Acceptance and breathing when reducing anxiety
Written by listed counsellor/psychotherapist: Basia Spalek Accredited Member MBACP, PhD, MSc, Dip Counselling & Psychotherapy
2nd May, 20160 Comments
Anxiety can make us restless and exhausted at the same time. We can feel our heart palpitate, our palms sweat and tingling in our fingers. We can feel a massive urge to do something, anything, and so we engage in quite manic behaviour, cleaning the house or tidying the garden or a high intensity workout. When we try to calm our bodies and minds we can find that our mind races away with us, thoughts constantly bombarding us, really preventing us from trying to meditate. Meditation itself becomes a battle as anxiety can prevent us from being able to sit and calm ourselves. We are constantly saying to ourselves that we have to or that we should be a particular way, or that we should or be doing something else.
When experiencing high anxiety it is important to try to just accept our heightened state of alertness. Trying to quash anxiety can actually make this worse. Equally, trying to force ourselves to undertake long periods of meditation can become yet another thing to beat ourselves up about, increasing rather than reducing our anxiety. I try to hold my anxiety with compassion rather than trying to fight it. I say to my anxiety, ‘I give you loving kindness’ as I imagine holding and supporting my palpitating heart. This acceptance and kindness somehow reduces the intensity of the anxiety that I feel.
It is also important to focus on breathing when we feel anxious. I sit down in a safe place, even for just five minutes, and I allow myself to just breathe. If any thoughts come up I accept them, and imagine them rising up into the air like a balloon. In this way unhelpful, self-critical, even angry thoughts are accepted and then let go to float gently away. It is important to try and breathe from the diaphragm rather than the chest in order to create deep breathing. Do not place any pressure on the breathing, simply breathe in and out. Sometimes as I breathe I say to myself, ‘Calming my body, I breathe in; caring for my body, I breathe out. Smiling to my body, I breathe in. Easing my body, I breathe out’. In this way the body becomes calmed and anxiety can be reduced. Engaging in this practice on a daily basis can really help with anxiety.
About the author
Basia Spalek is a practising psychotherapist, and is a professor in conflict transformation. Basia enjoys walking and running in nature and is interested in helping people to grow therapeutically.
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