Cara Fielden, journalist, wellbeing warrior, and social media guru, shares her experience of anxiety and how mindfulness has changed her mindset.
I’m an overly anxious person. I mean, generally - it’s part of my personality. But it’s also something I’ve been diagnosed with. Severe anxiety to be precise. Since my diagnosis, I’ve realised that many of my behaviours belong to anxiety, which inspired me to do a lot of research into how to cope living with this condition.
I came across mindfulness through my partner, who has a lot of experience dealing with depression. It came about when he told me that I’m never in the moment. Like, ever.
I looked at him, puzzled… offended almost. My defence mode kicked in and I responded ‘yes I am’ before even taking the time to understand what he meant. After a long conversation about anxiety and how it takes you out of the moment and either into the worries of the future or the past, I realised that I’ve never been in the present moment. Honestly, I didn’t even know that was something we humans could do.
So, my partner recommended we try meditation. He guided me through it, the first time I’d ever tried anything like this before. It was only a short, three minute, full-body meditation - nothing too intense to begin with. But when I opened my eyes at the end of those three minutes, I felt lighter. Physically, emotionally, mentally. Something had shifted.
I could speak to my partner without getting carried away in a spiral of anxiety-inducing thoughts. I could make eye contact with him, whereas my eyes would usually ping around the room as I jump from worry to worry. I was there, I was in the moment. My mind and body were in the same place at the same time for the first time in my life. I’d never experienced this before.
Mindfulness is when the mind and body are both present in the moment, a state of awareness. Or, according to Google:
A mental state achieved by focusing one's awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one's feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.
It was such a shift in my life. Sounds dramatic, but it really was. I underestimated the power of meditation and mindfulness. Bringing my mind to the same moment that my body was in - it hadn’t even occurred to me before. I began to research the power of the breath - and wow, is it powerful.
Whenever I feel my body tense up from anxiety, or my mind can’t focus on a task because it’s runaway elsewhere, I try to bring my attention back to my breath.
Now, it’s not always that easy. As someone who has been anxious for maybe their whole life, I still find difficulty in breaking that anxious cycle before it takes over. Sometimes, that anxiety is comforting.
Bare with me…
When I say comforting, I mean that it’s such a familiar feeling that sometimes breaking out of it takes more effort than just letting it take over. Even though it’s the right thing to do, sometimes my mind struggles to fight that hard, and usually that’s when my depression comes into play (uninvited, might I add).
Just keep going
That’s why repetition and consistency is important when it comes to taking care of our wellbeing. It’s all well and good doing a meditation or being mindful when we feel anxious, depressed, or unfocused, but by that point we’ve probably already reached (or on our way to reaching) breaking point.
It’s the same with any form of self-care - exercising, eating well, getting enough sleep. If we only do it when we need it, the chances of needing it will be much higher. The idea of staying consistent and practising acts of self-care regularly is what will prevent us from reaching that stage of exhaustion where we urgently need it.
I try to meditate or practice yoga every morning to ensure that I’m being mindful because I know this is good for my brain and my body. But realistically, it’s not always the case. It’s difficult. I really struggle to stick to a consistent wellbeing routine. But I’m the only one that can do that for me. No one else can look after my wellbeing, they can tell me how, but it’s down to me to put it into place.
So, even on the bad days, the days where all we want to do is snooze our alarms and spend the day under the duvet - we must try. Days off are needed, but you’ll be grateful that you got up and walked around the block, or did a quick home workout, or cooked a nutritious meal. Our minds need taking care of, and we’re the only ones that can do it.
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