What is mindfulness?
Strategies to prevent rumination and spiraling
You might have heard of the word, but never really considered what it means to be mindful. Mindfulness, in relation to anxiety, is the active avoidance of anxious or worried thoughts.
The keyword is active.
You might hear the word avoidance and think that this means we are not acknowledging the anxious feeling. This is not the case. Using mindfulness, we are actively reducing the overall intensity of anxious feelings instead of ruminating or spiraling.
Mindful breathing is a great way to use mindfulness to reduce anxious feelings. To mindfully breathe:
Tune into your body. Place a hand on where the anxiety feels most present. Breathe into that place, what size and shape is the anxiety? Visualize it softening of feeling around the edges as you breathe into that space. Tune in again, how does it feel now that the edges have been softened? Is it hot or cold? Burning? Tingling? Tension? Color? Texture?
Another way to prevent spiraling or rumination is using grounding. Grounding is using your senses to reconnect you to the present moment when you are stuck in your thoughts. To ground yourself, notice five things you can see, four things you can hear, three things you can touch, two things you can smell, one thing you can taste. Pay attention to the details around you.
You can also draw a picture of what your anxiety looks like. If you find that helpful.
By using mindfulness, you are creating new neural pathways and essentially changing the way your body responds to anxiety in the future if mindfulness is utilized frequently. Using mindful techniques allows you to respond to your anxiety with intention in an emotionally regulated state, rather than react to the emotion.
Remember, anxiety is a feeling that will come and go and not a part of your identity. Stay present in the moment instead of pushing away and avoiding difficult or uncomfortable feelings.