Everyone experiences fear at some point. It is a very common emotion that helps us survive.
Fear becomes a problem if you are overly anxious about things that most people are not afraid of. In most cases the cause of your exaggerated fear is in your head (e.g. irrational thoughts), not in your body. Fear can prevent you from taking advantage of certain opportunities, making it harder to move forward with certain life goals.
If you have had a serious illness that can come back it can cause a lot of anxiety. In women who have had breast cancer it has been investigated what effect mindfulness has on the fear of recurrence and improvement of physical functioning. This research showed that mindfulness reduced stress and fear of coming back and also enabled women to function better physically. Nevertheless, regular check-ups are very important for your peace of mind.
Similarly, we see that chronic pain patients benefit greatly from mindfulness exercises. Often these people have all kinds of negative thoughts about the pain or about a situation in which they expect pain so that they get into a kind of negative spiral of thought about their fear of pain.
An anxiety disorder usually begins physically, but because of the interference of the mind, there is a difference in experiencing anxiety between persons. Fortunately, you can get rid of your anxiety disorder or panic attacks by putting less energy into your anxious thoughts. Let me explain to you how you do that in real life.
Stop thinking, start feeling.
When you’re scared, it’s extra difficult to stay out of your head. This is because even with a light anxiety reaction you produce a lot of stress hormone which automatically concentrates all your attention in your mind. Because of the stress hormones it will also feel unnatural or even dangerous not to give all your attention to your head.
Under normal circumstances you already transform your head into your control center. It is obvious that when you are afraid you will feel like you are losing control, if you give even a little less attention to your thoughts. Still, this is what you have to do if you want to get rid of your anxiety disorder or panic disorder with mindfulness.
With mindfulness, we try, slowly but surely, to control it al less from the head, even if you have a lot of fear. Mindfulness enables us to do this by paying more attention to our feelings. In this way you can let fewer decisions depend on your fear thoughts and let yourself be guided more and more by your feelings.
If you can’t decide for yourself which thoughts are causing you fear now, you can set off an alarm, or mindfulness bell, for a few moments during the day. When that bell rings, you check what you are doing, what you are thinking about and what emotion you have. There is a pattern to discover in your thoughts that causes you fear.
When you’re asked not to think of a white polar bear…
Later in this article, you will discover how you can give less attention to thinking in case of anxiety. It is very important that you do not try to push the thoughts away or try not to think about anything at all. If you do, the thoughts will only become stronger as the proverbial white polar bear.
With mindfulness, we don’t have to stop the thoughts at all, even when we have fear. After all, the thoughts can no longer be so dominant if you no longer give them all the attention they need. One percent is enough for this. Even with fear, the thought in the background can continue, if you simultaneously go to a feeling or sound with only one percent of your attention. In this way the fear thoughts slowly go more and more into the background.
Mindfulness does not so much cause your feelings and thoughts to change, but rather ensures that you have a slight distance in your attention from the thoughts. Often three seconds are long enough, because in those three seconds of distance you can decide not to continue in your automatic pattern.
Now let’s settle into an exercise…
STEP 1: Notice the physical reaction you have to fear.
Notice all the sensations in your body.
Feel how your heartbeat accelerates, that your chest feels tight and that your muscles become tense.
This is especially noticeable in your neck, shoulder and back area.
Become aware that all kinds of different alarm bells (thoughts) in your head go off.
STEP 2: Take as many breaths as you need to stabilize your body.
It doesn’t matter whether you have to breathe in and out 5, 10 or 20 times deeply, but make sure that your heartbeat returns to normal and that you can relax your muscles again.
You may want to place your hand on the left part of your chest, at the center of your heart.
Breathe in calmly 5 seconds, blow out 5 seconds and rest 5 seconds.
STEP 3: Identify and name your fear.
Acknowledging your fear is an important step to reduce it.
Tell yourself what you are afraid of: “I am afraid of…” , e.g. driving the car in a crowded city / the spider walking through the room / the presentation I have to give and the reactions of the audience.
This automatically creates more distance between your source of fear and the emotion linked to it.
The Benefits of Mindfulness Exercises for Anxiety.
If you practice on a regular basis you will experience many benefits of Mindfulness exercises for anxiety.
Among other things, you’ll find that mindfulness not only reduces stress, it makes you more productive and increases your energy level. Because your attention focus improves, you will get more done in less time. So you’ll be more productive in a day.
In addition, your quality of life will improve significantly. You will be able to enjoy life more and feel happier.
Through mindfulness you learn to see something beautiful in every situation. It teaches you to notice the little things in life, to experience them in greater depth and to appreciate them fully.
I’m interested in hearing about your perceptions in the comment section below.
Take care of yourself and stay calm.
With love ❤,