Being mindful even when your mind is full

Our amazing Mental Health Adviser, Hannah, has written us all some tips about being mindful! Have a read and relax.

Read her blog here!

Everybody goes through feeling anxious at times, but for those who suffer with anxiety on a daily basis, it can rapidly take over the mind and can make day-to-day life almost unbearable. From the racing thoughts, the trembling and the sweating, to the heart palpitations, the tight feeling in your chest and the uncontrollable dissociation from your own mind and thoughts. It can feel at times that there is nothing to prevent that dreaded oncoming panic attack, but there are many ways to take back control from your anxiety. This is the most important part to remember; you are in the driving seat and YOU ARE IN CONTROL.

Mindfulness isn’t just for those who struggle with anxiety; in fact it should be taken on board by anyone and everyone, especially for those who are trying to find some peace in our demanding and stressful modern life. Mindfulness also isn’t just about finding the time to meditate in our busy days, or purely just about controlling your breathing. To make the best use of mindfulness, you need to practice being mindful throughout everyday tasks at the same time as finding time such as a few minutes you have to spare focusing on the flow of your breathing.

So what does it mean to be mindful and to practise mindful breathing? It serves to bring one to the present moment and to take attention away from those racing thoughts by concentrating on what is happening in the here and now. It isn’t something that can be learnt overnight, but with patience to be practised each day, a little at a time.

Let’s begin with Mindful Breathing.

  • Spend 2-3 minutes in the evening lying in bed before going to sleep concentrating only on your breathing with minimal distractions.
  • Focus on the rise and fall of your chest as you breathe.
  • With your eyes closed, visualise the breath entering your body, visualise where the oxygen you’re breathing in is travelling through from your core right to the end of your fingertips, down your spine and to the tip of your toes.
  • All the time, focus entirely on: inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale.

This will not be easy to begin with as your mind will naturally wander to distractions in the room or distracting thoughts; practice practice practice! As soon as you find your mind wandering (which it will, again and again!) take a second to clear your head and gently return to the thoughts of your breathing – have patience with yourself! The more time you spend on mindful breathing, the easier it’ll get to centre yourself in experiencing the moment and just concentrating on the air entering and leaving your body. Try and extend the amount of time you spend on mindful breathing each evening.

The more adapt you become to mindful breathing, the more you can make use of it in everyday stressful situations; in fear of a panic attack arising, try and find a quiet space to concentrate on everything you’ve practised as it is this control of breathing that can remind you that you are in control.

Grounding Techniques

Feeling panic rise up in your chest as anxiety takes over can be overwhelming, but a way to take back control is to ground yourself in your surroundings. This can be easy to remember by the 5-4-3-2-1 method.

  • Count FIVE things you can see.
  • Count FOUR things you can touch.
  • Count THREE things you can hear.
  • Count TWO things you can smell.
  • Count ONE thing you can taste.

By concentrating on your senses and on what’s going on around you, you’re taking attention away from the thoughts that are taking over and in turn practising to be more mindful!

So, Mindfulness.
A few tips for being present in the moment.

  • Tune into your senses. Take a second to visually take in your surroundings; concentrate on what you can hear; spend more time in nature to ground yourself; notice the taste, the smell and textures of food when you are eating.
  • When walking, try to focus less on your destination and more on the journey; focus on the way your body shifts as you walk, listen to your surroundings.
  • Often we tend to revert to auto-pilot; notice where this happens most for you, whether that be doing mundane tasks such as housework, travelling to and from work, or sitting in front of your phone or laptop screen. Once you recognise these, practice bringing more awareness to these activities.
  • Listen to others when they are talking; really listen to them without judgement  instead of thinking only of how you’re going to reply.
  • Stop trying to fill up every second of the day. Modern life is hectic enough without feeling constantly busy – put apart some time to sit and breathe, and to simply be.
  • At times where your thoughts may be wandering or racing, focus on the fact that that’s all they are: thoughts. Not every thought needs a reaction – continue focusing on your breathing, tolerate the thoughts as they come and then try to let go of them as you exhale.
  • Most importantly, be patient with yourself. Allow yourself to make mistakes while you learn and allow yourself plenty of time to start making the most of these techniques.

These may only be small steps in recovering from anxiety, but the most important part to remember is that while the symptoms of anxiety can feel unmanageable, these few tips can be the start to you feeling a little less hopeless of what’s happening in your mind and a big step in you finally taking back control!