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SALT LAKE CITY — Feelings of panic, restlessness, excessive worry, difficulties concentrating and irritability are all common symptoms of anxiety. Some may experience a couple of these symptoms as others may experience all at once. Anxiety is emotionally draining and can cause many problems to an individual's everyday life. It takes a lot of work to deal with anxiety and be a fully functioning individual. Little accomplishments are big successes and completing short or long term goals can feel overwhelming.
Some may describe anxiety as having both feet planted in the fears of the future. If we are constantly worried about what may or may not come, it is difficult to enjoy life in the moment. Living in the moment is like living with both eyes wide open. Life becomes more sweet and enriched when we can soak in every experience. Mindfulness skills can help us live more in the moment, which can ease anxiety symptoms significantly. Mindfulness forces us to focus on one thing at a time. When we allow ourselves to focus on one thing at a time, it is impossible for us to feel overwhelmed. Here are four mindfulness skill that have proven to reduce anxiety:
1. Concentrate on your breathing
Take a moment every day and notice your breath. Notice what it feels like to have air filling your lungs and then leaving your body. Time your inhales and exhales. If possible make your exhales a few seconds longer than your inhales. By doing this you're accessing your parasympathetic nervous system (PNS), which is responsible for allowing us to rest and slow down. For starters, try inhaling for four seconds and exhaling for six seconds, then repeat. Be sure to notice any shifts in your body. Notice what happens as you force your body to calm down.
2. Notice your body
Whether you're sitting, standing, lying down or on the move, you can practice mindfulness by noticing what your body is experiencing. Take a moment and notice your feet on the ground. Notice what they feel like as the pressure of the floor pushes back. Feel your surroundings; your arms resting in the chair, your bottom on the seat, your head on the pillow, etc.
3. Notice your surroundings
Begin to notice what's around you. Whether it's a painting on the wall, a piece of furniture, something in nature or anything else in your environment, you can take a moment to notice it. Notice any colors, shapes, textures. Notice any specific details about the object you are noticing. Describe what you notice in great detail.
4. Six senses
Tap into your six senses: taste, touch, sight, hearing, smelling, and movement. Find things that are very soothing to you. This can be smelly candles you enjoy, favorite music or sounds, beautiful sceneries, favorite foods, comfortable clothing, and any movement your body enjoys such as yoga, dance, etc. As you do these, pay 100 percent attention to the calming and soothing sensations your body experiences.
Mindfulness is a very basic skill with much power, and it's something you can practice anywhere and anytime. It may be difficult in the beginning, but even brief moments of engaged mindfulness can be beneficial. Start with practicing mindfulness for just 20 seconds a day and gradually increase time as you feel. You don't have to live with constant symptoms of anxiety. If needed, seek a mental health professional.
Jennifer Sorensen, MA, ACMHC specializes in assisting children, adolescents and adults to overcome life's challenges. She practices at Life Stone Counseling Center's Midvale and American Fork locations. Learn more at www.lifestonecenter.com