My mom coined the term “anxiety school” for the Intensive Outpatient program I’m involved in and it has stuck. Honestly, if all schools were like this one MAN we’d all be cruising to Mars by now! The individualized attention and focus on real improvement is insane. It’s an hour of skills group every day (learning about OCD+anxiety and techniques for living with them), and then 2 more hours of either therapy with a counselor or exposures (facing all the fears you knew or didn’t know you had).

I’m beyond thankful to have the means and time to do this program right now; it has been incredible so far. But I know that many people don’t have that luxury so I thought I’d share some tidbits of what I learn along the way. The focus for skills group this last week was mindfulness.

I first started learning about mindfulness when I used the Headspace app to meditate. They say meditation is good for bringing down anxiety and has a whole bunch of other health benefits. I love doing it, it makes me feel all heavy and tingly inside. But it’s surprisingly hard to set aside 10 whole minutes where you won’t be interrupted every day. And meditation is just one facet of mindfulness. Let me give you an example where I didn’t have to put in any extra time or effort.

This week, I was driving home from somewhere and out of the blue came a familiar wave of anxiety. My stomach felt tight, my muscles tensed up, my thoughts started coming rapid fire, one not even finishing before the next started. I know this feeling, but I have always loathed it and dreaded it coming. But this time instead of panicking, pulling the car over and letting it overtake me, I practiced mindfulness.

I said to myself, I feel anxious. My stomach feels tight and I feel nervous. I’m in a car. I can feel the pressure of my hands on the steering wheel and of my body on the seat. I can see the lights from In-n-Out and I can hear the radio playing. 

I simply noticed the anxious feeling and gave it no more importance than what all my other senses could see, feel, and hear. I {observed}, {described}, and {participated} in the immediate world around me.

Because mindfulness means participating fully in our lives. We allow the good, bad, and indifferent emotions and thoughts to come but we don’t allow them to overtake us. We notice little things and fully engage in the moment we’re in.

Because we only get to live this moment ONCE.

Mindfulness has helped me stop running from the things I don’t want to face, and start appreciating each and every moment.

So go ahead and try it! It’s beneficial whether or not you have been diagnosed with a mental illness. I highly recommend Headspace. They have an app for your phone and 10 free meditation sessions. Or just do it in your normal life. Folding laundry? Focus on how each fabric feels in your hands. Listen carefully and identify all of the sounds around you. Notice how your mouth tastes in that moment. Describe to yourself how the clean clothes smell. Identify what emotions you’re feeling in that moment. That’s practicing mindfulness.

It’s free, and it takes no extra time. What do you have to lose, really?

(PS I’m not a mindfulness rep. I just really like it 😀 )


One thought on “Anxiety School Pt. 1- Mindfulness

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