Anxiety awareness is an important topic to discuss and today, I will explain why awareness of your state of mind is key to controlling your anxiety.
Today, it’s common for lots of us to live our lives on auto pilot, and by doing so, we don’t pay attention to how our body is feeling.
Paying attention can alert you to the first signs of your mental health suffering.
A good example could be clenching your teeth on a continual basis or, walking around wearing your shoulders as earrings.
Once you are aware, you can give yourself some much needed care and attention. Failure to notice and deal with it can lead to dis-ease in the body, affecting you on a physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual level.
When you feel pain or you feel ill, you will go and see a doctor for a remedy. To keep in good shape, you attend a gym to work out, but how do you look after your mental health?
Furthermore, how you do look after and nurture your soul?
In this article, I will explain various methods that will help you to look after your mental health and keep conditions like anxiety away. As a past sufferer of anxiety, I know my pitfalls that caused it, and my suggestions below helped me to overcome it.
First and foremost, awareness of your state of mind is key!
Anxiety awareness and mindfulness
When my anxiety was at its worst, a typical day consisted of waking up with a feeling of dread. It didn’t help that I hadn’t slept well the night before due to overthinking, which is something that a lot of sufferers from anxiety do often.
Headspace.com describes overthinking brilliantly in their app that you can download by clicking on the link. I highly recommend it as a great tool to kick start your journey of practicing mindfulness and meditation.
On average, a human being has 6,200 thoughts per day according to a recent study by Jordan Poppenk.
Most of these thoughts are meaningless bits of information and it’s natural that thoughts come and go. Scientists can count each thought that pops into our head – Big Think
However, it’s not natural to try and attach ourselves to each thought as this is where the trouble begins. We become engrossed in overthinking.
The more you examine that one thought, the more it grows along with your emotions. That one thought has now turned into a high intensity drama, and new avenues of ‘what if’s’ are presenting themselves.
Unfortunately, while in this state, you’re missing out on life. You are not present and using your senses that provides peace and joy. You’re too wrapped up in your emotions and this is when you start to make mistakes. Then as a consequence, you feel worse, and your anxiety starts spiraling out of control.
Mindfulness is a practice that helps you to become aware of when you’re jumping onto that drama roundabout, therefore giving you the choice to jump right back off again. It also helps you nurture the very essence of you, your soul.
My Anxiety Hell
Over three years ago, this crazy thought process was a constant part of my life that started as soon as I woke up.
I would step into the shower on auto pilot as I was too preoccupied with what I had to contend with, rather than paying attention to washing myself. Next, I would wolf down my breakfast whilst rushing around as I got myself ready for work. Finally, I would brush my teeth quickly and during this time, a full-blown soap opera had kicked off in my head and along with it came the feelings of impending doom.
This isn’t the way to live your life and indeed, I almost lost everything.
I paid absolutely no attention to how my body was feeling while I showered. Additionally, I paid no attention to the beautiful smells of perfumed shampoo or the feel of water cleansing my skin. I also paid no attention to the taste of my toothpaste or breakfast.
Instead, I created a sense of fear and in trepidation about the day I was facing ahead.
I hate to admit this now, but I wasn’t even listening properly to my nearest and dearest.
In summary, I wasn’t in the real world. I was well and truly stuck on the drama roundabout. With each revolution, my drama grew intensely and worst of all, I didn’t realise what I was doing. If I had been aware, I would have jumped off that damn roundabout a lot sooner instead of making myself physically ill.
Mindfulness reminds you to use your five senses so that you can fully experience your present moment. It’s too easy to get stuck in your head and subsequently, miss out on life.
Prior to practicing mindfulness and becoming aware of my present moment, I was at my wits end. I was in panic mode; I was continually frightened that something bad was going to happen, and I couldn’t concentrate on my work. This led to me making snap judgements based on irrational fear, which caused me no end of emotional pain.
My work was stressful, and I was aiming high with a lot of responsibilities.
I felt that there weren’t enough hours in the day for me to do everything, and I would constantly be fighting to get as much as possible completed in quick time.
Unfortunately, I was turning myself into a perfectionist to ensure that I could move on to my next task, and that nothing would fail in the future. I’ve since learned that I can only control the way I react to events.
My stomach was in constant knots, so much so that it physically hurt.
I started stuttering as I was getting paranoid with the fear that I’m totally hopeless. Imposter syndrome had set in.
I started losing my confidence and everything I was thinking, and feeling was mostly irrational.
To end it all, I switched off and locked myself away to feel safe and avoid everyone and everything. At this point, I knew that I needed help, which resulted in CBT (Cognitive, Behavioural, Therapy).
Practicing mindfulness creates an awareness
To summarise my anxiety recovery, the most important and valuable lesson I learned was to develop an awareness of my thinking.
Mindfulness exercises such as paying attention to what you’re feeling, smelling, touching, tasting, and hearing are essential. Next time you’re washing up or eating your food, take the time to use your senses.
In fact, let’s start right now.
- Look up from your screen and what do you see that’s different?
- What can you smell that you haven’t noticed before?
- Listen carefully to sound that you don’t commonly hear?
- What can you taste right now?
- Finally, what can you feel at this very moment both physically and mentally?
Go on a walk and look for objects and living things that you’ve never noticed before. You will soon see what you have been missing out on. Fill your heart with beauty and a love of nature rather than fear and lack.
I’ve included a grounding exercise below to aid you with preventing panic attacks and furthermore, help you to develop your awareness.
Finally, meditation is another practice that helped me recover from my anxiety disorder. It taught me to become aware of when I’ve jumped onto that drama roundabout, therefore giving me the option to jump right back off.
When I start to feel overwhelmed and I realise that my thoughts are getting the better of me, I perform this grounding exercise that brings my awareness back to the present situation, via the use of my senses. This is also a good exercise to perform if you feel a panic attack coming on or, you realise that you’re on that roundabout.
You can perform this exercise either stood up or seated, and at any time. The best thing about this exercise is that I’ve already introduced you to it.
- Begin with closing your eyes and taking a deep breath in, through your nose whilst counting to four.
- Exhale while counting to 8 and repeat this breathing exercise until you feel relaxed.
- Open your eyes and find the following: –
- 5 things you see (think of objects and colours)
- 4 things you feel (could be your feet on the floor, breeze against your skin, your stomach rising with each intake of breath)
- 3 things you hear (could be your breathing, traffic, clicking noises)
- 2 things you smell (coffee, perfume, flowers, cooking)
- 1 thing you taste (could be something you’ve eaten or a metallic taste)
Don’t worry if you can’t find the right number of senses whilst performing this exercise. The fact that you’re aware of your senses and of the present is enough to calm you down.
As your anxiety coach, I can assist with life coaching skills using meditation, mindfulness and other holistic approaches. In the first instance, you should consult your GP for professional, medical advice and not use my services instead of this.