Mapping anxiety can bring more awareness into moments of your day when situations or emotions might become too difficult. Stress has a trigger and doing something about it results in relief. Anxiety doesn’t necessarily has a clear trigger. The feeling of unease can pop up with no clear cause.
How to to become a master of your mind?
This activity, done daily if possible, will help you learn more about your mind. You can gain deeper insight about what stresses you and how it plays out in your body. Over time it’ll result in noticeably calmer mind, kinder thoughts towards yourself and better overall wellbeing.
Anxiety has many shapes and forms. To make it easier to catch those uncomfortable feelings here is what to look out for:
- feeling nervous or on edge (with or without a reason)
- not been able to sleep
- worrying too much
- being so restless that it’s hard to sit still
- having trouble relaxing
- becoming easily annoyed or irritable with self or others
- being overly critical with self or others
- feeling afraid as if something awful might happen
- withdrawing from people or activities anticipating failure
- over-engaging in socially acceptable forms of distraction (binge watching Netflix, over working or shopping)
You could be experiencing a combination or some of the above. You may have a list of your own. Mapping the components of your anxiety that show up when they’re showing up in your life looks like this:
- See if you can start to identify which component of anxiety is showing up. Anything like listed above?
- What’s it like? How is it showing up? You might have noticed right from the start. You may realise it after you’ve already reacted to it. That’s ok too.
- Stop for 5-10 seconds to check in with your body. Simply detect where you feel the anxiety most in your body – chest, abdomen, legs, head, throat, shoulders.
- See whether you could take a few deep breaths, using your breath to guide your awareness right to that spot. Hold that bodily sensation in a kind and curious awareness without judgement. Hold it there for a second before slowly exhaling.
- Take another one or two deep breath into where anxiety feels the worse. Imagine dispersing it with a long exhalation.
Breathing into anxiety and holding those physical sensations in a spotlight of awareness quiets down the very brain region that’s activated by the stress and anxiety. The same part of the brain that is linked to self-referential thinking when we get caught up in rumination, worry or fear.
To develop further mastery of your mind, check out this post on how curiosity helps here. To go deeper into this process try to combine the two practices. Add the Curiosity Stress Test at the 3. step. Then return to step 4. and 5.
(Based on the research findings of psychiatrist and neuroscientist Judson Brewer Md, PhD.)