I’ve come a long way since my first panic attack, which struck soon after starting my first ‘real job’. While sitting at my desk, I suddenly got really hot and I couldn’t breathe. The fear of losing control or collapsing made the symptoms worse. I can see now it happened because the expectations of me in that workplace were waaay too high.
And so began my ongoing relationship with anxiety. Thankfully, its effects have been passing and not debilitating, but it certainly has a negative effect when it’s around. No, it hasn’t gone away. I’m not sure anxiety ever does. But I’ve become much better at managing it. And one habit I’ve recently committed to, which is more effective than anything else I’ve tried, is the practice of mindfulness.
Mindfulness is when you are aware of your thoughts, feelings, sensations, breath and everything occurring in the present moment, without attaching judgment to those observations.
Practising mindfulness involves sitting for a length of time, whether minutes or hours, and allowing your thoughts to pass by, while you make an effort not to get all wrapped up in the narrative. The idea is that, with practice, you can eventually become so aware of mind and body ‘events’ such as panic attacks that upon observing them, their weight evaporates instantly, like popping a bubble.
Research has shown mindfulness can increase productivity, reduce stress and improve memory, focus and relationship satisfaction. You can see why I was eager to give it a go. Only problem is – it takes time and dedication to see results. For extra motivation, I signed up to some mindfulness workshops and downloaded an app to spur me to practice. And I did.
Now, when I feel anxiety coming on – that horrible tightness in the stomach and throat – instead of reaching for quick ‘fixes’ (one reason why my wine cellar is always near empty) I force myself to sit. This is really difficult – especially when anxiety usually arises at times when you should be active and participating, the opposite of sitting and switching off.
I’ve found that once I’ve sat with and watched the feeling for a while – with the intention not of getting rid of it, but of just being with it – the feeling disappears.
I’ve had a glimpse into what mindfulness can do and I can’t wait to see what other benefits are in store… no expectations or anything.
Have you experienced the benefits of mindfulness, or are you intrigued to give it a go?
“ You can eventually become so aware of mind and body ‘events’ such as panic attacks that upon observing them, their weight evaporates instantly, like popping a bubble. ”