According to the National Institute of Mental Health, approximately 40 million American adults ages 18 and older, or about 18.1 percent of adults, suffer from an anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders run the gamut from panic disorder to PTSD, OCD, phobias, separation anxiety, etc.
The monster that affects my life is generalized anxiety, which does not disrupt day-to-day life the way that PTSD or panic disorder does, but can still be distracting and upsetting.
I have noticed a significant increase in my ability to deal with anxiety as my yoga practice has grown. Three main things I’ve learned through yoga have helped: deep breathing, staying in the present (mindfulness), and a focus on acceptance. These things can help shove the anxiety monster to the background, instead of letting it stand on my toes and loom over me.
However, thinking about an upcoming travel weekend full of airports and airplanes makes me wonder if I might have the anxiety monster staring me straight in the face for a few hours. I did some googling and found a mindfulness exercise called “5-4-3-2-1” that is aimed to help you take control of the present:
Say “I see” and name something in your line of sight. Continue until you have named five things.
Say “I hear” and name something you hear. Continue until you have named five things.
Say “I feel” and name something you feel. Continue until you have named five things.
Next, repeat and switch to four statements, then three, then two, and finally one thing you see, hear, and feel.
The idea is that if you focus your mind on current external stimuli, instead of catastrophizing and anticipating the future, you will help your body leave the “fight or flight” state that stress induces.
If any of you also deal with anxiety, try this exercise and let me know what you think. I’m going to try to remember it if I feel like my airplane is going to crash at any point this weekend. : )