Step 6: Control Your Thoughts
We started talking about how to better understand your anxiety symptoms or your experience of panic. Then we moved to giving your body some tools for relaxation and deep breathing. The thing about anxiety that tends to stick with a person is that it is not only a cognitive experience or purely an emotional problem – this gets into your body and pulls in your physical senses like nothing else does. You physically feel different when you are anxious.
For the past two steps we have been looking at your thoughts and how to interrupt problem thoughts by knowing what it is that really tips the scales into the anxious frenzy. Now we need to pull those two things together. We know that anxiety and panic are both equally a cognitive issue as well as a physical issue. That means we need to treat this from a body and a mind perspective.
Mindfulness through shifting awareness is a great way to check in with how your body feels as well as keep your brain moving and occupied in a way that deflates your anxious thoughts. This is something you can do at home, in the car, at the office, anyplace you can find a comfortable place to sit and be still. UCLA has some great free podcasts that you can play to guide you thought mindfulness. They range from 3 min -20 min and all are great. I particularly like the one preparing you for sleep and the Breath, Sound, Body meditation. Check out a link to their podcasts here.
To do this on your own, come to a comfortable seat. Settle into your body and take a deep breath in through your nose. Let it out slowly through your mouth and then breathe in again. Close your eyes. Spend a few good breaths getting a good rhythm for your inhales and exhales, allowing your body to fill with oxygen and relax. Now focus your attention on the tips of your toes. How do they feel pushed against your shoes? Are they heavy on the ground or do they feel light? Allow your attention to travel up to your ankles and then to your legs. As you move your awareness to your knees what does your skin feel like? Is it tightly stretched over your bones or does it press against the fabric of your clothes? Continue to move your awareness through your legs up into your torso, your arms, eventually all the way up through the top of your head. Stop often to check in with your body and how it feels, notice what sensations are there. Take your time with this and acknowledge how your body feels in the present moment – devoting every last bit of concentration to observing your current state. To come our of your mindfulness exercise take a few more deep breaths and allow your eyes to open slowly, blinking as you take in the light.
While engaging in this exercise your mind is so occupied that you cannot think about your anxiety while focusing so intently on the physical sensations in your body. This also has a calming effect on the body and you will likely notice your heart rate slowing and your breathing become more even. You will probably feel more relaxed and peaceful when you finish. Check out those podcasts – those folks in California really know what they are doing. Again – the more you practice the more beneficial this actually is!1
- Google + Author, https://plus.google.com/u/0/102851063175689428953 ↩