A Mindful Approach to Anxiety

Anxiety is an ever-existent presence in my life; a sentient thing that's always humming in the background, threatening to overwhelm me. But if you're brave enough, it can serve as an unexpected tool for self-growth. I've made peace with the fact that anxiety is part of me, deeply woven into the fabric of my being. When it rears its head, these simple actions are what cast out the fear. Keep them in your toolbox.
Accept What Is: Anxiety, at its core, is you resisting what is. Things are happening that you wish weren't, or vice versa. Instead of going against the present moment, try leaning into it, no matter how uncomfortable it might be to do so.

Practice Mindfulness: When a wave of nervous energy washes over you, push pause and engage in a mindful activity. (I find that the most powerful way to do this is to get out in nature.) Step away and go for a mindful walk. What do you hear/smell/see/feel? Don't label these things, just observe and feel.  Noticing our thoughts, feelings, and emotions is key to being in the present moment.

Make Space for Uncertainty: Anxiety is really a fear of uncertainty, of not knowing. As humans, we're wired to fear unknown outcomes. In response, we often catastrophize (i.e. assume that the worst possible scenario will play itself out). It can be hard, but try trusting that not knowing is part of the process - and that's okay.

Drop Into Your Body: At the onset of anxious feelings, do a body scan*. Close your eyes and drop into your body. What physical sensations do you feel? Without labeling them, simply allow them to be there.

Allow Yourself to Feel What You Feel Without Judgment: Getting angry with your anxiety is an all-too-common response.("What's wrong with me? Why can't I be normal?) It takes some practice, but being kind to yourself is crucial. If your dearest friend were feeling this way, what would you say to him/her? Keep your self-talk as compassionate as possible.

Make Meditation Part of Your Routine: There's a great Zen saying I love: "You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes every day - unless you're too busy; then you should sit for an hour." Such wisdom in these words! Let our meditation series be your entry point.

 Marianne Hayes is a breathe bar guest contributor.  She's a longtime freelance writer with a passion for spiritual growth and inner life.