It is incredibly hard living with anxiety. At best, it wears you down, taking the edge off the joy of life. At its worst, the panic attacks can be terrifying and make daily life feel like an ordeal. Anxiety is something I struggle with every day. Medication keeps the worst symptoms at bay, but the underlying worry is always there. It’s just the volume that varies.
Over the years, I have learnt many skills to manage my anxiety levels. There isn’t one response that works. Rather, it’s a combination of skills that work for me. However, taking a more mindful approach as part of my daily life and activities has definitely helped me cope better.
Here are some of the mindful things I do when I am feeling anxious.
To find out how you can manage your anxiety by being more mindful, check out our online course at www.walkingtall.thinkific.com
Jane Hurst, PhD
Instructor, Walking Tall
Copyright © 2019. CBT West™ Pukekohe and Walking Tall. All Rights Reserved.
Our lives are busy and are often filled with competing demands on our time, thoughts, and energy. We find ourselves being pulled in different directions, struggling to balance our work, family and personal commitments and activities. We can become so busy with daily life and worrying about what we have to do next, that we forget what is truly important: living in the present moment. As a result, we can easily feel overwhelmed, stressed, anxious and frazzled.
One way to live a less stressful and more balanced life is through the practice of mindfulness. Many people will have heard of mindfulness as it is popular at the moment, with loads of books published on the subject and many mindfulness courses available. It has the potential to truly enhance a person’s quality of life if it is understood and practiced correctly.
Mindfulness is derived from eastern Buddhist practices where monks would meditate for hours to still and empty their mind. They saw this as a path to enlightenment, something which takes a lifetime of practice to achieve. Given its Buddhist origins, most people associate mindfulness with the concept of being completely still and of emptying our minds. This is the practice of mindful meditation, which requires quiet time and space away from normal daily life. For most of us, this practice of mindful meditation is not realistic or achievable. Our lives are too busy, are minds are too filled with thoughts that we struggle to control, and we have little free time to sit and meditate.
Mindfulness as it has been related to westernised culture, is based on the principle of focus rather than on emptying of our minds. It doesn’t require us to meditate or to be completely still for extended periods of time. Instead, mindfulness is a state of being, where we are completely present and living with full awareness of each moment, as part of our daily lives and activities. This enables us to undertake our daily tasks in a way that frees us from worry about the future or thinking about a multitude of things at once.
Living mindfully shifts our focus to each present moment. We give our full attention and focus to our present task or activity, whether it might be sitting reading a book, taking a walk, doing housework, playing with our kids, or taking part in our favourite hobby or pastime. To become more mindful means that we participate fully in the activity that we are doing in that moment, while gently letting go of any distracting thoughts or worries that may come into our minds. We can’t necessarily stop the flow of distracting thoughts, but we can choose not to focus on them.
Being fully present and mindful requires us to focus solely on the task at hand. We focus on doing the dishes or playing with our children. We immerse ourselves in that activity in a purposeful way. We also do it in a way that is non-judgmental. This involves recognising but gently letting go of any negative self-talk and the judgments we make about ourselves, such as “I’m not doing this well enough” or “I will never be good enough”.
Learning to live mindfully requires us to develop the skills needed to focus on the task at hand in a way that is purposeful and non-judgmental. It requires dedicated and consistent practice for it to become a normal part of our lives. If we make this commitment, mindfulness has the potential to dramatically enhance our quality of life. It can reduce stress and anxiety, enable us to more fully enjoy our daily lives, and reduce our worries about the future.
We can all learn to live more mindfully. If you would like to learn the skills to incorporate mindfulness into your everyday life, check out our online training at https://walkingtall.thinkific.com/.
Registered Mental Health Nurse, Cognitive Behaviour Therapist, Acceptance and Commitment Therapist and Dialectical Behaviour Therapist.
Copyright © 2019. CBT West™ and Walking Tall. All Rights Reserved.
20 years ago, I was a highly successful lawyer. I was married, had a great income, and owned my own home. However, I was also incredibly anxious and fast approaching burn out. Despite challenging and rewarding work, I would drag myself out of bed in the morning, dreading the day ahead. I was constantly living for the next weekend and the next holiday. I began to hate everything in between.
After a massive breakdown in my mid-thirties, I knew something had to change. While I made many life changes, one seemingly small thing actually made the biggest difference. I stopped constantly looking backwards and forwards, and instead started to focus more on my life as I was living it. In other words, I started to live more in the present moment and the impact it had on my life was huge
Here is what I did.
At the time, I had not heard about mindfulness and while I had a therapist who provided me with tremendous support and guidance, learning to live more in the present moment was something I largely figured out for myself by trial and error. Many years later, I have learnt much more about mindfulness and how to incorporate the skills of living mindfully into my daily life. These practical skills have enabled me to live a calmer, more fulfilling and joyful life.
To find out how you can learn to live a more mindful life, check out our online course at:www.walkingtall.thinkific.com
Jane Hurst, PhD
Instructor, Walking Tall
Copyright © 2019. CBT West™ Pukekohe and Walking Tall. All Rights Reserved.
My name is Jane Hurst. I have a PhD, am a black belt and school owner in a Korean martial art, and am an award winning author. I also suffer from a significant anxiety disorder. Other than my close friends, most people would be surprised by this, as to the world I appear to be a successful and confident woman.
Through years of therapy, hard work and medication, I am able to manage my anxiety reasonably well. However, it is always there, never far from the surface. New places, people and activities make me anxious and I often find myself well outside my comfort zone. This was particularly the case when I recently attended a weekend of crafting workshops.
I have never been very practical and am a novice when it comes to crafting. However, I thought it would be a good experience to try something new and I am glad that I did. I have not only learned new skills, but I have also learned a lot about myself. Here are some of my personal reflections on the powerful and positive influence crafting can have on anxiety sufferers.
Self-doubt and fear
The first workshop I attended involved using acrylic paints to decorate a canvas case. I immediately felt my heart beat faster. I started to get very hot and my hands were shaking. I was afraid and panicky, fearing that I would make a complete mess of the project.
I was immediately reminded of a long forgotten childhood memory where I was in a bike decorating competition at my local school. I spent most of the hour available too panicked to do anything. It was an excruciatingly painful experience. Since this time, self-doubt and fear have held me back me from trying many new things.
This realisation was very powerful. I am no longer a child and I have many skills to help me cope with attacks of anxiety. I focused on my breathing, listened to the tutor’s instructions, and asked for help and guidance from those around me. Most of all, I remembered that I was there to learn and have fun. It didn’t matter how my project turned out. This calmed me and I found myself enjoying not only this workshop, but the other five I attended during the course of the long weekend.
Learning any new skill inevitably involves making mistakes and I made plenty at the workshops I attended. This is hard for someone like me, as I am a perfectionist. At the first workshop, we used acrylic paint applied with stencils to add patterns. My attempts were mixed. Quite a few came out looking like blobs rather than nice patterns. Before I knew it, the negative chatter had started in my head. I was useless and couldn’t do anything right, at least that was what my brain was telling me.
I am my harshest critic and this underlies much of the anxiety I experience. During this workshop though, something amazing happened to me. I stepped back and looked at what I had produced and felt pride. Instead of looking at the flaws and imperfections, I saw how the colours matched well and how what I had perceived as mistakes actually made it look interesting.
Crafting requires us to embrace the imperfections. If we wanted something that was perfectly made, we would buy a mass produced product from a shop. We craft for the enjoyment of making something ourselves and it is the imperfections that make our crafts special and unique.
We will always make mistakes, especially when we are learning a new skill. Instead of focusing on my failings or mistakes, during the course of the weekend I found I was becoming much more compassionate with myself. Here I was doing something new, that was well outside my comfort zone, and I was enjoying the experience.
My career involves a lot of writing. As a professional business writer, I spend a lot of time focusing on the thoughts in my head. It can be difficult to switch off those thoughts, especially when I am feeling anxious. My mind gets full of worries, which make me anxious.
During the crafting workshops I had to completely focus on the project I was doing. It encouraged me to be in the moment. By closely listening to and diligently following the tutor’s instructions, my mind was only focused on one thing at any one time. This made it a very mindful experience for me. I was fully present in each moment and let go of the negative judgments about myself and my ability. I found the crafting really lifted my mood and calmed my mind. It felt great!
The power of creative expression
My crafting experience has really shown me the power of creativity as a way of managing my anxiety. I don’t have to be a great artist or a skilled craftsman. The simple act of making something with my own hands has a powerful and positive effect on my mental health and wellbeing. I know I will never be “cured” and that anxiety is with me for life, but I have found a new and enjoyable way to minimise its impact. Crafting has now been added to my toolbox of skills to keep myself well. Best of all, it’s fun to do!
Thanks Natalie May for your wonderful instruction.
Contextual Behavioural Therapist
Copyright © CBT West™ Pukekohe. All Rights Reserved
Caroline is a Registered Mental Health Nurse specialising in CBT, ACT & DBT therapies. Caroline uses a skills based approach for treating anxiety and depression, managing chronic pain and illness, and working with those who want to focus on professional and personal development.
Jane is a professional writer with a doctorate in management. She specialises in taking complex ideas and writing them in a way everyone can understand.