How Mindfulness Meditation can help with Anxiety, Panic and Stress

We may not be able to change or prevent stressful events from happening in our lives – but we can choose how we respond to them.

This is one of the gifts that mindfulness brings, it offers us choice.  This choice comes through the ability to make space for ourselves to know how we are feeling. When we have a sense of space, we are less likely to react destructively to stress and more likely to respond effectively.

Anxiety, panic and stress are common feelings which we have all experienced at some point. They become problematic when they persist or they become a habitual way of experiencing the world.

Mindfulness offers a number of practices that people may find helpful as a support when these emotions are feeling front and centre in their lives. Leading Mindfulness expert Jon Kabat-Zinn describes the practice as “awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgementally”      

Mindfulness of Breathing

The practice of Mindfulness of Breathing can be a useful tool to resort to if tightness and fast breathing patterns associated with anxiety approach. Our breath is always with us and always available to help switch off the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight mode) which activates during stress.

Bringing at least 50% of your awareness to the breath and the sensation of breathing can help to sooth the unpleasant feelings.

Mindfulness of Feelings

When we stop for a moment and become still and quiet we are more likely to know how we are feeling. There may be anxiety but there can be other feelings too and noticing these can be useful for knowing what we need.

Asking ourselves what we need is an act of self-kindness.

This practice supports us in staying present without judgement even when feelings are difficult and this helps prevent addictive or avoidant habits forming as a means of coping.

Mindfulness creates a sense of spaciousness which allows us to see ourselves as separate to these difficult feelings. Without it we can feel enmeshed with the anxiety and practicing self-kindness is very difficult in such moments.

Mindfulness of Thoughts

Anxiety, panic and stress can all fuel repetitive, negative thinking which leads to further stress still. Through the practice of Mindful Thinking we can depower these thinking patterns by being aware that they are occurring and by learning to invest less importance in every thought that passes through our mind.

We can choose to step off the merry-go-round of negative thoughts.

By cultivating awareness with Mindfulness Meditation we begin to see our choices. Having choices gives us a sense of control moment to moment which can be soothing for those with anxiety, panic and stress.

Finding a Mindfulness community or a course that offers you support during your learning is important. If you are interested in learning and practicing Mindfulness in more depth you are welcome to join our monthly Mindfulness Meditation Workshops at Essential Wellness in Ballincollig.