By: Sharon Heckathorn, LIMHP
Anxiety often has a negative reputation. People will describe their anxiety in terms of being too stress or overwhelmed. But did you know that there is an upside to anxiety? Anxiety in and of itself is not a bad thing. It is simply our body’s alert system to let us know that we need to pay attention. Mitch Ablett put it this way “Anxiety is not all bad. It can prompt us to take stock of our own actions and life situation. It can give us a psychophysiological flick towards taking a corrective, repairing action or artfully dodge oncoming peril”. Anxiety can help us move toward action but can become problematic when it overwhelms us or we get stuck.
There are two approaches that are often used in therapy to help people that are struggling with anxiety. One is to learn how to change our thoughts and the story we tell ourselves into something that is more positive and helpful. The other is mindfulness. Jon Kabat-Zinn is a leading expert in mindfulness and he states that mindfulness is “an awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgementally in the service of self-understanding and wisdom”. While this is a completely different approach to anxiety, it is one that can be equally as helpful. This concept or idea says that we don’t try to change our anxious thoughts but rather we notice them. Once we can notice and understand what anxiety really is, than we have the opportunity to respond differently than we have in the past. There is an element of learning how to accept all of our feelings no matter if they are perceived to be positive or negative.
Mindfulness can be taught in several different ways and is often combined with other practices such as meditation and yoga. No matter how it is taught, in order to learn mindfulness there are a few things to keep in mind. First, just like learning anything new, it takes time to learn to do this well. Second, self-care an important part of mindfulness. When we take time to eat well and get enough sleep, our brains are primed to better be able to notice our emotions and respond well. Finally, don’t forget to breathe. Learning diaphragmatic breathing will not only assist you in learning mindfulness, it will help you to think more clearly overall about your emotions. What I love about this approach is that it can be used for people of all ages. I have taught mindfulness to both adults and children with some very positive outcomes.
If this is a topic that interests you or you feel like you could benefit from learning more about it, please don’t hesitate to reach out by e-mail () or give me a call 402-513-4416.
Mindful- Healthy Mind, Healthy Life. https://mindful.org/mindfulness-for-anxiety-research-and-practice/