True, 2020 has been stressful. But mindfulness has been proven to ease anxiety of all kinds. So if you’re feeling a little overwhelmed, you’re in the right place. This guest blog from MindPanda provides some great ideas for how you can reclaim some moments of calm.
MindPanda is a Small Scottish Startup, with a mission to help people of all ages enjoy better mental health, and increase workplace morale.
It’s funny how quickly people get used to changing. When lockdown started, we all knew where we were. (At home.) While it’s great that the restrictions are easing, we get why lots of people are feeling anxious. ‘Re-entry anxiety’ is now officially a thing, and we have some mindfulness activities for anxiety to help.
Let’s take it from the top. Breathe in slowly, pause, breathe out. It’s time for a little mindfulness activities for anxiety.
What does anxiety feel like?
How are you feeling right now? Take a moment to check in with your body. Take stock of your heartbeat and temperature. Notice any areas where you feel tight or sensations like tiredness.
Lots of people find their heart rate goes up when they’re anxious. Your breathing can change and you may feel light-headed. Stomach pains are common too.
True, everyone feels anxious from time to time – it’s part of life. But you can still do something about it. Taking good care of yourself is a great first step.
If your feelings of anxiety don’t go away, get in touch with your GP. Mental health is as important and you don’t have to struggle alone. There’s more great advice on clinical anxiety on the NHS website.
How can mindfulness help?
Mindfulness can help ease the physical feelings of anxiety. Hurray! Mindfulness can also help us to be more aware of how we’re feeling right now. It saves us from being at the mercy of our swirling thoughts and emotions.
Here are a few mindfulness activities for anxiety we’ve found helpful. Give them a go and let us know how you get on in the comments below. We’d love to hear from you.
Resilience from perspective
The physical symptoms of anxiety are one thing. Let’s talk about our thoughts. Spiralling round and round and feeling almost impossible to control. Changing perspective can help. From talking with a friend, to taking time for journaling.
You don’t need fancy stationery for mindful journaling. Or a relaxing cup of tea. (Still tempting though, right?) What’s essential is time to reflect on your day. If possible, try to write by hand rather than online. If you’ve got writer’s block, here are a few prompts to get you started.
Today, I’m grateful for…
Gratitude can actually make you feel better. Even Harvard says so. Make a list and make it as long as possible. As well as ‘what’, include ‘why’ and ‘when’. This will help you connect the dots between the good things in your life and how good they make you feel.
I dedicate my day to…
During lockdown, days blurred together. Normal routines disappeared. To restore some structure, dedicate your day to someone you love or a meaningful event in your life.
Take some time to write about why that person or event means so much to you. How did they make you feel and what did you learn? Then decide how you’ll honour that memory during your day. This will help you to live that day more mindfully – and connected to your past in a meaningful way.
This is my story
We all tell stories. Sometimes we tell them to others and sometimes to ourselves. It’s how we make sense of the world and our place in it.
Write down your story of today. What happened, what choices did you make, how did you feel? Stories can be simple or elaborate. They can feature struggle or hope, high drama or quiet boredom. Whatever you write, it should feel true to you.
Have a think about what you’ve written. What story do you want to live tomorrow? Do you need to shift your perspective or make other changes? This exercise helps you to take stock of where you are and where you want to be.
Back to the breath
If you’ve been following MindPanda's blog, this one might be familiar. Breathing exercises are the foundation of mindfulness. Bring a moment of calm into your day and you’ll feel better instantly.
Take a deep breath to calm down, they say. And it’s good advice. But quite often, we take a huge breath, expanding our chests. There’s a better way.
Breathe down into your diaphragm. Put your hand on your belly and feel it move out as you breathe. Slowly count to four as you breathe in, then pause for a few seconds. Breathe out, counting to four again. Simple, isn’t it?
If you’re new to breathing exercises, start in a calm and quiet place. Then start to try them in new situations. Like standing in the kitchen. Or the supermarket queue. You might feel self-conscious at first, but chances are that no one will even notice. When anxiety strikes, you’ll be ready.
Want some variety? Here are a few other things to try:
The long breath out
If you’re breathing in for four seconds, try breathing out for six. Push all of the air out of your lungs. Breathing out is linked to the parasympathetic nervous system. This is the part that influences how the body calms down.
Alternate nostril breathing
This yoga breathing exercise might be one to save for at home. Use your right thumb to close the right-hand nostril and inhale slowly through the left. Pinch your nose closed between your right thumb and ring finger, holding the breath in for a moment. Use your right ring finger to close your left nostril and exhale through the right. Wait a moment and repeat the cycle ten times. How do you feel now?
Don’t forget, we also have a great collection of free guided meditations available for free. If you’re finding it hard to focus, they can also help.
COVID-19 might be with us for some time to come. And the uncertainty understandably makes people feel anxious. Please be kind to yourself and ask for help when you need it. You’re not alone.
Experiment to find what mindfulness activities for anxiety work for you. Stay as active as you can. Connect with others. Take it easy and reclaim some moments of calm in your day. We’re here when you need us.