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.
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.
Meditation and breathing exercises are great practices for mindfulness.
A short-guided meditation session is a good way to calm anxiety.
Yes! It is a great way to lower anxiety and promote good mindfulness.
It can promote good habits that can lower anxiety and stress.