05 Nov Mindfulness for Anxiety – Exercise Your Brain to Reduce Stress
We all encounter stress in our daily life and stress can leave us feeling anxious at times. There are many strategies to reduce anxiety, but have you tried mindfulness for anxiety? Unless you have been living under a rock, you have probably heard of the word Mindfulness. It is kind of a buzzword that is going around right now. Just like physical exercise, mindfulness is like the mental exercise your brain needs. It might seem like a relatively new concept, but it came from a Buddhist practice founded about 2,600 years ago. Mindfulness was brought more to the mainstream Western culture by Jon Kabat-Zinn. He combined mindfulness with treatment for reducing anxiety, depression, and stress. He defines mindfulness as an “awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally. It’s about knowing what is on your mind”. The opposite of mindfulness is when you are on “autopilot” and doing things without noticing them. Such as, when you are driving in a car and you miss your stop because you weren’t paying attention, or when you are angry, acted on impulse and said something you didn’t mean to say.
Not only is mindfulness for anxiety good for adults, it is good for kids, too. Kids are more stressed and anxious than ever these days. The increased stress and anxiety can affect focus, attention, learning, and following directions. Stress can also decrease the immune system so they are more susceptible to getting sick. Mindfulness can help prevent this from happening. Mindfulness increases focus, self-esteem, strengthen resiliency, and decrease anxiety and depression. Mindfulness can also give you a greater sense of self-awareness. This awareness can help with emotional control, which is a great skill to have, especially in the teenage years!
We all get overwhelmed sometimes and things don’t go our way. If you can be mindful of your emotions, and physical reactions, such as your heart beating faster and having feelings of anxiety, you can take a moment to respond rather than react. If we aren’t aware of what is going on in our body and mind, we are more likely to react, and sometimes with a negative response. This can cause the situation to escalate. Having awareness will allow us to have time to take a deep breath and figure out the best way to respond to not make the situation worse. When kids see parents with a high emotional response, they are more likely to react with high emotions. This will also allow for some healthy role modeling. They will see their parents cope with a stressful situation in a healthy way and learn from this. Being a mindful parent can help have a mindful child.
Exercises to Practice Mindfulness
Being mindful takes practice! So, how do you implement Mindfulness in your life, let alone your kids’ life? You can be mindful in just about anything you do and there are some easy activities that allow mindfulness to be practiced alone, or with the family.
This is a good activity to get you back in the moment when you are having high anxiety or stress.
- Notice 5 new things that you can see. Things that maybe you haven’t noticed before.
- Notice 4 things that you can hear. Be aware of the subtle sounds that you typically block out, like the birds chirping, or the air conditioner running.
- Notice 3 things that you can touch. Focus on the texture of 4 different items, such as the smoothness, or the coolness of the item.
- Notice 2 things that you can smell. Find some hand lotion or a candle.
- Notice 1 thing that you can taste. Maybe it is just the taste in the air or pop a mint in your mouth and focus on how it feels and tastes.
Be aware of what you are eating. There are many times when we finish a meal and don’t even realize what it tasted like. Eat slower and notice every bite. Don’t watch TV or use your phone; just eat.
Take a walk
Take a walk outside and stay present. Notice the colors of the trees, the unsteadiness of the sidewalk, and the coolness of the air.
Play a mindful game
Play “I spy” or “Simon Says”. These are both good mindful games. The Alphabet game is another good mindfulness game. In this game, you might think of all the foods that begin with a certain letter, or going through the alphabet and thinking of all the foods that begin with each letter are also good mindfulness games. A=Apple, B=Bacon, C=Cauliflower, etc.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation
You can also throw in some relaxation exercises with your mindfulness for anxiety activities. This is also beneficial for reducing anxiety and stress. Our bodies need to practice relaxing so it knows what to do when you want it to relax in stressful situations. Progressive Muscle Relaxation is a great way to relax your muscles.
Make a glitter jar. Glitter jars are fun to make and the glitter can represent the chaos in the moment, and allows us to remember that things settle down. The glitter can also act as a time reminder to breathe as the glitter settles to the bottom.
In a world full of stress, mindfulness will allow us to be present and not get caught up in the chaos. Practicing mindfulness on a regular basis will make it easier to access this skill in times of need, especially when you use mindfulness for anxiety. Take a pause, take a breath, and be mindful in the present moment. North Shore Family Services is here to support you too. If you would like a little extra guidance and care for your family, please reach out and schedule a therapy appointment today!
Lisa is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who earned her master’s degree from The Ohio State University. She grew up in Libertyville and is thrilled to return to her hometown after 15 years of clinical experience in a variety of settings, including home-based case management, schools, outpatient mental health, and hospitals.
Lisa has provided treatment in clinical settings for children, teens, adults, and families who struggle with depression, anxiety, mood disorders, trauma, stress, gender identity issues, self-esteem issues, impulsivity, defiance, and attention deficits. Lisa has worked in the schools implementing programs and services to individual students and groups to enhance coping skills and academic performance and has worked in crisis teams assessing for suicidality as well as crisis management. She uses CBT, DBT, Solution-focused therapy, play therapy (for younger clients) and EMDR to help her clients and their families reach their goals. Lisa is also trained to work with and assess adolescents for substance use, if this is a concern. She provides a non-judgmental, client-centered environment assisting clients to reach their personal goals of therapy. She believes in utilizing a team effort to help families become empowered and work through stressful times.