I have always had anxiety.
While I didn’t always know what it was, it has always been a part of my life.
As I’ve grown older, my anxiety has manifested in a variety of ways—as it does with most people who suffer from it.
I discovered mindfulness practices when I began seeking help for my anxious tendencies. Mindfulness is essentially the practice of remaining present in the moment, rather than worrying about instances of the past or future. My counselor recommended that I try being more present when I was walking home from classes or cooking dinner.
At first, I really enjoyed looking up at the sky and the trees rather than down at my feet. However, I began to obsess about my mindfulness practice, which is the complete opposite of mindfulness. I found it impossible to stay mindfully present in heated situations such as arguments or right before a difficult test. Soon, I discounted mindfulness and my life began to sink back into chaos.
More recently, I have suffered from terrible anxiety early in the morning. Each day when I wake up, my heart is racing along with my mind. My thoughts immediately begin swirling in a chaotic mess.
What time is it? Did I oversleep again? Have I woken up too early, and not gotten enough sleep? I have to get up and get my day started! Oh, but this bed is so comfortable. Maybe I should just stay here?
This is the space in which I was finally able to implement my mindfulness practice.
When the spiraling is too much, it begins to take hold of my lungs and stomach. To counter this, I take deep, slow breaths into my diaphragm to control my breathing. Once I know that I am in control of that at least, I take a look at my surroundings.
I notice the things I can hear: the slow hum of the fountain I keep on my desk cycling through water. The light chatter of my roommates voices in the kitchen as they cook breakfast.
I notice the weight of the blankets surrounding my body; genuinely feeling their soft texture on my skin. I look at the beautiful tapestries hanging on my walls, and the bright happy photos that I have of myself and my friends. I smell the gentle aroma of lavender from my essential oil diffuser.
This technique is often referred to as “grounding.”
I have found it to be the most effective mindfulness practice to counter my anxious thoughts, and really observe and feel the moment I am in. We “ground” by observing our surroundings in connection with the five senses. It really works wonders for me.
Next time you’re having a panic moment, try simply observing your surroundings, using all your senses, and taking in that exact moment.
Author: Sierra Doan
Image: Courtney Emery/Flickr
Editor: Khara-Jade Warren
Copy Editor: Leah Sugerman
Social Editor: Danielle Beutell