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5 Mindfulness Activities for Anxiety: Moments of Calm

Mindfulness Activities For Adults

Turn to face the strange, ch-ch-ch-changes. What a year 2020 has been so far, with so many changes. At least when lockdown started, we all knew where we were. (At home.) Now restrictions are easing, and sometimes returning, with very little notice. No wonder that lots of people are feeling stressed. We’re here to help with some calming mindfulness activities for anxiety.

Yes, mindfulness has been proven to ease anxiety of all kinds. So if you’re feeling a little overwhelmed, you’re in the right place. We’ve got some great ideas for how you can reclaim some moments of calm. If you have clinical anxiety, please talk to your GP too. Help is at hand.

Let’s take it from the top. Breathe in slowly, pause, breathe out. Repeat once or twice, take your time. Then check out our mindfulness activities for anxiety and experiment to see what works best for you. Here we go.

 

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. If you have time, you could even try a body scan meditation. It’s a great way of checking in with your body – and building mindful habits.

Anxiety feels different for everyone. But lots of people find their heart rate goes up. Your breathing can change and you may feel light-headed. Stomach pains are common too.

There’s a good reason for this. When we face a stressful situation, our bodies try to help by increasing blood flow to the brain. The adrenaline can be useful if we’re about to go into a job interview or other high-pressure situation. But when the feeling becomes too intense or it persists for too long, it can start to make us feel unwell.

Mindfulness Activities for Anxiety: How can mindfulness help?

No one completely escapes anxiety. It’s a normal part of life. But it doesn’t mean you have to suffer in silence. You can still do something about it. Mindfulness can help ease the physical feelings of anxiety. And it 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. Taking good care of yourself is always a great first step.

If your feelings of anxiety don’t go away, get in touch with your GP. Mental health is important and you don’t have to struggle alone. There’s more great advice on clinical anxiety on the NHS website.

Mindfulness Activities for Anxiety: Journaling

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.

Mindfulness Activities for Anxiety: Back to the breath

If you’ve been following our blog for a while, 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. So 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?

The 4-7-8 exercise

This technique is also known as the ‘relaxing breath’. It can be great for getting to sleep, as well as reducing anxiety. Start by getting comfortable and placing the tip of the tongue on the tissue right behind the top front teeth.

Empty the lungs of air. Breathe in quietly through the nose to a count of four. Hold the breath for a count of seven. Then breathe out through the mouth, making a whoosh sound, for a count of eight.

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.

Mindfulness Activities for Anxiety: Affirming calm

Do you struggle with negative thoughts about yourself? Most of us do at one point or another. Whether it’s repetitive thoughts that just don’t go away or thought distortions, where we start to believe an exaggerated version of the truth.

Affirmations can be part of changing these patterns for good. They’re positive statements that you can use during meditation. They can’t instantly change your mood. But by saying them to yourself regularly, you can start to change a negative mindset for the better. It can feel a little awkward to start with, but don’t worry. No one can hear what you’re saying inside your head. (Thank goodness.)

You may like to choose an affirmation that’s personal to you. It will be more believable if it’s rooted in fact and if it feels true. So if you’re feeling very tense, then affirming how relaxed you are might not be logical.

Here’s a recipe for a personal affirmation:

1) Stick to the present tense and start with ‘I’. Affirmations aren’t about goal-setting – it’s more of a reminder of what’s already happening.

2) Link your affirmation to your value and beliefs. This might be something like ‘kindness’, that you already put a firm emphasis on.

3) Don’t be afraid to acknowledge things you’re working on. (Like anxiety.)

Stuck for ideas? Here are a few examples to get you started:

  • I can manage my anxiety. I’ve done it before.
  • I don’t have to focus on feeling anxious or try to figure it out.
  • I can allow myself to feel anxious, because it will soon pass.
  • I am in control. Anxiety is not the boss.
  • I breathe in relaxation. I breathe out tension.
  • I am relaxing each part of my body.
  • I am ridding my mind of negative thoughts and filling it with positive ones.
  • I am more and more calm with each deep breath I take.

Like lots of mindfulness activities, affirmations work best when you use them regularly. Why not commit to making them part of your routine for the next few weeks? Aim to say them a few times every day, either as part of your meditation practice or on their own. Write them down and leave them somewhere you’ll look at them.

Affirmations aren’t for everyone and that’s a-OK. If you’ve given them a go and don’t feel it’s working out, try switching to another wording. Or a different form of mindfulness. You know yourself best.

We have found this really helpful video that has broken down affirmations into little easy digestible chunks that makes it simple to follow. As we said, they aren’t for everyone, but as Aaron says in this short video, affirmations are a great way to focus on your goals.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hfB9Oze2tbk

Final thoughts

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. Look after your diet and your sleep patterns. Take it easy and reclaim some moments of calm in your day. It can be easy to forget to look after yourself, particularly when you’re low on energy or have your hands full looking after others. But a little attention will go a long way to making you feel less anxious. And don’t forget: we’re here when you need us.

What are you planning to do first? Please let us know in the comments below. We’d love to hear from you. Stay safe and stay well.

FAQ’s

What activities support mindfulness? 

Meditation and breathing exercises are great practices for mindfulness. 

What meditation is best for anxiety?

A short-guided meditation session is a good way to calm anxiety.

Do mindfulness activities really work?

Yes! It is a great way to lower anxiety and promote good mindfulness.

How can mindfulness help mental health?

It can promote good habits that can lower anxiety and stress.

 

 

In conversation: Men’s Mental Health

Men's mental health

We at Mind Panda are sitting in conversation with Ian our founder and owner and Andrew our Graphic Designer to talk about issues faced by men in a modern world and their mental health. In light of Men’s Mental Health Awareness Week, we are opening up the discussion on men’s mental health.

With this in mind do you find it hard to talk about your mental health as a guy. If so, what is the biggest thing that holds you back?

Ian: As a guy I find it not too difficult to talk about it, but it depends who you are talking to. Obviously there is that male stigma of ‘macho-ness’, so there are some males that you don’t want to talk about it with. Personally I feel like it is easier to talk to women about my mental health than guys sometimes.

Andrew: Yeah, I get that. For me it’s not a problem. I’m not brilliant at talking about it, but I don’t think it’s anything to do with my gender.

We know that women might find subjects like body image contributes negatively on their mental health, do you feel the same way as a man? Are there the same pressures on men?

Ian: There’s definitely a pressure on men to have a certain way to look, especially with what’s presented in the media, we have this image that everyone tries to be like, or there is what is expected or this is what is good looking. 100% I feel like there is. Especially now during lockdown, we might be working out a bit less due to gym closures and maybe eating a bit more than usual, your health slips a bit. When it comes to body, it is quite difficult to talk about that sort of thing, or to show it off on a beach.

Andrew: I’d agree. I’d say on an everyday basis its not an issue, but in certain circumstances I do think about it.

Do you think that celebrities such as football players and the Royals talking about their mental health issues helps to remove the stigma around men feeling ashamed to open up?

Andrew: It depends on how it’s done. If it’s done in an informative way then yes, and if it’s a celebrity you already resonate with then yeah.

Ian: Yeah, celebrities have a certain amount of influence on everyone. People talking about it can only help. I think as long as it’s not patronising then it will work well. Like if the person resonates with you instead of preaching to avoid resentment. People have this idea that celebrities have it all, the money and the fame, but sometimes these can just add to the problem. So it’s good they can open up and show that they are just like us.

We recently talked about Justin Baldoni’s TED talk about being “man enough”. What does that phrase mean for you?

Ian: I totally got what he was saying there. Purely because males have had this driven into them for centuries, that they are the ‘man’ of the house, they don’t cry, they are the protector, they don’t show their feelings etc. All that has taught us is to bottle up. Men have feelings but we have been subconsciously taught over all these years that we don’t have the same feelings as women. I think that is what has led to the crisis of men’s mental health, and as we know the way we are told to deal with it is just not healthy.

Andrew: For me, men’s mental health, and being man enough isn’t a factor for me as I’ve never had the need for it myself. It’s subjective in what that means. Are you ‘you’ enough.

Ian: I like that. Don’t get me wrong, men can feel intimidated by other people that have it “all”. Especially when you are the gym and you see like a big muscly guy. But I think what he was talking about was that being a man now means showing your compassion and showing your vulnerability and showing that you can release your emotions. It takes a lot more guts to show that you are upset about something than acting bravado.

What do you think would help more men open up about their mental health?

Andrew: I’d say normalising it. Anyone who can show it about more can help and let people know its okay. And  responding positively to that is great. 

Ian: I agree. The thing is unfortunately in some groups of friends where a male was to come out and say that he is struggling, a lot of male friends might make fun of them. And even though we might laugh it off, it does make you want to bottle it up a bit more and not say it again. It’s about choosing the right people.

Andrew: My friends could talk about that which is good.  

Ian: I think the same way everyone can open up is that its not going to happen overnight. You won’t just say something and everyone will fall into place. You have to learn it. You have to practice and understand yourself more and learn to love yourself the way you are first before trying to do it for other people.

What do you do personally in times of anxiety or stress? Do you have any tips? 

Ian: Yeah, I’ll give you an example before when I was stressed I’d sort of project it on to everyone round about me. And I would try and mask it with something by going to the pub or play the PlayStation or such. I think you do have to take your attention away from it, but do it in a positive way, like going for a run, meditating or reading a book. Don’t get me wrong, having some downtime at the pub and the like is good, but not all the time.

Andrew: Personally, I process things before and mull them over and then talk to someone to get their views and confirm my own feelings. I’ll also do the same as playing a game or reading.

Ian: A mix of both is healthy, it’s when you’ve started binging days worth of Netflix that is the problem. Again, it’s just burring that problem. As I sit here saying this I think of what I do know and I always question why I feel a certain way or why its like that. I think it’s good to do that as I can accept it and that’s easier to let it go and not resist this. And understand that’s how anxiety and stress feel. Before I know it, I’m back to normal. 

Mollie: That’s true. It’s important to find the root cause as opposed to masking the issue.

Do you think it would be helpful to talk about your mental health with your friends or would you prefer to speak to a professional? Why?

Andrew: I’d do both. As I said, me and my friends are really good at it.

Ian: Agreed. I think both. And choose who I want to talk to.

It is really brave to talk about this and you’ve contributed massively to the movement. Is there anyone that you would like to see open up? Fellow businessmen? Etc?

Ian: If we start seeing some more sportsmen opening up would help. We see them as the “macho” man type and a lot of men look up to them. And there are so many great men doing thinks for the movement, but we need more who are in the public eye to show more influence.

Personally here at MindPanda, we enjoyed the experience to talk about our mental health. We believe it is a healthy habit to build. If you want to hear more of the conversation, click play button below.

FAQ’s

What are the 4 types of mental illness?

There are more than 4 types but the most common are Mood Disorders, Anxiety Disorders, Personality Disorders and Eating Disorders.

Who is most likely to have a mental illness?

Anyone can suffer from a mental illness at any time or stage of their life.

What are the signs of a mental illness?

There are many signs that can show the beginnings of a mental illness. Look out for rapidly changing moods and contact your doctor for advice ASAP.

What is the most common mental illness in men?

Depression and anxiety are really common in males, just as much as women.

Surviving to thriving this Mental Health Awareness Week

How are you doing this week? And how are you really doing? We know that it is an important question to ask, and we sure don’t ask it enough. It’s Mental Health Awareness Week this week and we’re talking about all things mental wellbeing and give you the tips for Surviving to Thriving. What better way to start your own inner wellbeing journey than this week. 

We all know someone that has been affected by the stresses and issues caused by mental illness. We have all heard of someone succumbing to said symptoms and we can be left wondering “why” or “how” does this happen. And we have brought you this statistic before, but we will leave it here again;

  • If the number of people who suffered with mental health issues in Britain was a country on its own, it would have a larger population than Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales combined.

Let’s just take that in for a second. Over 16 million people in our country are struggling. And we believe we need to take the time and talk about it more. 

Famous faces – just like us… 

From celebrities to our own founder; we have some great pieces of inspiration to help us open up that conversation and begin to go from surviving to thriving;

Actress and model Cara Delevingne has always been open about her own internal struggles. In a 2017 interview with This Morning she said;“Being vulnerable is actually a strength and not a weakness — that’s why more and more mental health is such an important thing to talk about.” – and we couldn’t agree more. 

Our Marketing Manager Molls has written a few articles herself about mental health stating that; “I like to think of my own mental health like the Japanese art of Kintsugi – the art of repairing broken items with gold. I may have been broken before, but when I had the strength to be repaired I became even stronger and valuable”. 

Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex famously said in an interview with ITV; “It’s not enough to just survive something. You’ve got to thrive, you’ve got to feel happy.” She may have had the dream lifestyle, but behind closed doors she was clearly very unhappy. But she was brave enough to admit that and it shows in her new mental state – and that beautiful glow she now has.

But most importantly our CEO Ian created MindPanda out of the sole need to be more hands on with our mental health. He champions the need to talk about our own struggles after overcoming his own anxieties, and in turn founded MindPanda in order to tackle this growing issue. 

Mental health awareness week 2020

So when we tell you that in the UK, one in four people experience mental health problems each year, each one of they examples above are part of the statistic. The most common conditions of mental health problems are anxiety to depression, so if so many of us are affected, why don’t we talk about it more?

Which is why we always excited about celebrating Mental Health Awareness Week each year as it give us all the chance to freely talk about our struggles without judgement – as it should be. 

This year’s Mental Health Week theme is kindness. Why? Because isolation caused by the lockdown means we need more of it than ever. It’s even good for the person being kind, boosting self-esteem and a sense of belonging. As Captain Tom Moore’s amazing NHS campaign showed, social distancing doesn’t have to mean emotional distance.

What are you doing for Mental Health Awareness Week this year? Here are a few of our favourite ideas to help us all Surviving to Thriving.

Kindness is contagious – pass it on

We still need to stay at home as much as possible, but there are lots of things we can do for others. Why not check on the neighbours, volunteer and raise some smiles? Anything goes. Like this Spider-Man jogger who cheered up isolated children. Or random compliments from the little ones.

30-minute movement challenge

Are you slowly becoming one with your sofa, after too much time at home? Take action and get active with the thirty-minute movement challenge.

For example, you could try mindful walking. There are formal meditations that you can learn. Or you could simply bring more awareness to your walk. Turn off the autopilot. Notice your breathing – the speed, the depth, the sensations. How does your body feel as you plant each foot and how does your clothing feel on your skin? What are the sounds, smells and colours around you?

Daily mindfulness meditation

It’s official: mindfulness has been proven to reduce anxiety. It has a positive effect on the symptoms of depression. It can help your brain process distractions better, too. Not to mention that it makes you feel great.

If you’d like to get started with mindfulness, we have a big range of guided meditations available for free. Head over to our resources page to have a look.

Feed your brain

Starting a new book, getting the latest news from a friend, trying out a new activity… Indulging our curiosity is a great way to distract us from negative feelings. It can also encourage empathy and strengthen relationships. How are you going to feed your brain today?

Connect with others

Some of us would love to escape lockdown with our relatives. Others are feeling the effects of too much isolation. But all of us would benefit from more social connectedness. Take time to call your older relatives. WhatsApp your friends. Chat with neighbours over the garden fence or by the lift. Your mental wellbeing will thank you.

Give thanks

Gratitude is a great way to boost empathy and add a feel-good factor to your day. In fact, it’s been proven. Take a moment to consider all the things you are grateful for. In fact, you could write them down. You may even like to make this part of your regular routine, for example with a gratitude journal.

We found this video very helpful when talking about the impact of thriving, check it out:

FAQ’s

How do you thrive instead of survive?

Thriving is learning how to grow in your environment. Look at ways you can expand your resources and make roots in your own self development.

Why is mental health important in the UK?

Just like it is globally, mental health is an important topic in the UK. Over 70 million workdays are lost due to mental health in the UK.

What is the difference between thriving and surviving?

Surviving means that you are scraping by on the bare minimum for living. Thriving means that you are growing in your environment and improving.