The Mindful Way through Anxiety

The Mindful Way through Anxiety

– worry, anxiety, fear are universal human responses to keep us safe from harm
– fear is the body’s alarm system that kicks in when we are faced with harm – it prepares the body to take action & keep ourselves protected (fight / flight – can feel uncomfortable)
– anxiety/worry are more chronic states & involve thinking about, remembering & imagining some threat (or numerable threats) that will happen in the future – anxiety tends to hang around [more associated with fatigue, muscle tension, difficulty concentrating, restlessness, irritability]
[both of these are very adaptive]
– modern life involves challenge/risks – opening ourselves up to failure &/or being rejected – therefore, to live a meaningful life we have to “over-ride” our natural inclinations to stay safe & avoid threats
– people who have chronic anxiety, have learned a number of things that make it difficult for them:
1) these natural states are unpleasant/undesirable
2) learned to view them critically & judgmentally
3) they are signs of weakness
4) that negative emotions means unhappiness & not achieving
5) that you can push away/avoid such uncomfortable feelings (works in the short-term but backfires in the long term) – for e.g. pushing things out of mind or avoiding certain social situations [limiting life like this can cause more distress & impact the quality of life; you often avoid things which are of value]

Mindfulness is used in clinical psychology:
– pay attention in, & enjoy, the present moment with kindness & compassion
– gently come back to the here & now – let past/future go
– it is about expanding awareness
– catch emotion states – notice it & relate to it differently
– emotions come & go on a momentary basis
– notice yourself, notice your reactions & not respond critically

Anxiety is a learned habit:
– learn new habits & skills
– approach & turn towards anxiety rather than away

Practical Tips:
– learning to relate differently to thoughts & feelings (things which are weak, unpleasant, to be got rid)
– instead, accept & observe & notice difference & no need to engage – they pass
– notice, you can feel anxious & can still do things
– noticing breath to relax – to notice inhaling, exhaling – a start to relating to experience differently
– formal mindfulness practice – meditation
– informal mindfulness practice – driving to work & noticing things
[practice both – do in mundane situations, so you can use in highly-charged situations]
– practice checking in several times per day – I.e. just noticing
– self-compassion – respond to thoughts & feelings in a kinder, gentler way rather than the habituated way of being harsh & judgmental (sometimes done automatically & without awareness – respond as you would to a friend’s thoughts)
– understand why we have fear & anxiety & why anxiety is part of being human (rather than being flawed/different in some way)
– compassion is not indulgent & will not compromise motivation & being a hard worker
– ask yourself where these responses to compassion may have been learnt & developed
– experiment with compassion – see for yourself
– test out your beliefs
– values-based living (not morals/not externally-based, but rather what is important & meaningful to you)
– it requires asking yourself: how do you want to live your life
– bring your attention to what matters to you / I can o what matters to me despite my anxiety

Source: CBT Radio | CBT WNC | podcast date: 17 February 2011


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