Frequently, people enter therapy with debilitating anxiety or depression, or a combination of the two.
Our natural response to anxiety is to fight the feelings, try to escape the feelings, or maybe we just freeze because we don’t know what to do with the overwhelming feelings of worry and panic. One of the tools for anxiety I encourage my clients to use is called mindfulness.
Some of the most effective components of mindfulness are: breath awareness, body and sensory awareness, thought awareness and emotion awareness. Just being aware and accepting when we are experiencing anxiety and panic can open us up to new ways of coping. Further, by learning to accept and tolerate anxiety with a new openness, we practice allowing strong emotional states to come and go without becoming paralyzed.
Depressed and irritable clients also benefit greatly by using mindfulness skills. People with longstanding depression often have acquired a lifetime of negative thoughts and beliefs about themselves and their general unworthiness. This inner critic that lives inside the depressed person’s mind is constantly judging every mistake and misstep.
For example, a small oversight in the workplace can easily snowball into thoughts as drastic as “What’s wrong with me?” or “I’m no good at anything.” These negative thoughts give ammunition to longstanding feelings of worthlessness and inadequacy which feed the depression. By utilizing mindfulness skills we begin to understand that it’s not the events but the beliefs and interpretations about the events that lead us into further despair.