Have you ever had your heart race, palms become sweaty, or have difficulty focusing because you’re so nervous? These are some of the signs of anxiety. Anxiety can be debilitating for some people, and for others it might just be a few minutes of feeling nervous. Unfortunately, for some people when it does hit, it can cause you to freeze and be unable to focus, respond, or engage in everyday tasks. For most people, anxiety is the result of thinking about something out of your control, or of something in the future. Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD, is the founder of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). According to Kabat-Zinn, mindfulness is “paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally, to the unfolding of experience moment to moment.“
Here are three ways to help reduce anxiety through mindfulness:
Regualate Your Breathing
To begin, notice your breath as it goes in through your nostrils, and then again as you let your breath out through your mouth. Start by taking 3 slow deep breaths, and when you breathe in say “in” to yourself, hold for a count of 4, and then say “out” to yourself as you release the breath. When you are focusing in the moment on your breath, and only on your breath, it’s hard to focus on anything else. If needed, you can continue past three breaths, and do this until you are able to regulate your breathing.
If that technique is too challenging, or uncomfortable, try counting with each breath until you reach 10. Therefore, each breath in and out is one count. When your mind starts to wander, which is really normal, start back at the number one. Most people don’t reach 10, and that is okay. The important part is that you bring your attention back to your breath which helps you focus in the moment, therefore helping to decrease anxiety.
Use Your Senses
Once again, by being mindful and paying attention to your senses, you can only focus on what you are paying attention to in the moment.
Notice the following:
- 5 Things You Can See
- What you can see around you
- What you can see in your mind if you close your eyes
- 4 Things You Can Touch
- You can touch your arms, legs, etc, or things around you
- You can pay attention to how your feet are touching the ground
- How your legs are touching the chair you’re sitting on
- How your back is touching the back of the chair or couch you’re sitting on
- 3 Things You Can Hear
- What sounds can you hear
- If you’re outside, pay attention to nature sounds, or maybe an airplane flying over head
- If you’re inside, notice other voices in the room, music playing, the air conditioner running
- What sounds can you hear
- 2 Things You Can Smell
- Notice if there is a particular scent in the air
- Scratch your nails on an orange, and smell the scent that comes from that
- Use essential oils
- Lavender is often calming
- 1 Thing You Can Taste
- Is there something you can find to eat
- Chew gum
- Notice the taste of a hard candy in your mouth
- Drink a flavored drink such as Gatorade
Engage In An Activity That Takes Focus
- Color in a coloring or mandala book
- When you are coloring in small spaces, it takes a lot of focus to stay in the lines
- Play a musical instrument
- Bake something yummy
- This takes a lot of focus because when you’re baking, the measurements must be exact
- Knit, Cross-stitch, or Crochet
- Or choose an activity which you enjoy that takes focus
However you choose to engage in a mindful activity, remember that the key is to try and stay in the present moment, and avoid looking at future events to help reduce any symptoms of anxiety.
If you are experiencing anxiety and would like to seek out some support, please feel free to give me a call to set up an appointment.
Norine Vander Hooven is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and has been in practice for 30 years. Norine views the decision to enter therapy as displaying strength and courage. For 5 years Norine supervised a mobile crisis response team for youth and specializes in suicide prevention, depression, anxiety, and life transitions. Norine is also EMDR trained and uses this to work with people with PTSD and severe anxiety. Norine works with youth, adolescents, adults, and families.