I Used Mindfulness to Quiet My Anxiety, and This Happened
Thursday, July 6 2017 Tanya J. Peterson, MS, NCC
I used to be certain that nothing--not even mindfulness--would quiet my anxiety. I found it difficult to be still because of anxiety's constant stream of racing thoughts, tumultuous emotions, and halting actions. Not only could I not be present in each moment, I didn't want to be present in each moment. I worried that if I stopped being anxious, I wouldn't earn success in any of the areas of my life. Anxiety had tricked me into believing that without it, I couldn't move forward into a quality life. I used to listen to anxiety, but no longer. I found success once I used mindfulness to quiet my anxiety.
Anxiety's Noise Blocked Mindfulness
Anxiety is incredibly noisy, and it shouts things at us, seemingly, nonstop. Worries and fears fill our minds. When we turn our attention away from our anxieties and into the present moment, our thoughts become stiller; however, that is difficult to do when anxiety is so noisy that you can't ignore it.
For me, anxiety had a great deal to do with success. I feared that I wasn't good enough as a parent, spouse, friend, teacher, counselor, writer, and so much more. Your own anxiety could be similar or different altogether. Whatever your specific anxiety, is it noisy? Mine certainly was.
Anxiety told me that in order to succeed, I had to be productive. I listened, and I became very busy. I threw my whole self into every item on my to-do lists. That wasn't enough.
Anxiety shouted that I nothing I was doing was ever good enough. I listened. I thought about being good enough every day, and I worried that I wasn't.
Anxiety demanded that I watch and worry about everything I did. I listened to anxiety and remained alert for my shortcomings even when I was doing something designed to be relaxing. I couldn't relax--ever.
It was easy to listen to anxiety because anxiety shouted so much more loudly than anyone or anything else. It was so loud, in fact, that I barely noticed a whisper in the background.
When I worked, anxiety yelled that I'd fail because I was too. Too stupid. Too annoying. Too talkative. Too quiet. Too incapable. Too inept. Too incompetent. Anxiety told me that people were judging me and that I constantly fell short.
Anxiety told me to be better, to be more productive. I thought I heard a whisper in the background, but I couldn't quite tell. I pushed aside the whisper that I couldn't hear and listened to the anxious shouts.
I made better to-do lists, but then anxiety yelled that I should feel guilty because I wasn't being a good spouse and parent. I did feel guilty and tried to be better for the people in my life, so I continued to listen to anxiety instead of hearing what the whisper was saying.
Mindfulness Is a Whisper that Quiets Anxiety
Anxiety kept yelling at me, ranting about my shortcomings. It seemed logical that I could hurry past the worries. With hard work and obedience to anxiety, it seemed, I could surpass it all. At that point, I could finally live fully and experience pure, relaxed joy.
I discovered that the more I worked to obey my anxiety, the more loudly it shouted. The faint whisper in the background remained steady, and that made me curious.
Then one day it happened. I was enjoying myself (even with anxiety, I did experience enjoyment). I allowed my mind, my thoughts, my self to live in the present moment. In that particular moment, I heard the whisper encouraging me to be fully present, mindful of the real moment rather than perceived anxieties.
When anxiety resumed its yelling, I tried to shout over the top of it, but that only created more noise. In order to hear that whisper that stands calmly alongside a shout, I had to shift from my loud clashes with anxiety to quiet stillness.
When I use mindfulness of the present moment to become settled and still, I have the gentle power to quiet anxiety. I can choose where I will place my attention. It's most enjoyable to place it in the moment I am living.
The whisper of mindfulness taught me how to face anxiety and move forward. Rather than shouting back, I become quiet and whisper. I hear the shouts of anxiety, but I don't listen. I don't respond. I remain still and keep doing what I'm doing in the moment. When I used mindfulness to quiet anxiety, success happened.