I’ve practiced mindfulness for over a decade. I was first introduced to the concept when I was hospitalized in a behavioral health center following a traumatic brain injury. Since then, it’s become a key element in my mental health and wellbeing, and it’s allowed me to both reduce anxiety and live well in spite of any residual anxiety or anxiety flares. Here’s a look at mindfulness and why it is so good for our wellbeing.
It’s easy to get trapped in a cycle of anxiety and avoidance. Avoidance is a common human behavior that has good intentions but can spiral out of control until, before we realize it, we’re trapped, boxed in by anxiety and blocked from fully living (see What is Avoidance Doing to You?) Avoidance is fear- and anxiety-based. Whether we avoid one situation, such as making or taking phone calls, or almost every situation, such as anything that takes us out of the house, we are letting anxiety limit our lives. Let’s explore how to stop avoiding.
Knowing what avoidance does to us can help us make positive changes to embrace life. Avoidance is a behavior that is hardwired into us. It’s an instinctive reaction (think: fight-or-flight response, specifically the “flight” part) that in theory keeps us safe from danger. And sometimes avoidance, or flight, does just that. When we avoid walking across dark parking lots alone at night (whether we’re male or female, young or old), we keep ourselves out of risk of significant danger. What happens, though, when our brain tells us there is danger lurking here or there, and we avoid good things because of it? When we understand what this avoidance does to us, we can stop avoiding the wrong things.
Many of us want to but don’t know quite how to reduce stress. It’s perhaps surprising, but true: the idea of reducing stress can actually cause anxiety rather than alleviate it. We do have legitimate reasons for clinging to stress despite wanting relief from it. Sometimes the mere idea of relaxing causes anxiety because we’re afraid that our performance will decline or that seeking stress relief will cause us to be judged as weak. Stress can come to be a badge of honor, too. High degrees of stress can show the world, and ourselves, how much we are achieving or how much we care about loved ones, and more.
Does the idea of reducing stress cause your anxiety to skyrocket? How do you really feel about reducing your stress? Most of us automatically respond that we’d love to have less stress in our lives. Many times we state proudly that we’re working on getting rid of so much stress. Yet the stress hangs on. And on. And often, it builds. Do you find this happening to you? Is it possible that the idea of letting go of even some of your stress creates anxiety? Is there a small chance that you might be afraid of reducing stress?
The idea of quieting the mind seems like a foreign concept, esoteric and perhaps even the stuff of science fiction. As our society get busier and noisier and faster, so, too, do our minds. Stress levels have skyrocketed, tens of…
Knowing how to handle ANTs (automatic negative thoughts) can reduce anxiety and increase wellbeing. Recently, in ANTs—Automatic Thoughts Can Ruin Your Picnic, I explored how ANTs can be pesky little creatures that get in the way of our living life fully. These automatic negative thoughts that pop into our minds in certain situations can cause great stress and anxiety. They can even intensify depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses. We all have ANTs (they’re not exclusive to mental illness). Unfortunately, it’s natural for the human mind to get stuck in unhelpful thought patterns that drag us down. There are ways to deal with ANTs so they don’t ruin the proverbial picnic of your life. Here are three approaches whose effectiveness has been proven by research.
Is there a positive side of anxiety? Anxiety isn’t something people often embrace as positive; indeed, people tend to go to great lengths to eliminate if from their lives. That said, very few things are either all good or all bad (that’s part of all-or-nothing thinking that contributes to anxiety, depression, and more). Anxiety can actually have a positive side, and seeing the positive actually works to pull you up and move you forward.
Beating anxiety involves intentionally doing the opposite of what anxiety is at it’s core. Anxiety isn’t fun, it is devoid of all positive purpose, and it robs us of passion for pursuing life. Therefore, cultivating passion, purpose, and fun despite anxiety can go far in beating anxiety.