindfulness”. If you are interested come out and explore the potential.
Click here for more information.