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Mental Health Awareness Week - Anxiety - How Mindfulness Can Help You Manage Anxiety

Anxiety can affect anyone at any time. It is characterized by feelings of worry, fear, apprehension, unease and can be triggered by various factors including work, financial worries, school/college, relationships or health issues amongst other things. While there are multiple interventions available to help manage anxiety, many people have found that applying mindfulness is an effective way to reduce habitual and compulsive thought patterns that may lead to unpleasant symptoms.

Mindfulness is a practice that involves being present and fully engaged in the present moment without judgment. It's been shown to be effective in reducing symptoms of anxiety by helping individuals become more aware of their thoughts and emotions and reducing their reactivity to them.

Here are some ways in which mindfulness can help you manage anxiety:

1. Increased Awareness - mindfulness helps you become more aware of your thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations. This awareness can help you to identify the triggers that cause your anxiety and learn to manage them better. 2. Reduced Stress - mindfulness has been shown to reduce stress which is a significant contributor to anxiety. By practicing mindfulness techniques such as deep breathing or mindfulness meditation, you can learn to calm your mind and reduce the physical symptoms of anxiety such as muscle tension, rapid heartbeat and shallow breathing. 3. Improved Focus - when you're anxious it can be challenging to focus on anything other than your worries. Mindfulness helps you improve your focus by training your mind to pay attention to the present moment, rather than getting caught up in your thoughts leading to those unpleasant symptoms. 4. Better Sleep - anxiety can interfere with sleep which can lead to a vicious cycle of sleep deprivation and increased anxiety. Mindfulness can help you relax and fall asleep faster, leading to better sleep quality and less anxiety. See last weeks blog on sleep for some links to our free body scan meditations. 5. Reduce Negative Thoughts - anxiety is often fueled by negative thoughts and beliefs. Mindfulness can help you recognize and challenge these negative thoughts to help you regain perspective and respond in more helpful ways.

Open your mind, suspend any judgment and try out some mindfulness techniques that you can practice daily to manage your anxiety;

1. Mindful Breathing - sit in a quiet place and focus on your breath. As you inhale and exhale, notice the sensations of the air flowing in and out of your body. If your mind wanders, gently redirect your attention back onto your breath. 2. Body Scan - lie down and scan through your body with your attention noticing any sensations you feel, again without judging. If you notice any areas of tension, imagine that you can breathe into that area as you take a deep breath to soften any hard edges and imagine that you are releasing any tension or tightness as you exhale. Whatever remains allow it to be just as it is, it's important not to force or strive to make anything happen. 3. Guided Meditation - listen to a guided meditation that focuses on relaxation and reducing anxiety. There are many free resources available online or try out our free guided meditation on Track 8 for Working with Anxiety on our website. 4. Mindful Walking - normally when we go for a walk we are taking our busy frantic minds along for the ride that is constantly thinking, judging, planning, worrying and fixing.

Taking a mindful walk outside helps your mind to let go of those things for a little while and involves bringing your mind's attention to focus on the soles and sensations of your feet as you place one foot after another on the ground, as well as noticing the sensations in your body as you move. Tried it already and think it's impossible?

Try out Track 11 with Dr Cassie McGuire, guided audio practice to accompany you on your next walk to be more present and pay attention to the feeling of your feet on the ground, the movement of your arms, the sounds, colours and aromas around you. Notice the difference on your state of mind and body afterwards.

5. Exercise - join a fitness class, pilates, practice yoga or health qigong combining the breath and gentle movement either standing, sitting or chair-based to gradually build up your strength and stamina. Check out our range of Wellbeing Classes. 5. Gratitude Practice - take a few minutes each day to reflect on the things in your life that you are grateful for. This can help shift your focus away from anxiety and onto the positive aspects of your life.

Mindfulness - Why bother?

Mindfulness is a powerful tool for managing anxiety. By increasing your measure of self-awareness you will be more able to notice and interrupt negative or unhelpful thoughts and patterns to reduce stress and anxiety, improve focus and sleep. Mindfulness can help you manage your anxiety and improve your overall well-being.

Incorporating mindfulness techniques into your daily routine can help you stay grounded and calm in the face of anxiety-provoking situations or experiences. So make it your intention to take some time each day to practice mindfulness and see the positive impact it can have on your anxiety levels and overall mental health.

If you feel your anxiety is not improving or going away and impacting your life and behaviour contact your GP or health professional or Anxiety UK

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