Last updated on November 28th, 2023.
According to the ADAA, anxiety disorders affect over 40 million adults in the US every year, while statistics show that one-third of the American population (over 110 million people) experience stress. Many people believe that these common conditions can be managed through regulated medication and drugs, but you would be surprised to find that practicing mindfulness works even better!
How can mindfulness help you manage anxiety and stress? Mindfulness can reduce anxiety in several ways:
- Body Awareness
- Focused Attention
- Improved Self-Perception
- Better Physical Health
- Stay Grounded in the Present
- Controlled Emotions
- See Things Differently
- Gain Insight
- Promote Problem Solving
- Become Happier
It is easy to manage anxiety naturally without relying on the use of medications or drugs. Read on to find out how practicing mindfulness can help you manage anxiety and stress.
Sources of Anxiety and Stress
Why are anxiety and stress so common? Anxiety and stress can come in different forms and can stem from a number of sources, from a busy work life to even tense relationships at home. Anxiety can also come from being involved in a traumatic event. It even comes from our own thought processes.
Anxiety more often starts in the form of small, everyday stressors and negative thoughts that eventually build up and induce full-blown anxiety. This happens when we become used to the everyday stress; we allow the stressors to develop into a stress “habit” that slowly begins affecting our health.
Next thing we know, we become more emotionally reactive to difficult situations rather than proactive, while we choose to ignore those negative feelings. And, as we get caught up in the pattern, we end up creating more distress in our lives. This can lead us to gain weight, develop heart conditions and take us down the path of a slew of health conditions.
This, unfortunately, brings us into a vicious circle, constantly stressed, and eventually anxious, about our everyday lives. But even though stress can lead to a seemingly impossible cycle to break, mindfulness makes it possible.
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is about attention and awareness. Our lives are filled with a thousand distractions and it’s easy to get pulled in another direction when trying to complete a task or start thinking of a response we have in a conversation when trying to listen. Mindfulness is a technique and muscle that can be developed, like going building muscles at the gym, when put into practice.
As it relates to stress, mindfulness can help you create awareness of the emotion but without reacting to it. Mindfulness can help you cope with sources of anxiety and stress. It is defined as a way to maintain “a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and the surrounding environment.”
In other words, mindfulness helps us reduce anxiety by giving us the ability to separate ourselves from our current thoughts and feelings and objectively assess them in a healthy way.
Mindfulness also involves a degree of acceptance of our feelings that allows us to process those emotions without any form of judgment on ourselves.
Check out this article to learn how mindfulness improves mental health.
10 Ways Mindfulness Can Help Manage Anxiety
Mindfulness can be used to manage anxiety in a number of ways while providing a plethora of benefits to your overall mind and body health and wellness:
1. Heightens Body Awareness
Body awareness is defined as the “ability to notice subtle sensations in the body.” Practicing mindfulness allows you to essentially “keep the mind in the body,” that is, maintain an awareness of your body’s sensations, feelings, and more.
Mindfulness will eventually result in heightened body awareness; with regular practice, you will be able to:
- Regulate your mind and body’s responses to events, people, and situations.
- Recognize and release muscle tension.
- Identify areas of the body that need relaxation.
- Interrupt natural flight, fight, or freeze reactions that often lead to anxiety.
- Become aware of signs of tension in others.
In relation to anxiety and stress, heightened body awareness will allow you to identify when your body is being affected by these conditions, so you can address them immediately.
2. Increases Focused Attention
Mindfulness helps you learn to better control where your attention goes. You will be able to focus on one single task at a time without being distracted by worries from other jobs that need to be done within a time span.
3. Improves Self-Perception
The act of mindfulness can also help you change your perspective of yourself. You have the ability to mentally step outside of your body and assess the different things you are feeling with difficult situations that present themselves. You will learn to be more appreciative of how you feel and why you do the things you do and treat yourself with the same level of kindness you would extend to others.
Through this, you can begin to trust and rely on yourself much more than ever before. With mindfulness, you can also boost your self-esteem and self-acceptance.
4. Provides Physical Health Benefits
Mindfulness meditation has shown evidence of reducing blood pressure and stress hormones such as cortisol. In other words, not only is mindfulness good for your mind, but it is also good for your heart, too! Meditation is the beginning of a path to even help you to lose weight naturally. By reducing stressors in the body you’re improving circulation, improving oxygen flow and those benefits have compounding effects on your health.
5. Keeps You Grounded in the Present
Mindfulness involves focusing on the present, and therefore helps counteract worries or anxiety that may come from thinking about what will happen tomorrow as a result of our actions (“I may be fired for giving my honest opinion.”) or what has happened in the past (“I should have done this instead of that.”).
6. Helps You Control Emotions
Mindfulness allows you to open up and be more accepting of difficult emotions, without suppressing or encouraging them. It allows you to identify the emotions you feel as a result of a difficult situation and process them in a healthy way. By acknowledging these emotions, you begin the process of helping them dissipate.
Practicing mindfulness will also help you make better, more conscious choices about how you respond to sources of anxiety. Rather than reacting to difficult situations instinctively and with uncontrolled emotions, you can make more calculated, well-thought-out decisions about how you react instead.
7. Allows You to See Things from Different Perspectives
Mindfulness can help you see things from other perspectives to make better decisions about how you react to an anxiety-producing situation.
For example, if your boss snaps at you for not completing a task in enough time, make an effort to distance yourself from your immediate response. At first, you may feel angry that you were not given enough time to finish a rather large task or hurt that you let a superior down. However, take a few seconds to think about things from their point of view.
Does your boss have someone higher up that they have to answer to that created the deadline? Are they having a rough day already? You may find that the problem at hand is actually not your fault. This new interpretation can be reassuring, and in turn, you will be less anxious about the situation.
8. Gain Insight to Your Thoughts
With mindfulness, you can become more attuned and understanding of your emotions. Doing so, you can start to gain insight about yourself and how you can best reduce anxiety. Ask yourself more questions. Why do you experience these emotions during stressful times? What triggers them? Are there any stressful environments that you need to start removing yourself from?
Use the energy you have been using to try to fight what is happening towards understanding why it is happening. This will help you identify your real concerns. By just working to improve your clarity of mind for the purposes of controlling anxiety you’ll also be improving it for other areas. In addition to mindfulness there are natural bio-hacking supplements that compliment your brain health.
9. Promote Problem-Solving
Asking questions such as those mentioned previously will lead to more problem-solving. Being this mindful can help you start thinking about perceived “worries” in a more productive way. Rather than viewing your concerns as a worry, mindfulness allows you to gain insight as to how to resolve, or even disregard, that worry. It can help you start problem-solving instead of creating more problems in your thought process.
For example, instead of thinking, “I’m late to work, and I’m going to be fired for it,” switch up your thinking: “What can I do to prevent it from happening again?” You may also want to assess why you think this way, to begin with. At its core, why are you concerned about the possibility of losing your job? Work backward from there to get insight into how you respond to stressful situations.
10. Become Happier
Research has shown that mindfulness can effectively reduce anxiety as well as depression. (Source: NCBI) How? By being mindful, you essentially separate yourself from your emotions, leaving enough room to acknowledge and understand them. Doing so will help you feel less overwhelmed by distraught feelings.
In addition, by taming the mind and stressful thoughts through mindfulness, you become much calmer and happier, reducing the chances of feeling anxious. Mindfulness especially helps you identify the root cause of your anxiety, whether it stems from traumas, cognitive dissonance, phobias etc. Become aware is key to management.
10 Ways to Get Rid of Anxiety Naturally
Want to reduce your anxiety and stress without depending on medication? Here are ten, natural ways you can start:
1. Set Your Intention
Start being mindful from the moment you wake up. Set your intention. Give yourself a goal to reach for the day. This can be in the form of writing in a journal or simply looking at yourself in the mirror and making a declaration.
If you set a goal that you are determined to meet, chances are you will find success in reaching it.
All you require for guided meditation is a small, quiet area, and your phone! There are a variety of apps and online programs that provide guided meditation sessions as short as five minutes long. Set aside at least that much time each day to meditate and get yourself centered again.
If you have extra time in the day, use some of it to practice deep breathing while sitting completely still. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. For the first few minutes, only focus on each breath you take in and release.
Identify tense muscles, and imagine they are being released from a strong grasp. Relax your body from head to toe. Do this for as long as you feel you need.
Next, do a mindful check-in. Acknowledge any emotions you are currently feeling. It is important that you try not to think about difficult or stressful situations themselves, but rather the feelings that come from them.
3. Get Creative
Dance, write, doodle, color–do anything that helps get your creative juices flowing and gives your brain a deserved break.
4. Be One with Nature
Go outside for a walk or jog! Either take a stroll at the nearest park or around your neighborhood or work. Focus on what your senses are picking up about the environment around you. What do you see, hear, and feel? Do not think about what is waiting for you back at your desk at work or the tasks you have left at home. Focus on the now.
5. Stay Positive
As long as you stay positive and offer positivity to the people around you, you will immediately start to feel better. Throughout your day, try wishing happiness on someone you may or may not know. You do not have to speak to them directly, but send positive thoughts their way.
Even if you find yourself irritated by what a coworker or friend might have done, do it anyway. You will feel less upset, and in turn less stressed, about the situation!
6. Take a Break from Electronics
You do not actually need your phone everywhere you go, like down the hall at work or when you sit down to eat in another part of the house. Leave it behind; it will still be there when you are done with your task.
It is equally important to log out of your social media accounts. While it can have its share of benefits, like connecting you to long-distance friends and family, it can just as easily contribute to your anxiety and make you unproductive.
And, by logging out, we do not just mean exiting the app. Log completely out so that you are forced to enter your username and password again. Doing so can slow you down from logging back in, and can even stop you from making an effort altogether.
Better yet, try getting away from social media where you can. Delete your profile and the app if you feel you do not use it often enough.
If you do have the need to use social media, limit yourself to spending only a few minutes at a time on those platforms.
7. Make Yourself Tea to Drink
The act of making tea can be just as soothing as a process as drinking it!
Focus on each step as you make it and what your senses pick up. What do the tea leaves smell like? What does the water or steam look like as you add the tea bag or leaves to the cup? How does the heat of the cup feel against your palms? Drink the tea in a quiet area, away from distraction, and think about all of these senses.
Not a tea person? That’s totally alright, although there are so many benefits go especially a good green tea, especially if you’re trying to lose weight naturally without exercise! But, if tea’s not your thing, tou can achieve the same mindfulness effect with French-pressed coffee!
8. Practice Focus
Believe it or not, your to-do list for the day can be a source of mindfulness, too. The key to this form of mindfulness is to take each task one at a time. Absolutely no multi-tasking allowed! That means no checking your phone for new emails or messages that show up.
Try setting a timer for yourself for five minutes. Give one of the tasks on your to-do list your full, undivided attention for the full five minutes. Repeat for each task you have.
9. Make Work Fun
Avoid worrying about what all you have to get done in a day by making these tasks seem like fun events. Sing and dance while you do the dishes, or daydream while you fold the laundry. If you are at work, take slow, deep breaths while you wait for the breakroom microwave to heat up your food, or take a doodle break a few minutes after completing a task.
10. Journal Your Feelings & Thoughts
Take about five minutes each day to jot down your thoughts and feelings. It can be about anything, from your goals to how work is going so far. Doing this will help calm the mind and reduce wild, distracting thoughts.
You can journal in the morning when you wake up, before you go to bed, or even in a traveling journal you can take with you wherever you go.
There are several types of journals that can be used for this purpose, including bullet journals where you can map out your stress levels and emotions, as well as gratitude journals where you can list the things you are thankful for each day.
Become Mindful, Not Mindless
In conclusion, being mindful offers many benefits, even outside of reducing your anxiety and stress fast. From mental health to physical health, mindfulness allows you to live a more healthy, enjoyable, and satisfying life, free of day-to-day concerns.
Maybe managing anxiety through mindfulness is something you want to help other people do. Here are some mindfulness coaching certifications to help get you started.
If you start being more mindful today, know that your anxiety and stress will not simply disappear overnight. It takes regular, consistent mindfulness practice to start noticing a difference. But, once you reach that point, you will find that you are becoming more aware of yourself, and less prone to anxiety. You’ll be happier for it!