Five Daily Habits To Manage Your Anxiety
Anxiety can be simply defined as a state of uneasiness of apprehension.
However, for those that struggle with severe anxiety or Anxiety Disorders this state of uneasiness overwhelms them: body, mind and soul. I recently heard a psychologist refer to Anxiety as a product of not being attuned or connected to the present moment. Anxiety is maintained by having one foot in the past, in past fears or situations, and one foot in the future — of assumed threats or fears. When a person is entirely focused on the past and future, they actively avoid the present. They may avoid social situations, certain people, difficult tasks, job responsibilities, or even certain foods that cause anxiety in an effort to minimize this anxiety.
One way to combat this avoidance of the present moment is through mindfulness. J.K. Zinne defines mindfulness as “the moment to moment non-judgmental awareness that is cultivated by paying attention.” By being mindful one can be aware of destructive thoughts without acting on them, one can cultivate emotional regulation, and increase self awareness. True mindfulness which can combat anxiety involves daily practice.
Here are 5 daily habits that can increase mindfulness and thus reduce anxiety:
Each morning, wake up and spend 5 minutes just being aware of your 5 senses. Start by closing your eyes and bringing awareness to what you hear, then what you feel (the carpet under your feet, you pajamas on your skin), what you taste, what you smell, and then open your eyes and notice what you see.
Some time throughout the day focus on your breath, not trying to change it, just noticing it. Notice the rise and fall, notice the feeling in your chest, your stomach, etc. Notice each part of the body as you breathe in and out. Even just five minutes of breathing can increase your internal awareness, and reduce anxiety.
When self-judgmental, or negative thoughts enter your mind, start by just noticing them, rather than trying to change them. By just noticing our thoughts rather than fighting them you can begin to practice mindfully letting them go. Spend some time each day just noticing your thought process, bring your awareness to your thoughts without judgment.
When you sit down to eat, practice using your 5 senses before you ever take a bite. Notice the presentation of the food, notice what your body feels like BEFORE you start to eat, notice what you smell, taste, and hear. Then half-way through your meal notice all 5 senses again. This practice will increase your ability to recognize hunger/fullness cues and increase your bodily awareness.
Visualization / Imagery
The simplest form of visualization or imagery is to imagine a safe place and go there in your mind. Pick a place that is very specific, one in which you can assign all 5 senses. Start by closing your eyes and taking several deep breaths, and then imagine walking along a path until you reach this place. Once in your “safe place” continue deep breathing and taking in all 5 senses associated with this place.
[Photo credit: deanslife on Flickr]
Each of these five practices can be expanded upon and much literature exists on meditation, visualization, breathing and awareness cultivation. These suggestions are a beginner’s guide to anxiety management and mindfulness practices. Castlewood Treatment Center incorporates these and other mindfulness techniques into our treatment approach for Anxiety, PTSD, and Eating Disorders.