Mindfulness Tools to Help Manage Anxiety/Depression/Insomnia/Stress

Mindfulness is a  practice that has been used for centuries to help improve perspective and mental health. Mindfulness has many definitions, but they all center on your ability to focus your attention on the present moment while acknowledging, without judgment, your thoughts and feelings. While many people think of mindfulness as being interchangeable with meditation, there are a variety of way in which mindfulness can be practiced and improved.

There has been a lot of work done evaluating the effectiveness of mindfulness for stress and anxiety, insomnia, and depression. Research has found mindfulness can improve mood, help clear the mind, and reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety. As this strategy continues to adapt, professionals have found ways for you to practice mindfulness in your daily life.

  • Mindfulness meditation 

Meditation is the most formally recognized form of mindfulness practice. It is used by some therapists and by individuals looking to improve their state of mind. During mindfulness meditation, an instructor will guide you through your breathing and help you focus on the difference between your current state and your fleeting thoughts. This method has been associated with reduced depression relapses.

  • Physical awareness

Paying attention to how your body is feeling in a moment of anxiety or stress can help shift your attention from your worries to your present state. This exercise can vary in intensity. If you are at work or school and feeling overwhelmed, try focusing on the feelings in your lower body, such as how your feet feel or lower legs. If you have a little more time and space, you can also try a full body awareness exercise. These are often led by instructors, but you can also try to improve moments of stress or even insomnia by practicing something like this while laying in bed. Taking the focus off of your worries or thoughts and shifting it to how your body currently feels can help your mind relax.  

  • Breath counting

In times of stress or anxiety, consider breath counting to help you let go of your worries. Awareness of your breathing is an important aspect of the majority of these exercises, and in some cases this tool can be used in combination with other strategies. Choose a number of seconds, such as 5, and count to that number while inhaling deeply. Choose a larger number, such as 8, to count to while exhaling slowly.

  • Focus

When you feel like your to-do list is growing non-stop, and you are feeling overwhelmed, consider taking some time to organize your priorities. Once you have determined which tasks are most important, focus your mind on one activity at a time. This includes removing distractions such as television, phones, and computers to fully engage in the task in front of you. As you continue to check these things off your list, you will improve your stress levels.

  • Journal

Sometimes just getting your thoughts on paper can help you work through your previous thoughts and focus on the present. If you are feeling anxious or can’t sleep, write down a few thoughts that have been running through your mind. You can also utilize journaling to improve your perspective on your life by writing things you are grateful for in a certain moment or at the beginning of your day.

  • Step back

Stress from high expectations and information overload can bring feelings of anxiety and panic. In moments when you experience these feelings, sometimes the best way to achieve mindfulness is to take a step back from your current environment. This could be your desk at work, your dishes at home, or your social media online. When you decide to take a break, consider going for a short walk outside; not only will fresh air help clear your mind, but you can take time to appreciate the nature around you. If walking doesn’t appeal to you, consider changing your stressful task for something more relaxing.

  • Create

Whether you are an artistic person, or you can barely draw a stick figure, creating something takes attention and focus. This mindfulness activity is flexible for the level of skill you feel you have. Consider drawing or painting. If you don’t feel confident in your art-related abilities, you could use an adult coloring book or try something outside of the box, like pottery. Dedicating your attention to art can help you achieve awareness in the moment and reduce anxiety.

  • Routine

Mindfulness should not always be used in a “rescue” situation. You can incorporate mindfulness activities as part of your daily routine. For some, taking a moment to find their breathing and identify how their mind and body are feeling before jumping out of bed helps them start the day with mindfulness. Others may find bedtime or daytime a better fit for their needs. Either way, consistent incorporation of mindfulness into your daily routine can help you better understand the practice and how well it works for you.

  • Sensory awareness

In moments of anxiety, after finding your breathing, find some time to identify and appreciate your senses. Listen to the noises around you, observe the items and people around you, smell your environment, feel the things near you, and find something you enjoy to taste. Take time between each sense to bring a fuller focus to your current state and environment. This is another good exercise to help you with sleep.

  • Physical distraction

There are objects available or that you can make to shift your attention from your stressors to a more peaceful state of mind. Stress balls and sand can be found in workplaces across the country to help people release mental strain through physical activity.

Mindfulness is not an easy concept to understand or goal to achieve. Practice with these activities or online tools to get a more complete comprehension of how mindfulness can help you if you struggle with anxiety, depression, or insomnia. As you work through some of the examples above, you might have a hard time connecting with every exercise; identify which work best for you.

References:

1. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/mindfulness-in-frantic-world/201110/curing-depression-mindfulness-meditation

2. https://www.healthyplace.com/self-help/anxiety/using-mindfulness-for-anxiety-here-s-how

3. https://positivepsychologyprogram.com/mindfulness-exercises-techniques-activities/

4. https://www.everyday-mindfulness.org/3-quick-mindfulness-practices-to-overcome-worry-anxiety-and-panic/

5. https://www.consciouslifestylemag.com/mindfulness-for-anxiety-and-stress/

6. https://www.healthline.com/health/mindfulness-tricks-to-reduce-anxiety#2

7.  https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/anxiety-schmanxiety/2017/11/diy-anxiety-relief-make-3-mindfulness-tools

author avatar
Angel Rivera
I am a Bilingual (Spanish) Psychiatrist with a mixture of strong clinical skills including Emergency Psychiatry, Consultation Liaison, Forensic Psychiatry, Telepsychiatry and Geriatric Psychiatry training in treatment of the elderly. I have training in EMR records thus very comfortable in working with computers. I served the difficult to treat patients in challenging environments in outpatient and inpatient settings
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