Note: Still not a doctor. Nothing here is proper medical advice.
From here on out, I will leave these posts unnumbered. I may decide to go back and have more pages on, say, anxiety symptoms, and then posts may be out of order unless I changed numbering.
Well, you know a bit of what anxiety can do, you’ve heard my stance on medication (don’t do it unless you feel you have to), now we can start looking at what you can do besides medication to get this under control.
I am deciding to cover mindfulness first. While potentially the trickiest anti-anxiety skill to master, it also holds the most potential. See, mindfulness is all about living in the moment. Anxiety is pretty much all about worrying about stuff in the past or the future. With mindfulness, you take yourself as you are at any given moment and experience what is happening to you now. Chances are, nothing near as bad as you are imagining.
There is a lot about the subject that I won’t cover in this post, but if you want to know more, search for Jon Kabat-Zinn. He’s basically the father of mindfulness in the western world. He’s put out some books and CDs on the subject. Some of them contain 8-week plans for learning the basics of mindfulness.
I shall only give an abbreviated example of a common mindfulness exercise here: the body scan. You will usually be lying down for this, but it can also be done sitting. Starting with the feet, focus on one body part at a time, working your way up (so you would do the feet and ankles, than move to the lower legs and knees, the thighs, the pelvis, the abdomen, the chest, the arms, the neck, and the head). Spend a minute or two on each section of your body. For only the body part you are focusing on, try to feel all the sensations in that body part, no matter what they might be. Do not judge. You might feel nothing, or you might feel something. You may even feel pain or other unpleasant sensations. No way is wrong. Whatever you feel is whatever you feel. If you find yourself distracted by your own thoughts, GENTLY move your attention back to whatever body part you’re focusing on, and continue to simply feel, not think. Do not force your attention to stay in one place. Your mind will find ways to distract itself, but you’re not doing anything wrong. That’s simply how minds work.
Over time, doing exercises such as this will make it easier for you to experience life rather than simply going through it. With anxiety, we are prone to overreacting when faced with trials in our lives or symptoms. Using mindfulness, we see them for what they actually are rather than what we THINK they are, which is usually more horrendous and even unrealistic. Of course, mindfulness is not the end-all for anxiety. You’ll still have symptoms. You CAN view them in a more realistic light, though, and that makes a ton of difference. By not panicking during adversity and instead simply feeling what is going on in your own body without judgement, you can prevent bad from turning into worse.
Again, I simply cannot convey what mindfulness truly is here. Search for Jon Kabat-Zinn (or simply for ‘mindfulness exercises’) for a good place to start.
This website seems to have a good sampling of audio to start with: http://www.livingwell.org.au/mindfulness-exercises/
I also recommend this workbook to start off: http://www.amazon.com/Mindfulness-Based-Stress-Reduction-Workbook-ebook/dp/B004G5Z7C6/ref=sr_1_5?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1398388591&sr=1-5&keywords=Mindfulness
Mindfulness is a long road. It certainly requires a commitment, and you shouldn’t expect results overnight. But it can change the way you approach not only anxiety, but the world in general. And all for the better.