Why is it so hard dealing with anxiety? We've heard and read all about breathing, meditating, and visualization, but it seems impossible.
Many people agree, as reflected by the increase in the use of medications to treat anxiety symptoms.
Has this crossed your mind, or are you already taking the edge off with Xanax, Valium, or a bit too much wine at the end of the day?
In treating anxiety, it's common to have a sense of disconnection from yourself.
Whether it's from feeling overwhelmed or disempowered, it's a loss of self-efficacy. And to complicate matters, it’s usually on an unconscious level.
But mindfulness training is an effective part of the reconnection process and solution for reducing anxiety.
Oftentimes, the true source of anxiety is disguised, perhaps as small annoyances or just a "bad mood." In stillness, we uncover the real concerns and fears, and in breaking this down it becomes more manageable.
However, anxiety reduction techniques in mindfulness training need to be cultivated on a daily basis.
It's like building it up in your system so you have it when you need to call upon it.
When you're familiar with the feeling of a calm state of mind, it will serve you in stressful times. And from that state of mind comes clarity, perspective, and the reassurance that all is well and manageable.
But be warned: it's impossible to use these techniques once in the throws of an elevated anxiety level if you haven't cultivated them already.
All the good stuff you've learned about — breathing techniques, meditation, visualizations — is useless if you haven't practiced it consistently and know it intimately.
When your head is spinning and your body is constricting, it's not the time to use a tool you aren't familiar with.
So, here's how to reduce anxiety.
This can be done by anyone at any time, but here's how to do it so it will work.
Regardless of whether you feel like you need it, start a daily mindfulness ritual. Set aside 20 minutes, twice a day, to sit quietly in stillness. Breathe, observe, meditate, journal — anyone or any combo that works for you. Do this consistently for 30 days.
Notice how your anxiety levels have changed.
One common breathing technique is square breathing.
Square breathing works by breathing in for four seconds, holding for four, and exhaling for four, then resting for four. This helps to slow down the heart rate and re-center yourself. Breathing techniques can be done alone or within mediation.
Then, keep doing it. It's a lifestyle, not a quick cure. Each time will be different so observe yourself in these moments.
Get connected to yourself. It's when we lose touch with ourselves that the world spins out on us.
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Katherine Mazza is a NY State Licensed Mental Health Therapist specializing in relationship issues, anxiety management, PTSD, and trauma.