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Una mujer hace ejercicios de respiración para calmar su ansiedad con mindfulness.

Calming anxiety: mindfulness for beginners

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Anxiety can be an overwhelming experience that negatively affects our quality of life and emotional well-being. However, there are practical tools to manage it, and one of the most powerful is mindfulness. This article will explore how to calm anxiety with mindfulness, especially for those new to the practice.

What is anxiety?

Anxiety is a natural response of the body to situations perceived as threatening or stressful. It manifests through worry, nervousness, unease, and tension, often accompanied by physical symptoms such as palpitations, sweating, trembling, and shortness of breath. In normal situations, anxiety can be helpful, as it can motivate people to face challenges and take steps to protect themselves.

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However, when anxiety becomes excessive, persistent and disabling, it can significantly interfere with daily life and develop into an anxiety disorder. One such disorder is generalised anxiety disorder (GAD), characterised by chronic, excessive worry about various aspects of life, such as work, health, interpersonal relationships or everyday problems. People with GAD tend to anticipate the worst even when there is no reason to worry and often find it difficult to control their worry, which can lead to significant distress.

Problems caused by anxiety

The problems that anxiety can cause are diverse and can affect different areas of a person’s life. Some of these problems include:

  1. Impaired academic or work performance: Anxiety can make it difficult to concentrate, make decisions and perform everyday tasks, negatively affecting school or work performance.
  2. Problems in interpersonal relationships: Anxiety can lead to irritability, communication difficulties and a tendency to avoid social situations, which can affect relationships with friends, family and co-workers.
  3. Impact on physical health: Chronic anxiety can have adverse effects on physical health, such as headaches, gastrointestinal problems, muscle tension and sleep problems.
  4. Increased risk of other mental disorders: Untreated anxiety may increase the risk of developing other mental disorders, such as depression, eating disorders or substance abuse disorders.
  5. Social isolation: People with anxiety often tend to avoid situations they perceive as threatening, which can lead to social isolation and a decreased quality of life.

What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness, also known as mindfulness, is a mental practice that consists of intentionally and non-judgmentally paying attention to the present moment. It involves being aware of what is happening in the here and now, both within oneself (thoughts, emotions, bodily sensations) and the external environment (sounds, smells, physical sensations).

A young woman calms her anxiety through mindfulness.

Key concepts of mindfulness

● Mindfulness involves focusing on the present moment without being distracted by thoughts about the past or the future. It is about being fully present in what we do in each moment.

●    Acceptance and non-judgement: In mindfulness practice, we are encouraged to accept present experiences without judging whether they are good or bad. It is about observing experiences as they are without trying to change or resist them.

●    Observation of thoughts and emotions: Mindfulness involves observing the thoughts and feelings that arise in the mind without identifying with them or being drawn into them. It is about recognising that thoughts and emotions pass mental events that do not define our identity.

●    Focus on the breath: The breath is often used as an object of attention in mindfulness practice. Focusing on the breath helps to cultivate mindfulness and to stay present in the present moment.

●    Body self-awareness: Mindfulness also involves awareness of bodily sensations, such as muscle tension, sensations of heat or cold, and general physical perceptions. This body awareness helps to connect mind and body and to recognise how stress or anxiety manifests in the body.

●    Regular practice: Mindfulness is a skill developed through regular practice. Formal mindfulness meditation exercises can be done, and mindfulness can be integrated into everyday activities such as eating, walking, or even working.

In short, mindfulness is a practice that promotes mindfulness and acceptance of present experiences. It can help reduce stress, improve emotional well-being, and cultivate greater mental clarity.

How can mindfulness help to manage anxiety?

Mindfulness can be an effective tool for managing anxiety in a number of ways:

  1. Stress reduction: Mindfulness helps reduce stress by promoting relaxation and mental calm. By focusing on the present moment and accepting experiences as they are, people can decrease reactivity to stress and develop a more extraordinary ability to handle stressful situations.
  2. Increased awareness of thoughts and emotions: Mindfulness practice allows people to observe their thoughts and feelings without identifying with them or automatically reacting to them. This can help break the cycle of anxious thoughts and reduce the intensity of emotions associated with anxiety.
  3. Building resilience: By practising mindfulness, people can develop a greater capacity to cope with life’s challenges and adversities. By learning to accept difficult experiences and remain calm in the midst of adversity, emotional resilience is strengthened.
  4. Improved focus and attention: Regular mindfulness practice can improve attention span and concentration, which can help people shift their attention away from anxious thoughts and focus on the present moment and the tasks at hand.
  5. Reduced emotional reactivity: Mindfulness helps people respond more consciously and less automatically to stressful situations. By cultivating the ability to observe emotions without reacting impulsively to them, the exaggerated emotional responses associated with anxiety can be reduced.

It is important to note that mindfulness is not an instant solution to anxiety but rather a skill that develops with regular practice over time. To get the full benefits of mindfulness in managing stress, it is advisable to practice consistently and seek professional guidance if necessary.

A girl tries to calm her anxiety with mindfulness.

Mindfulness exercises to reduce anxiety.

Conscious breathing

● Find a quiet place where you can sit comfortably.

● Close your eyes gently and bring your attention to your breathing.

● Observe how the air enters and leaves your body.

● With each inhalation, say to yourself, “I inhale,” and with each exhalation, say, “I exhale”.

● If your mind starts to wander, acknowledge it without judgement and return your attention to your breath.

● Do this for several minutes, focusing on your breathing and letting any tension or worry dissipate with each exhalation.

Mindfulness of external stimuli

● Choose a simple object, such as a leaf, a candle or a decorative object.

● Observe the object carefully, paying attention to every detail: its shape, colour, texture, etc.

● While looking at it, try to focus only on the object without letting other thoughts distract you.

● If your mind wanders, gently direct your attention back to the object.

● This exercise helps you to disconnect from anxious thoughts and focus on the present moment.

Body awareness

● Sit or lie down in a comfortable and relaxed position.

● Close your eyes and bring your attention to the sensations in your body.

● Start at your feet and slowly work your way up your body, noting any sensations of tension, heat, cold or comfort.

● With each inhalation, imagine that you are inhaling positive energy, and with each exhalation, you release any tension or stress accumulated in your body.

● This exercise helps you connect with your body and release the physical tension associated with anxiety.

Emotional awareness

● Sit in a quiet place and close your eyes.

● Bring your attention to your emotions and allow them to arise without judgment.

● Observe how these emotions feel in your body. Where do you experience them? What sensations accompany each emotion?

● Acknowledge these emotions and accept that they are part of your current experience.

● Take a deep breath, and with each exhalation, imagine that you are releasing any emotional tension.

● This exercise helps you to develop a greater awareness of your emotions and to cultivate an attitude of acceptance towards them.

Practising these mindfulness exercises on a regular basis can help you reduce anxiety and cultivate a greater sense of calm and well-being in your daily life.

An answer to anxiety: mindfulness

Mindfulness is a powerful tool for calming anxiety and cultivating a greater sense of emotional well-being. With regular practice and patience, even beginners can learn to integrate mindfulness into their daily lives and experience its transformative benefits. By practising mindfulness, we can learn to respond to anxiety with compassion and clarity rather than being dominated by it.

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