Symptoms of anxiety can affect us at any moment, and often lead to dysregulation and distress. If you find yourself with symptoms of anxiety or overwhelm, here are five mindfulness exercises to help you regulate your system and begin to feel better.
1. Belly breathing
Sit or lay down in a relaxed position, with your hands resting on your belly. Work to slow your breath and be in the present moment. Inhale through your nose and notice your belly rising. Slowly exhale through your mouth, engaging your stomach muscles to push out the last of your breath. Work on this exercise whenever you have time, starting with smaller time intervals, and working toward longer time intervals.
Take a moment to become aware of your present moment. Stop whatever you are doing and notice your surroundings. Notice:
5 things you can see - it could be birds flying in the sky, the pen on your desk, or a tree out your window.
4 things you can touch - you might feel the ground under your feet or the texture of your desk.
3 things you can hear - perhaps you hear your puppy playing outside or the sound of a nearby train.
2 things you can smell - it could be office smells such as paper, pens, etc., or perhaps you smell pine trees or lavender.
1 thing you can taste - notice what your mouth tastes like.
3. Body Scan
Lie in a relaxing position on your back, with your arms at your sides. Bring awareness to each part of your body, starting from your head to your toes. As you work through each body part, notice any feelings or sensations associated with that part, and check in with yourself along the way. To take this a step further, you might try progressive muscle relaxation.
4. Go for a Walk
Spend a few minutes walking outdoors, noticing the sounds of nature, the colors around you, and any sensations you may encounter. Enjoy the present moment you are in. This would be a perfect time to practice your 5-4-3-2-1 exercise.
There are many journaling activities to choose from; one favorite prompt is to journal about what you are grateful for. Write down 3 things that you are grateful for, or three positive aspects of your day. Journaling is a powerful method to inspire growth, self-awareness, and healing.
These exercises are five of many wonderful mindfulness strategies that can help cope with feelings of anxiety, overwhelm, and stress. Try these exercises when you are feeling stressed or in-between therapy sessions, and notice how you feel after each. You can work to build your own coping toolbox for anxious moments.