Mindfulness & Anxiety
Mindfulness is about love and loving life. When you cultivate this love, it gives you clarity and compassion for life, and your actions happen in accordance with that.Jon Kabat Zinn
In the course of our lives all of us have had to learn ways of coping. Everyone encounters challenges and struggles and we may also have had especially difficult experiences of our own. Some of these ways of coping are helpful, and some aren’t. The thoughts and actions connected with PTSD, OCD and anxiety are coping strategies that actually cause us more suffering.The mindfulness skills we learn on an MBSR course help give us more space in our experience: space between distressing feelings, the thoughts that go with them and the actions they prompt. The key is learning to turn towards our experience, whatever it is, rather than recoiling from difficulties.
On a mindfulness course we learn to direct our attention, let go of unhelpful thoughts and access more helpful states of mind. It’s a gentle but steady process of learning to respond differently through practices like the Body Scan (developing awareness of the body), the Mindfulness of Breathing meditation (focusing on the breath and exploring experience), and mindful movement (gentle stretching or movement). Bit by bit we become more aware of what’s happening in our experience. We learn to stand back from our thoughts and feelings, noticing the habits that lead us to respond automatically and seeing when we judge ourselves harshly.
Exploring our experience in the group and with the instructor helps us to turn towards it and tolerate difficult or troubling thoughts, feelings, sensations and events more fully.We have worked with people who are experiencing acute anxiety, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), OCD, eating disorders, chronic fatigue and a range of other issues. We find that the general principles of MBSR are helpful in each case, and on courses or working one-to-one we can explore how they apply to you. People experiencing anxiety can also learn to sit with their feelings, letting go of tension and resistance and using the breath to become centred.
People with OCD can also learn to notice the feelings that underlie compulsive activity and sit with them mindfully rather than acting them out through behaviour. People with PTSD can also learn to allow the feelings associated with their trauma letting go of the impulse to keep replaying events or ruminating on them.