How Acceptance & mindfulness can be helpful for anxiety

How Acceptance & mindfulness can be helpful for anxiety

Anxiety sufferers will know, that their symptoms can be extremely uncomfortable. They might include a racing heart, sweaty palms, light headedness & racing thoughts with content of impending doom and dread. These are just some of the symptoms we can experience when suffering from anxiety. They can be very scary indeed and understandably we don't want to experience them and quite naturally we try to get rid of or at least lessen their intensity.

This makes very logical sense if you don't like something-get rid of it. But what if our attempts to alleviate or purge our anxiety are actually increasing the duration and the intensity of the symptoms? It sounds paradoxical and counter-intuitive but I will demonstrate this with an example.

Dawn feels very anxious in social situations, generally when she receives invites to parties or social gatherings she declines. Immediately after declining she feels a sense of 'relief' as she doesn't have to face the anxiety provoking situation. However, she also feels a sense of being trapped and sadness as deep down she would like to be with her friends and have fun at the party.

So avoidance is a double edged sword. On the one hand, avoiding the anxiety provoking situation means that Dawn doesn't have to experience the uncomfortable sensations of anxiety but on the other she is missing out on life!

What if Dawn could learn a new way to manage her anxious thoughts and feelings? What if instead of trying to 'get rid of', 'avoid' or 'suppress', she could learn to 'accept' these uncomfortable sensations, learning to co-exist with them, bringing them along with her in the journey of life?

As mentioned above, the mind will resist with all manner of thoughts such as 'I can't do that', 'the thoughts and feelings will just escalate and overwhelm me if I don't take protective action'. But thoughts aren't the 'biblical truth' and we don't have to believe every word they say, like a puppet on a string. With acceptance and mindfulness techniques we can learn to 'have' our internal experiences instead of trying to 'get rid' of them.  Focus on what's important and take meaningful action towards what's important to us.

Like any skill, acceptance takes practice and the mind may resist. But as I pointed out above, avoidance is counter-productive and just makes our lives smaller and smaller making the problem of anxiety more entrenched.  I offer acceptance & mindfulness coaching and I would be happy to help you 'struggle less & live more'.

Contact Paul Mc Carrol for a free consultation.

Twitter @MindfulBelfast


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