How To Live Mindfully With Anxiety
For those of us that live anxious, anxiety has been with us for so long, we can’t imagine life and living without it.
Poised in high alert, we’re always looking over our shoulder and bracing ourselves for the next shoe to drop.
For me, living anxious was as natural as breathing.
Most of my life, I was holding my breath and living in a persistent state of high alert.
Whereas “high alert” is priceless for survival or escaping the threat of possible harm, living in an incessant state of high alert deteriorates our nervous system, mind, body, and quality of life.
Flooding our bodies with persistently high levels of stress hormones, such as cortisol, can cause serious health issues over time.
It can also drive us to react in a lot of unhealthy ways like anxious eating, drinking, shopping, and obsessively turning ourselves inside out.
Thus, we become a greater threat to ourselves than the actual, or perceived threat.
Generally, living anxious reflects our inability to handle uncertainty, change, and the future.
Our most common thoughts begin with, “What if…?”
“What if I can’t lose weight?”
“What if I make a fool of myself?”
“What if I make them angry?”
“What if I’ll never be good enough?”
Today, we’re more anxious than ever with a quarter of Americans living with a diagnosed anxiety disorder while the rest of us live with what’s referred to as “functional anxiety.”
Perhaps more of a habit, functional anxiety vibrates at a lower frequency that doesn’t quite meet the criteria for a diagnosis but produces the same negative effects on our health.
Yet, as a society, we often wear anxiety as a “badge of honor.”
As reflected in a 2012 New York Magazine article, “Xanax has eclipsed Prozac as the emblem of the national mood.”
Seems that living the American Dream has become living the Anxious Nightmare.
We’re more anxious than ever and sadly, we seem to have become complacently okay with it.
How To Live Mindfully With Anxiety
On one hand, we’re taught that anxiety is bad and that there’s something wrong with us if we feel anxious.
Yet, on the other hand, we’ve convinced ourselves that feeling anxious is simply the way it is and that we’re just wired this way.
Perhaps what we really need is to learn how to feel our anxiety, realize that it can’t harm us, and discover our own means of riding the anxiety wave until it eases and subsides.
Maybe we need to learn that fighting with and medicating anxiety is not the answer, and is causing us to feel more anxious than ever.
Little do we know that we have the capacity and brilliant ability to change our national mood and emotional climate.
Yet, it requires that we each stop indulging in emotional chaos and start living mindfully with our emotions.
We must be willing to let go of our desperation for quick fixes, fad remedies, and design our own mindful existence with anxiety.
Living mindfully with anxiety is simple, relatively free, although not always easy or comfortable.
It takes time, patience, and consistent, compassionate proven practices that begin with
The research is clear about the positive effects of movement.
Whether you call it exercise or whatever works for you, moving the body is good for the mind, body, and soul.
Movement floods the body with beneficial hormones, oils our joints, stretches our muscles, and enhances cognitive functioning.
It also supports healthy digestion, relaxation, and sleep.
For us anxious ones, I recommend slower, more deliberate movement, such as yoga, dance, ballet, Tai Chi, Pilates, swimming, walking or easy jogging.
A slower pace of movement create a more gentle, attentive rhythm between your breath and your body.
In other words, move in ways that cultivates mindfulness in motion.
Meditation is a proven-effective practice for mental and emotional health and well being.
Studies report as little as 3-5 minutes of daily mindfulness meditation can do wonders for the mind, body, and spirit.
Start with finding a comfortable preferred position; close your eyes or lower your gaze; focus on your breathing and settle into slow, complete breathing; allow thoughts to drift like clouds, as you breathe gently and slowing for 3-5 minutes. That’s it.
As you explore meditation further, you might enjoy experimenting with some of the popular meditation apps such as Calm, Headspace, or Insight Timer.
I do not recommend using meditation as an intervention when anxiety is high or if you’re experiencing an anxiety attack.
In those moments, I suggest more structured, therapeutic breathing practices designed specifically for panic and anxiety attacks.
Instead, view meditation as something you do daily, like brushing your teeth, except to care for your brain, strengthen your emotional resilience, and enhance your life.
You’re not going to see any earth-shattering results at first; although some people do report feeling better soon after starting a meditation practice.
Yet, with consistent practice, surprising, subtle changes in how you think, feel, and act will emerge.
You’ve got to clean up your thinking.
Our minds are overflowing with drama, old stories, made up myths, assumptions, and false predictions.
These negative beliefs are often self-created thought habits are not true and are the root cause of a lot of the anxiety that we feel.
Dumping our negative thoughts, exploring them, and questioning their validity can begin the process of untangling ourselves from our self-imposed pain and suffering.
So grab a journal or notebook and write down every single anxious thought in your mind.
Since many of your thoughts will include, “What if…?” questions, go back and answer them.
For example, “What if you don’t lose weight by summer?”
This will reveal more negative thoughts, so continue writing.
Then, begin questioning whether the thoughts you wrote down are true.
In most cases, they won’t be and so then, “Why think them?”
This is a powerful first step to removing negative mental clutter, rewiring your brain, and calming your nerves.
I suggest committing to 90 days of mindful movement, meditation, and mental inquiry to get you started.
Give yourself 3 months to experiment, tweak, and notice.
Tailor the practices to your preferences; make them work for you, but stick with them, even on the hard days when you want to give up.
If you’re worried that you can’t do it, grab a buddy, see a therapist, or hire a coach.
Whatever you decide, don’t give up, and don’t quit.
Commit to changing the emblem of your life from living anxious to living mindfully with anxiety.
It’s a badge worth wearing and has the potential to change your mood as well as the worlds.