The way I see it, the opposite of anxiety is mindfulness. If you learn to live in the present and savour it, you are already dealing with your anxiety. Mindfulness is not a bundle of techniques; instead, it’s an attitude, a conscious shift in becoming more present.
The idea is that we must embody mindfulness in our daily living, whether it’s in the act of listening, eating our food or the attentive presence we give to our loved ones and the activities that we do.
The idea of mindfulness and the science around it has been popularized by Jon Kabat-Zinn, an American professor and founding father of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR). A type of meditation therapy, MBSR has been shown to help alleviate symptoms associated with chronic illness, anxiety, pain, burnout, cancer and other stress-related conditions.
All meditation practices have mindfulness built into them, whether it’s about focussing one’s attention on a specific idea or the act of mindfully just observing one’s breath, actions and thoughts.
I’m often asked about how long one should meditate; clients tell me they find it difficult to sit still for even five minutes. If that sounds like you, begin by setting a timer on your phone and meditate for as little as one minute, and gradually increase the time.
Some tips if you are just beginning:
People struggling with anxiety often find themselves caught in a space where they begin to feel uncomfortable with their thoughts, feelings and even bodily sensations. Mindfulness-based visualization can be very calming at such times.
Visualize what seems like a safe space for you and choose to allow yourself to stay in that space. This is very comforting and stabilizing for a lot of individuals.
On some days, when the task of writing the book seemed extremely overwhelming, I would turn to a practice recommended by writer Allison Aubrey in her NPR article. She writes, “If you’ve got a nagging thought that won’t go away, just picture a cloud. Visualize that nagging thought being attached to the cloud. Now watch it float away.” I found it quite effective.
Pause rituals in my daily life
Over the last few years, instead of taking long breaks, I have built daily pause rituals in my life. Almost all of them have scheduled time attached to them:
Excerpted from Anxiety: Overcome It and Live Without Fear by Sonali Gupta, published by Harper Collins