When you’re feeling anxious or down…
Try this Video Mindful practice for Anxiety and Depression
Have you been feeling anxious or depressed lately, or maybe even anxious and depressed? Do you find yourself swirling with ruminating thoughts, or ideas you can’t get out of your head? Relentless worries about a change that’s coming up soon? You can’t quite relax or settle down about it – you’re sure something bad will happen or it just won’t work out? Are you so overwhelmed that every time you know you should do something good for yourself you just feel agitated?
Or maybe you feel really low, down in the dumps, hopeless, and feeling like a loser in everything you do. You feel depressed about your life circumstances, and worse, even more depressed about yourself. It’s hard to get motivated about anything; or feel pleasure about stuff you used to be excited about.
Most people who come to see me have some version of anxiety or depression that they’re struggling with. And of course, if you struggle with one of these, you often struggle with both.
It’s just how we are wired.
It’s hard to not feel bad about yourself when you are wrought with anxiety or stress; or don’t think well of yourself; or are tired of always feeling tension or fear or being down in the dumps. It’s hard to not worry when you are feeling depressed or hopeless, or guilty.
The things we tell ourselves, when we are depressed or anxious often make things worse, even though we desperately want to get rid of these heavy uncomfortable feelings. Often times that negative voice takes over. We compare ourselves to everyone else out there who doesn’t seem to be burdened or overwhelmed by spells of depression and overwhelm. We think we shouldn’t feel this way; there’s something wrong with us.
We’re just a ‘hot mess’.
‘Normal’ people get through things much easier or don’t worry so much…
Often our negative thoughts make us feel even more alone. And afraid, and depressed.
This week I offer you a short (about 12 minutes) video where I walk you through a gentle practice you can do when you notice you’re slipping downward in your feelings, or getting too overwhelmed with them…
I take you through seven steps (please forgive my error in the video where I say that there are eight steps) – (I guess the eighth step is to actually watch the video and practice along!) that are about getting quiet and still and into a compassionate place, so you can tend to and befriend these difficult emotional states. Or pause and reflect upon them rather than do the typical fight/flight/freeze reaction that we usually have when we’re clobbered by our own challenging feelings.
You can watch the video here: mindful practice for anxiety and depression
and/or read about it here..
The steps include the following:
1) Doing a Mindful Check-In
This is a simple checking in with yourself about what’s happening in the moment. Listen to the sounds around you and notice the environment you’re in – what’s surrounding you; what’s the weather like; what position is your body in? A Mindful check in includes then paying attention to what’s going on inside of you at this moment. Observe your internal weather report and describe your feelings, thoughts, body senses. What’s the state of affairs internally?
2) Mindful Breathing
Take a couple of long slow deep breaths in, and then let yourself breathe out, even more slowly. Simply notice where your breath goes and watch as it goes into your nose, mouth, and through your chest to your belly. When you breathe out, let your belly button touch your spine and pause for a bit before you inhale again.
Then breathe normally and be present to each breath. If your mind wanders, gently bring it back and notice the next inhalation, and the next exhalation, and so on.
3) Body scan
Bring your awareness to each part of your body, starting with the soles of your feet and moving upwards, all the way to the top of your head. From the soles of your feet, notice then your heels, ankles, tops of your feet, toes. See how your calves and shins feel, then move onto your knees – back and front; then to your thighs and quads. Have awareness of your pelvis area, your genitals, hips. Notice your whole lower body altogether.
Then pay attention to your belly area; your lower back, chest, shoulder blades and upper back. Observe your torso together with your lower body for a moment. Consider all the internal systems working within you – respiratory, digestive, circulatory, cardiovascular, musculoskeletal, nervous, reproductive, immune,… and how they all work together like a fine tuned machine to pump your blood, connect your brain, allow you to breathe, and keep you alive.
Notice whatever feeling or sensation that is in any part of your body and simply let it be. Bring awareness to your shoulders, your neck, your throat, mouth, cheeks, nose, forehead, temples, face all together, brain, ears, scalp and head.
Notice your body as a whole sitting here altogether. Have a moment of appreciation for this body of yours.
4) Mindful Self Inquiry
Now that you’ve gotten pretty aware of your body, it’s time to bring your attention to your feeling state. Notice what emotions are present, and particularly strong. Bring an emotion into your awareness and try to observe it; let it be. Gradually check out the dimensions of it. It’s OK to stay on the edges of it, that anxiety or overwhelm that you’re feeling.
Slowly move into it and around it, like dipping a toe into a pool of water until your body gets acclimated enough to the change in temperature. Practice being with your stress, or anxiousness, irritations, painful memories, difficult emotions and just letting them be.
You don’t have to figure out the why, or analyze them or fix them, or get rid of them. Just gently let them be. Let your feelings show you everything you need to know about them at this moment. You are swimming, floating in a pool of emotions, but you are not defined by those emotions.
Be tender with those feelings, as if you were cleaning up broken glass and don’t want the shards to hurt yourself or someone else. Listen with your heart to the feelings and have compassion.
5) Watch Your Thoughts
With this sense of gentle compassion, watch your thoughts go by. Imagine each thought is on a cloud in the sky, blowing and moving across your horizon. Or imagine your thoughts are each on a leaf, flowing by in a stream you are next to. Sometimes rushing by and fast flowing. Sometimes gathering and piling up; and then at other moments breaking free from the rocks and floating on downstream. Notice that your judgments, plans, worries, come and go; ebb and flow. Let them go by without having to do anything about them.
Remember your thoughts are just thoughts – just mental phenomena, energy, vibrations in your mind, a mental event. Your thoughts do not own you. They’re not the boss of you. They are not you. Watch your thoughts come and go and notice they are ever-changing. When you set your thoughts free, you are freeing yourself.
6) More Mindful Breathing
Again take a few long slow deep breaths in. Pay attention only to your breathing. Notice it and allow it to be as it is. No need to fix it or change it in any way. Notice each inhalation and each exhalation. That’s the only thing you have to have awareness of. Watch your belly rise and fall; slowing down. Stay present to each breath, and if you have wandered away, gently come back to your breath. Kindly.
7) Compassion and Self Compassion
Once again, bring to mind that thing you’ve been feeling so anxious or overwhelmed about. Remember there are a lot of people out there struggling just as you are. Offer well wishes for everyone else out there who has been worried in the same way or felt the same struggle. May they be at peace as they go through this. May they be well. May they feel a sense of compassion and support.
Then offer yourself the same sense of compassion, gentleness, as your face all that’s on your plate. Remember you are a beautiful human being – not defined or limited by any of your thoughts, feelings, body experiences. You have your own unique ideas, emotions, wishes, needs, strengths and vulnerabilities. Take special care to treat yourself in a friendly way. Feel compassion for and honor YOU.
You can experience the practice with me here:
VIDEO: when you’re feeling anxious or down
You can also break this down and use only one or two of the steps for a couple of minutes a day, to help you deal with your anxiety or depression. Of course, remembering to be mindful is one of the hardest things, so sometimes it’s helpful to just give yourself mini moments of opportunity to bring your attention to the present.
I’d love to hear from you. Just reply back about when you think you might be able to use a practice like this – in it’s entirety or in small doses, to help you get through difficult times.
If you or someone you love is having difficulty with managing your emotions and negative thoughts, please call me for a therapy appointment.
For more ideas on how to bring more calm and less worry into your life, click here for a free email course on Mindfulness.
Listening with Heart
Cindi Rivera, MFT
Marriage, Family Therapist
Cindi- I really appreciated this practice and will do my best to incorporate it, or parts of it, daily. Thank you.
NOTE- the first link to the video does not take me to your video, but to an Apple Red ad. I tried it 3 times… the other links do take me to your video…
Many thanks.. Kennedy
Thank you for finding that glitch. I have corrected the link so you can get to the video…I’ll make sure to practice a mindful check in before I attempt more tech!