Mindfulness for anxiety
How staying present can help with anxiety
Working in a high-pressured, busy environment requires a degree of mental toughness and the ability to keep a cool head. Over the last few years I have found that developing my ability to stay in the present moment through simple mindfulness techniques has boosted my mental resilience. Many of my hypnotherapy clients in Manchester report similar results. Mindfulness is another tool by which we can learn to ‘de-hypnotise’ ourselves from trance states that are unhelpful. How could mindfulness for anxiety help you?
A human state?
Because your brain is constantly shuttling between the past and the future (often in an attempt to keep us safe) it can sometimes be a real challenge to simply focus on what is in front of you. If you take a moment to really think about it, how often do you often feel completely absorbed by the task at hand, whether its writing a presentation at work or really listening to a close friend?
It seems that many of us have developed an ability to run on automatic pilot. We nod and smile to give the appearance of listening, but underneath our minds are chewing over that witty come-back we wished we said or whether our boss actually hates us. Your thoughts might prefer running off into the past, being consumed with regret, guilt or sadness about something that has already happened. Or perhaps they like to project into the future, creating worrying scenarios often beginning with the words “what if…?”
If this sounds familiar to you then you are in good company. Mindfulness courses have flourished over the last few years, due to increased recognition of both the personal and professional impact of internal distraction. I am still a work in progress, only the other day I heard those familiar words from my husband “you didn’t hear any of that did you?!” As I looked up, startled. There have even been times when I have tried to remember what happened during the day and have faltered – it’s almost as if I have been sleepwalking.
The cost of distraction
Whilst it is entirely natural for our brains to digress from the present in this way, it can be depleting and cause us to be distracted by threats that either do not exist or that we have absolutely no control over. It also means that our enjoyment of the present moment, our life as it unfolds, can be diluted by unhelpful distraction. A study by Harvard University in 2010 found that whatever people were doing, whether they were reading, having sex or shopping, they were happier when they focused on the activity rather than thinking about something else.
I know when a client has turned a corner in therapy when they start saying things like “I was just able to get on with it” or “I didn’t even think about it until you asked me about it”. There are a number of ways that I help clients break free of thoughts that stop them enjoying the moment. I have found one of the most simple and most effective methods to be the “7/11 breath”.
1. Pause if you find yourself feeling anxious, stressed or worried to the point that it is interfering with you ability to enjoy the present moment.
2. Inhale slowly for 7 counts.
3. Exhale for 11 counts.
4. Repeat for five breaths or until you feel calmer.
The magic of this technique lies in the longer exhale, which brings your heart rate down and is often accompanied with a greater sense of calm. The act of concentrating on our breathing is one of the most effective ways of bringing ourselves back to the present.In my former life as a Solicitor I recognised the value of a quick, practical technique, so I hope you will be relieved as I was that we don’t need to meditate cross-legged with candles and incense 5 hours a day to effectively use mindfulness for anxiety.
If you are looking to gain more control over your anxiety, feel free to contact me to discuss how Cognitive Hypnotherapy in Manchester could help.