Six Steps to Coping with Anxiety Mindfully

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I am open about the fact that I struggle with anxiety. I don’t post about it on social media very often, but I have written a few articles about it for Elephant Journal over the last couple of years.

And while I experience it far less frequently than I used to, it still happens.

One morning last week, for example, was hard. Several hours passed, as I just sat there trying to figure out how to get out of it. I couldn’t do anything. I needed silence.

Because I’ve been working with my anxiety for quite a while, I am pretty good at knowing what I need in each moment to cope. I’ve become intimately familiar with the energy of it and I’ve learned what soothes me.

I thought I’d share a few of my tips for dealing with anxiety mindfully:

1. Notice it. Let yourself feel the energy of it.

The first step to managing anxiety mindfully, is simply by being aware of it. Pay attention to where the energy shows up in your body and in your mind. Notice the erratic nature of your thoughts.

When we observe what is happening, we can deal with it intentionally. We can consciously choose our actions, rather than letting the emotions overwhelm us unwittingly.

When we recognize what is happening, we afford ourselves the opportunity to decide how we want to handle it.

2. Once you feel what is happening, acknowledge it.

Name it. Speak it out loud. Write it down.

I often grab my notebook, or any random scrap of paper, and simply write “I feel anxious” over and over and over. I write it until I feel the tension start to ease. Other times, I repeat the words as I head out for a walk or a run.

The important thing here is to actively admit to how we are feeling.

We tend to want to resist negative emotions. We want to fight them. We don’t want to accept what is happening. And I believe that’s what causes our suffering.

I think the crux of the hardship of anxiety, and probably all seemingly negative emotions, comes from resisting them or pretending they don’t exist—because resistence doesn’t dissipate the energy. It is still there pulsing somewhere inside of us; we’ve just decided not to pay attention to it.

We can work with our anxiety, but we have to be willing to feel it.

3. Allow yourself to feel what you feel.

Be okay with the fact that you feel anxious.

Of course anxiety doesn’t feel good, and of course we want to feel better when we are experiencing it, but it is happening. And we can be okay with the fact that it is happening. 

If we can begin to accept our anxious moments, and even look at them as opportunities to learn more about ourselves, everything feels less consuming.

As we begin to distance ourselves from the immediacy of the feelings, we can discover new ways of working through them.

4. Figure out what you need in this moment to cope.

One of the best ways to manage anxiety is by figuring out what eases the intensity of it.

To move through anxiety mindfully, we have to be okay with feeling the anxious energy coursing through us, but we don’t have to dwell there. We can feel all of the discomfort of it, while also acknowledging that we want to feel better. We can choose to do the things that will ease the intensity of it.

Maybe it’s a walk or a few minutes sitting in silence, just paying attention to your breath. Maybe it’s soothing music, or maybe you need to talk to someone you love. It could be a hot shower, or painting, or writing.

Look inward to see what you need and then do it.

Also, each situation is different, which means we need different tactics we can utilize. Give yourself space and time to figure out what works best for you.

5. Be gentle with yourself. And be kind.

Allow yourself to feel vulnerable.

It’s okay to feel anxious. It doesn’t feel good, and of course you want to feel better, but be okay with what is happening.

Do what you have to do in terms of work or other daily life responsibilities, but be soft with yourself. Allow yourself to acknowledge that you don’t feel your best, and let this awareness guide you throughout the day.

Find a way to connect to the world around you, and make an effort to do the things that make you feel better.

 6. Know that it will pass.

It always does. It will be okay.

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1.       Do you struggle with anxiety? If so, what do you do to cope?

2.       Do you have tips or suggestions of your own?

Leave a comment and share your thoughts, tips, or any questions you may have!