As it is mental health awareness week I wanted to share some of the struggles I’ve had with anxiety and self doubt and a simple practice that can help as a coping strategy. I learned this on the Mindfulness Based course for anxiety at the Brighton Buddhist Centre. Whilst mindfulness practices were originally based on Eastern spiritual practices they are secular and available to open to anyone, of any religion or none.
The three minute breathing space helps when you are feeling anxious or down as it:
• Helps you to focus on the present moment
• Is always available, no matter where you are
• It is quick and so more accessible than a long sitting meditation
Whilst this is a very helpful tool, I have found that using this breathing space to cope with strong and difficult emotions has really helped my anxiety. There are three steps, each only taking a minute each!
1. Observe – notice your body, thoughts and feelings. Then describe and acknowledge them – eg: “there is a self critical thought. Here is a worry.”
2. Redirect – your attention to your breath. Follow each breath and label “breathing in, breathing out”. Or some people find it helpful to count their breaths.
3. Hold the feelings with compassion – much as you would a child who is upset. Expand your attention to your whole body and notice any feelings of tightness or tension. Breath into these areas on the inhale and soften and breath out from them as you exhale. I find it helpful to say to myself “it’s ok” as I take these breaths.
I use this practice throughout the day but you can also explore it in more depth in a seated meditation. I also use it in yin and restorative yoga where it can be a really healing and therapeutic part of the practice.
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