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Susie Hopkins deomstrating can mindfulness reduce anxiety

Can mindfulness reduce anxiety?

By | Anxiety, Mindfulness, Stress management
Susie Hopkins deomstrating can mindfulness reduce anxiety

You know the feeling. You’re cutting it fine, or are just plain running late and there’s tightness throughout your whole body. This story of mine takes the cake! It also illustrates that even someone who has full-blown anxiety can learn to stay relatively calm when the heat is on.

It was a sunny Saturday morning, and I had underestimated how long it would take to get a country wedding. And I had a small role in the ceremony.

I realised it was further than I had thought and that I was running late just in time. I had to grab my bags, baby, present, and hat (!) and run out the door. Google maps on my phone was my navigation tool and about five minutes into an hour and a half long journey, my phone was dying. I also realised about this time I was running out of petrol, and in the rush to leave I had forgotten my wallet.

To top things off, my six-month-old baby was screaming in the back of the car. It was one of the first times he and I had gone on a drive of any length together. Not a good start!

The irony was that I had been asked to do a short meditation during the ceremony. That way everyone could leave behind the rush of getting there and be as present as possible before the bride and groom took their vows. By some miracle, I made it on time without running out of phone charge or petrol. But it was a seriously stressful experience.

Deep breathing for stress and anxiety does help

Talk about an opportunity to practice what I preach! For most of the journey, my body was tensing up like nobody’s business. I really think I’d have turned around and gone home if it wasn’t for the skills I feel so incredibly lucky to have to stay relatively calm.

Softening my body repeatedly, talking calmly to my son, and most importantly, breathing, slow deep breaths, right down into my belly, enabled me to get there in one piece. I’d focus on the feeling of the steering wheel in my hands, and my bum on the seat, and soften and breathe deeply again and again. I got there, donned my crazy hat (did I mention it was fancy dress?) and found a moderately quiet place to breastfeed my little boy.

And then I stood at the top of a flight of stairs dealing with the nerves of public speaking. 150 pairs of eyes looking up at me,  I asked everyone to take a few nice big slow deep breaths. Right down into their bellies.

I asked them to soften their forehead, jaw and shoulders, to feel their feet firmly planted on the ground. I asked them to try to let go of the journey here, and anything else going on in their lives. So we could all be as present as possible to witness the marriage of our two wonderful friends.

People loved it. I had that many people come up to me later to thank me for helping them to chill a little and enable them to really drink in the moment. Little did they know that I was struggling hugely to be present myself, that I was somewhat traumatised by the sequence of events that had unfolded for me that morning… But I was a lot less stressed than I might have been.

Few people are naturally calm – myself included!

I am NOT a naturally calm person. It appears very few people are, having asked many. And I’m quite certain that this is why learning to be more mindful has been so powerful for me. It’s also why I’m so determined to help others learn these skills. Before I made mindfulness meditation part of my everyday life I used to suffer from terrible anxiety. I can vouch for the research that shows it reduces anxiety and stress.

These days it virtually never rears its ugly head. However, when there’s an anxiety-producing situation like this beauty of an example, it reminds me of a time when I used to have bouts of feeling as anxious as I did on this day, but for no reason whatsoever. It was so horrible. It’s difficult to explain to others who haven’t had full blown anxiety.

In our crazy busy stressed out world, it’s not surprising that being under huge amounts of stress for prolonged periods as so many of us are at work, coupled with poor sleep patterns, not enough exercise and a crappy diet, that rates of anxiety these days are through the roof. One in three women and one in five men suffer from anxiety at some point in their lives.

So, can mindfulness reduce anxiety?

Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health problems in Australia. While this is a somewhat comical story about a crazy set of circumstances, what it shows is that even someone who has had full blown anxiety can learn to stay relatively calm when the heat is on.

Whether in the workplace or in life in general, when we come to better understand how to manage stress we can meet the challenging times in life, and let’s face it, there are many, with more calm, grace and humour.

I have said it before, and I’ll say it again; there is simply no way in the world I’d have been able to do IVF, have a baby on my own and managed to get my business up and running without my mindfulness practice. And on that note, I’m going to go and do some meditation practice, right now.

If you want to hear more about how I addressed anxiety and everyday stress get in touch at susie@lilowellness.com.au.  I’d love to share more about what worked for me!

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