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Conquer Anxiety with Mindfulness

Sometimes I just have a feeling of restlessness.  There are other moments where I feel like there’s a load of bricks on my chest.

These feelings have been super common lately, and I’ve had to do something about it.  So in my search to find a way to conquer anxiety, I had come across mindfulness as a solution.

Anyone who’s sought mental health treatment within the last two decades has likely heard of mindfulness. 

Anxiety certainly can be a healthy experience, but it seems all too often we as a society are not handling it properly.  And, I can’t say I’m an exception.

So how do we overcome anxiety with mindfulness?

As it is the leading way to manage these strong feelings without medication, it seems relevant for us to break down some easy to follow steps.

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The personal experience of mental illness can be a great tool.  It adds a degree of resilience others simply cannot obtain. 

However, whether a clinician or not, the stress of jobs, school, family, and other obligations can often cause a relapse in symptoms.

Personally, I have never really had any long periods of recovery when it comes to anxiety. 

In the constant juggle of life, those frustrations and insecurities build until it seems nearly impossible to function.

Over the last seven years, I have grown very tired of this cycle.

defeat anxiety using mindfulness. Here are 4 easy steps to stop anxiety.

In this last year, something had to give.  I had to find a way to break this constant edginess that I felt; it was affecting my relationships and family.  I share this so you too can get ahead of your anxiety.

The Interesting part is I’ve had the answers to this problem for some time.  I had known about mindfulness, but I didn’t have knowledge of mindfulness!

Beating anxiety with mindfulness was as foreign to me as anyone I taught it to.

I completed each of these four steps daily.  They were told to many clients for so long. 

Yet, I thought that I was somehow above their usefulness.  It may be in part, because we almost never think to beat anxiety without medication.

Medication is a decision between you and your doctor. 

For me, I’ve tried several, but they generally didn’t work as much as I’d like them to.  There needed to be a better solution.

These steps I’m about to share have been critical in keeping me functional for work and family.

Step 1- Conquering anxiety with mindfulness is an exercise that has gained widespread acceptance in mental health.

If you are like me, mindfulness has seemed too hoke to do in private.

I didn’t have much choice, though, to be honest.  Beating anxiety without medication seemed unrealistic.

This wasn’t necessarily the goal I set out for, but it occurred through this journey. 

For starters, I wanted to find a way to practice a little each day.

To help me, I downloaded “Aura: Calm Anxiety and Sleep” on my iPhone.  This app is great.  It is free with some paid features but was just what I needed.

I don’t have a lot of time to sit around meditating- let alone figure it out myself.  In graduate school, we did some guided meditations, which were helpful then. 

I knew that whatever mechanism I used for mindfulness needed to guide me through the experience.

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In opening the app, it asks how you’re doing that day.  Whether you are anxious, depressed, feeling great, just okay, stressed or can’t sleep, the Aura app will cater a meditation to that feeling. 

The best part- they are all 3-5 minutes long.  

I noticed that one of the most anxious times of my day was first coming into work.

So, I set my alarm for 8:00; once I made it to work, and my alarm went off, it was time for Aura.

It was incredibly uplifting.

Over a period of days, I began to look forward to coming into work and watching my clock hit 8:00 to start my meditation.

With my office door shut and eyes closed, I listened to the guided meditation and felt intense positive energy.  I suddenly began to find extra time throughout the day as a “booster” sessions for the afternoon.

This intense positive energy really made me believe that I could overcome anxiety with mindfulness.  It was a feeling outside of anything I’ve experienced before.

Step 2- Anxiety Tends to Have Its Roots in a Thought or Feeling

I, for one,  usually do not allow myself to experience my thoughts and feelings fully.  The product is restlessness, heart palpitations, and essentially a fight or flight response.

In part due to Aura, I forced myself to begin paying closer attention to my own body language. 

For better or worse, my wife says that I’m dense.  Maybe she’s right, because I don’t tend to notice my feelings until they’re in overdrive. 

So, to be proactive, I knew that whatever I did would have to tip me off to cues that I’m becoming anxious.

In this venture to beat anxiety with mindfulness, I learned early on that my mind and body would tell me to relieve the stress.  It was up to me to learn how.

I learned that I have a strong tendency to ruminate about sometimes very small things.

This hit me like a load of bricks.  I realized that I couldn’t get over something my wife had said as a joke.

But, like most high strung people, I didn’t know if it was a joke or not.  Reasonableness would say that I should have known as we were not fighting.

As you can see, anxiety can warp your thoughts!

As soon as I realized that this rumination was taking place, I called my wife.  I voiced to her that the comment she made, whether a joke or not, hurt my feelings.  Without hesitation, she apologized. 

Suddenly, my rumination disappeared.

It seems so obvious now- consciously identify the feeling and confront it.  We shouldn’t actively confront everything. 

However, when you are affected by something small long after it took place, it may be an indication that a confrontation is needed.  And if this problem is all too familiar with you, check out Heather’s Anxiety Pocket eWorkbook!

It has provided be great benefit in learning how to constructively tackle my anxiety through various practical exercises and exceeds 40 pages of content!

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Step 3- Strong Relationships are Important

I have a little girl that definitely can push my buttons, but she is a positive stressor (unless it’s 3am!).  She can cry, scream, or throw a tantrum.  Yet, I enjoy nearly every moment with her.

My anxiety does not build even though it can be stressful; it is transformed into positive energy.

What does that mean for you?  Not everyone has a daughter or family they can become consumed with.  Still, you can get lost in any relationship! 

This enjoyment will combat any persisting anxiety.

Step 1 teaches us to be in the moment.  However, there must be an emphasis on finding a hobby, activity, and more importantly a relationship that inspires you.

Positive feelings will cancel out your anxiety and inflate your enthusiasm triumphing over stressors.  This is key to beating anxiety with mindfulness for the long term. 

Whether you choose to use medication or not, you can conquer anxiety with mindfulness.  Creating positive energy is the central tool!

Step 4- Self-Care is Critical to Refilling Your Empathy and Patience

It helps that I’m a night-owl; once the kid and wife are in bed, I’m still up.

This alone time allows me uninterrupted reflection on the day and leisure engagement in anything enjoyable.  As an example, most of this blog and web site have been completed during these alone times.

They are central in recharging my batteries so the compounded stressors do not carry over to tomorrow.

defeat anxiety using mindfulness. Here are 4 easy steps to stop anxiety.

In both the personal and professional experiences I’ve had with mental illness, I continually come back to a metaphor of an overflowing cup of water.  That water- or anxiety in this case, is overflowing from the top.

To prevent that, we need to empty the cup periodically, which is precisely what these steps and mindfulness do.

What really helps you unwind and recharge your batteries?  Answering this question will be critical for you to keep that cup of anxiety empty moving to the next day.

Using Mindfulness to Beat Anxiety in The Future

Surely these steps will not cure your anxiety.  There are environmental and biological roots to your anxiety that should be worked out with a professional.

However, this guide does provide a solid framework for you to conquer anxiety with mindfulness and keep that cup from overflowing.  So you are not so debilitated and unable to function.

Even now, it is not that I never experience anxiety.  In fact, anxiety can be very healthy for you.

These actionable steps were learned through years of unfortunate recovery and relapse cycles. 

My hope is that you can learn sooner than I did.

Take your mental health seriously.  Anxiety is a real disorders independent of any personal characteristics.  Use these steps to conquer anxiety with mindfulness.  Learn what works for you by paying attention to your body- and repeat!

If this article resonates with you, comment your thoughts!  We want to hear from you.

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Ben Barrett

First, thank you for reading The How to Social Worker- my alter ego.  My name is Ben Barrett and am a clinical social worker and addictions counselor. My personal experiences with mental health have shaped my professional perspective. Through my struggles both personally and professionally, I hope you can improve your own quality of life.

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