Developing and practising mindfulness can help us better manage the anxiety we are bound to experience sometimes in our lives.
It’s normal to feel anxious when you’re faced with a problem or uncertainty at work, before taking a test or exam, presenting or speaking to an audience, or making an important decision. Our brains are wired to look out for potential threats. Anxious feelings tell you that there’s a potential threat and readies your body for action.
There’s a useful difference between anxiety and fear. Fear is a response to a real, or perceived immediate threat. Anxiety is the expectation of something threatening in the future, which may not ever happen. Like other negative emotions, anxiety can feel unpleasant and something that we’d rather not experience. The physical sensations can include increased heart rate, tension, breathlessness and sweating.
When we’re anxious we tend to have worrying thoughts, which amplify the feelings of anxiety and drive even more negative rumination. Anxiety also influences how we behave. For example feeling anxious makes us more risk averse – so are more likely to pass by opportunities, just in case they turn out badly.
If you are experiencing severe anxiety, that’s affecting your work, relationships and general well-being, the best thing to do is speak with your doctor.
Developing mindfulness helps reduce anxiety in a number of ways. For a start, you’re more likely to notice the physical symptoms earlier – so in a better position to make sense of the emerging feeling. You’re also more likely to avoid getting tangled cycles of negative thoughts driven by the anxiety. Maybe noticing an anxious thoughts and saying to yourself “Oh, there’s some anxious thoughts, which is okay and expected in a situation like this” and then moving on.
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