What is Mindfulness and Can it Help with Anxiety?

Mindfulness has become quite the buzz word as of late. But what is it really? And can it really help us reduce our anxiety symptoms? Let’s dig into this question, and start by clarifying our terms.

What is anxiety?

We’ve all heard the word “anxiety”, but what exactly is it and how does it affect us?  According to the American Psychological Association, anxiety is

an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts, and physical changes like increased blood pressure.”  

You might experience persistent fear, dread, or uneasiness, and other symptoms can include:

  • feeling restless
  • wound up or on edge 
  • struggling to control feelings of worry
  • trouble concentrating 
  • being irritable 
  • being easily fatigued  

In essence, anxiety keeps us trapped in our minds which can limit how we are living our life.
 Anxiety can also produce physical symptoms such as headaches, stomachaches, increased heart rate, and muscle tension.  If any of this sounds familiar, you know the toll anxiety can take.  

Everyone experiences anxiety from time to time; it is a normal human emotion and it helps to keep us alert and safe.  Many of us worry about things such as money, our health, relationships, an upcoming decision, jobs, etc.  

Some people, however, may find themselves struggling to get rid of the anxiety or find that it has gotten worse over time.  The symptoms can start to affect our sleep, job performance, relationships, or schoolwork.  

If this is the case, then you may be struggling with an anxiety disorder.  There are several different types of anxiety disorders such as generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and various phobia-related disorders.    

If you find that your anxiety is getting in the way of living life, or you just would like some additional coping skills, there are treatments out there that can be extremely effective in helping you to manage your anxiety and feel more like yourself.  Medication, therapy, or a combination of both, are all good options to look into.  

If you find yourself interested in therapy for anxiety, one technique your therapist might incorporate is mindfulness.  

Mindfulness and Anxiety

Mindfulness entails learning to be fully present in the moment while gently acknowledging and accepting your thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations.  

It’s a pretty basic concept, but is much harder for us to actually do.  At any given moment, our attention is pulled in multiple directions- what do I need from the grocery store?  Did I remember to take out the trash?  I need to call my mom when I get home.

Being fully present in the moment isn’t something that comes naturally to many of us, but no matter how far our minds drift, mindfulness is there to help pull us back to where we are and to what we’re doing and feeling.  The good news is that most of us already practice mindfulness from time-to-time, even if we’re not aware we’re doing it.  One of the goals in therapy for anxiety is to develop this skill further and to intentionally incorporate it into our life.  

It sounds strange to many people, but research has shown that the best way to manage anxiety is to learn to lean into it rather than avoid it.  

Sounds fun, right?  Clients sometimes bristle when I introduce this idea to them, but making space for our uncomfortable thoughts and feelings allows us to change our relationship to them, which in turn can help to lessen our anxiety.  We don’t realize it, but wrestling with the anxiety, whether that’s through worrying, avoiding, trying to prove it or disprove it, or some other technique, can actually make it worse.  

It’s the way we engage with and respond to the anxiety that is most problematic.  

Mindfulness allows us to drop the struggle and engage the anxiety in a new way.  Through self-awareness and compassion, we can learn to respond differently to the worry, panic, dread, or fear so that it doesn’t control so much of what we do.  

Therapy that incorporates mindfulness can help you to live with your anxiety while engaging in a meaningful life by cultivating the skill to shift your attention to the present moment rather than getting lost in the hamster wheel of your mind.  

A mindfulness therapist can help you cultivate a number of different mindfulness tools to add your tool belt.  These tools incorporate everything from breathing exercises, to engaging your senses, to progressive muscle relaxation and more.  Together, you will work on using this skill to help shift your relationship to your anxiety allowing you to engage differently with the world around you.  

If you’re interested in learning more about mindfulness therapy for anxiety, I encourage you to reach out and schedule your free consultation call here. All of our skilled Atlanta anxiety therapists would love to help you on this journey toward living the life you want and deserve.  You can schedule your free consultation call by calling 404-257-6474, or, you can go online and schedule directly with one of our therapists.  If you have any questions, feel free to reach out!

About Grace Guyton

Grace Guyton is a therapist in training, pursuing her License in Marriage and Family Therapy. Grace sees individuals and couples in her Atlanta therapy practice, and helps people dealing with stress & anxiety, family issues, boundaries, and grief. To learn more about Grace Guyton, visit her bio page here.