Mindfulness Techniques You can Do to Reduce Anxiety

Life gets crazy, we get anxious; but using mindfulness techniques can help reduce anxiety by centering our mind and regaining focus.

There are a lot of coping mechanisms you can use to combat anxiety and depression. One of the newest areas that is being promoted to reduce anxiety is Mindfulness. Mindfulness is a mental state that is achieved by focusing on the present moment. It is a calming technique that involves acknowledging and accepting your feelings, thoughts, or bodily sensations.

How does Mindfulness work?

Mindfulness can be a great relaxation technique, which is one reason why it is used so frequently in reducing anxiety. Anxiety is worrying over things that have already happened or something that may happen. Meaning it is a past or future emotion, and your brain power has been removed from the present.

Mindfulness is a method of bringing your focus back to the present. By doing so you reduce the tension caused by your past or future thinking. The present is a finite period of time. The smaller the period of time, the easier it is to cope with the struggles at hand.

An Example

a couple of weeks ago my stress levels were going through the roof. We were having issues selling a car we couldn’t afford to fix (it didn’t run), trying to fix a car that did run so it could be shipped, extra blood draws and labs for monitoring my health during pregnancy. I was struggling, no matter how hard I tried, everything seemed overwhelming because there was just too much to do, and not enough time. However, had I used some mindfulness techniques I may have been able to center myself more quickly. Rather than taking a day or two I could have calmed down and relaxed in a few hours.

So the next time you’re getting anxious, overwhelmed, and can begin to fathom solutions to your problems try out some of these mindfulness techniques and see if they help!

Mindfulness Techniques

  • Breathing Exercises:

    • Deep breathing is an excellent way to draw your focus on of worry and into a calming presence. When we begin to get anxious we begin breathing rapidly and shallowly. The logical part of your brain shuts off when overwhelmed, and so we can’t get to a place where we can problem solve. By slowing our breathing intentionally, we create a pattern that automatically pulls our brains out of the anxiety provoking thoughts. When physical symptoms of anxiety dissipate we can begin to problem solve. Deep breathing creates a reduction in the physical sensations that anxiety brings. Centering you into the present, rather than past or future.  It is recommended that you spend at least one minute, but up to five minutes can have an even more lasting effect. If you are having a hard time focusing on breathing, try listening to a YouTube video, or an app that has guided breathing exercises.
  • Grounding exercises:

    • When we are anxious we become overwhelmed and recess into our thoughts, losing track of our surroundings. A simple way ground yourself bringing your back down is to find 5 things you can smell, touch, see, and hear. It is all about using your senses to identify your current surroundings. While yes, taste is one of the senses, unless you’re eating something it isn’t useful as a grounding sense. The way it works is when you become overwhelmed and you begin to recognize those feelings open up your senses. I like to start and encourage others to start with sight. I think it is easiest to start with identifying 5 objects that you see around you. Maybe it’s a stop sign and a tree, maybe it is your dog. Either way it will orient you to the location in which you are in. Then identify 5 sounds you hear- cars going by, the tv, birds singing. Repeat with things you can smell, and things you can touch. This will help bring you back to your present situation.

Why Mindfulness Works

Mindfulness has a way of restructuring the wiring in our brain. This means that the more we practice Mindfulness when we are anxious and stressed, the less stress we will feel overall. We will be more equipped to handle the challenges that come up against us.

You don’t have to be perfect at it; just have to keep trying. As a counselor, I have worked on this in my own practice with myself. As a military wife, there are so many circumstances that come up in my life that I have no control over, it is so easy to become overwhelmed by it. That is why I turn to mindfulness techniques to regain my focus on what I can control.

You don’t have to be a counselor or being seen by a therapist to manage any anxiety in your life using these mindfulness techniques, or many others.

Have you ever tried mindfulness as a way to manage your anxiety? Did it work for you?

Life gets crazy, we get anxious; but using mindfulness techniques can help reduce anxiety by centering our mind and regaining focus.

My Self Care “Tool Box”

Self-care is so beneficial and necessary to our well being. But it only works if we actually do it. Here is what is in my self care tool bx to help make self-care convenient

I have read 100’s of blog posts about self care – ways to care, checklists, why it’s important; and so many other great benefits about having self-care built into your schedule. But I know I am not the only one who finds it difficult to fit it into my day! As a counselor I was told constantly in my classes to practice good self-care.

I am constantly on the go, running from one place to another and so often caring for other people. This makes making self-care a priority hard for me. That is until I really saw how run down I had become; I was exhausted, irritable (just ask my husband), and ineffective at helping other people. But life is so busy, it doesn’t slow down just because you are exhausted. The key to making self-care a part of my routine was to make it convenient, take all my excuses away! So I created a self-care “tool box” Today I thought I would share what is in my tool box and why!

Nail polish & accessories –

Who doesn’t feel better after a mani/pedi. But being a student and a babysitter doesn’t pay enough to routinely get them done. So I decided to keep them neatly done myself, Essie nail polish is my favorite, and lasts the longest. Doing my nails myself is calming and relaxing for me. Plus, I feel so much more confident and pretty when my nails are done.

Coloring book & pencils –

Adult coloring books, like this one Adult Coloring Book: Stress Relieving Animal Designs, are everywhere right now. Focusing on the colors and shapes can calm down emotions and physiological reactions to stress and anxiety. Coloring can help regain mental clarity when you are upset or overwhelmed.


Journal & pens –

Being able to get your feelings and emotions down on paper can relieve tension in the body. The physical release is beneficial because there are no more pent up feelings waiting to burst out.

My favorite music –

You know that feeling on a beautiful day driving around with the windows down, blaring your favorite song, singing at the top of your lungs? Its great isn’t it! Well not every day can be beautiful, but put on your favorite song and just belt our frustrations away!

Tissues –

It is ok to cry, healthy even. So if you’re mad, sad, exhausted, hurt or just need a good cry, just let it out! That is what tissues are for!

Some chocolate –

Chocolate after a good cry can feel so rejuvenating and help bring you back together. Now I am not advocating eating your feelings away, but chocolate has endorphins in it, and endorphins are a natural chemical in your body that helps create feelings of happiness. It can be a way to boost your spirits.

My phone –

Talking to my mom, dad, husband, or best friends can help me when I am feeling rundown. It helps remember I am not alone. Just because it is self-care doesn’t mean it can’t involve others. As long as it is boosting yourself!

Some bubble bath (or other spa like things) –

Again like getting your nails done, we can’t always make it (or afford) to go to the spa. But a home spa night can be relaxing too. Set up some candles, fill the tub, some quiet music, maybe a glass or wine or some chocolate, and a good book can relax the mind and the body. So get that lavender vanilla bubble bath and feel the stress melt away.

A good book –

Maybe it’s one you’ve read before, or a brand new book, but loosing yourself in a good book can do wonders. Reading lets you move out of yourself and open your imagination. Freeing your imagination can help you find new solutions to your every day stresses.

Doing something just for me –

Now this one might not fit in a box, but I love to craft, scrapbook or work on a DI project I have had pinned for ages. I love getting out my pictures and crafting supplies and just working. It makes me feel productive and satisfied with my results. In the past one of the things I have done just for me is to take an hour out of my week to spend with a counselor. This has helped in so many ways process different things that happened like loneliness from my hubby moving away shortly after the wedding.

So these are my top 10 items in my self-care tool box. The idea is to keep everything together in one little box or bin so that it can be handy. Maybe you have a few minutes and so you pull out the journal or coloring book for a 15-minute mental break. However, you do it is up to you, because remember it is your self-care. Now take a lesson from me, and don’t wait till you are run down and exhausted to start taking part in self-care, do it now and do it often to help stay on top of your game! I promise it can make a huge difference in your outlook on life!

If you want to read more about self care see my guest post on reducing anxiety. Have a child that suffers from anxiety check out my post for reducing anxiety in children here.

What are some of your self-care go to’s?

Self-care is important, but often overlooked due to our demanding schedules at work and at home. Here are the contents of my self-care tool box that I use to make self-care convenient so I am more likely to use them.

*This post contains affiliates lant

10 Ways to Help Anxious Children Calm Down

10 ways to reduce anxiety in kids pinnable image

As much as we adults get stressed out, so do our children! And military life provides lots of opportunities to create anxiety in our children- deployments, field time, training, frequent moves, changing schools, and constant fluctuation of friends. Or things such as adding new children to the family that many families face. As their parents, teachers, babysitters, or other family members we need to be prepared to help them calm down and relax when they are stressed and anxious.

Here are my top 10 tips for helping calm down when they are feeling stressed and anxious!

 

  • Blow Bubbles! Having a little kid sit there and just take deep breaths in and out can be hard, as most parents know! But blowing bubbles is so fun and cane help the child visualize the deep breaths by watching the bubbles.

  • We’ve all seen the pretty calm down jars like these ones! Watching the glitter move through the jar can still the child, which can have a calming effect, especially if the child is visually oriented in other tasks, such as learning.
  • Give them a big hug! Wrap your baby up and hold them tight. Knowing they are secure and safe in your arms can relieve a lot of anxiety for little ones.
  • Pop some bubble wrap. This is great for children who are kinesthetically oriented. Having something active, constructive, and nondestructive can help relieve anxiety. Doing something with your hands can help swap the mind from the emotionally over-charged center of the brain to the calmer logical part.
  • Coloring. We have all seen that adult coloring books are all the rage right now for decreasing anxiety, well if it works for us then it works for the little ones too! Sit down with them and spend some time coloring together. Maybe put some soothing music on in the background for an extra effect.
  • Put on their favorite Disney Jam and sing it out with them! Singing out loud has been shown to release endorphins, which lifts the mood! So have a dance party while you’re at it and shake those worries away!
  • Put the kiddos in a nice warm bubble bath and have them splash and play their worries away! What momma isn’t relaxed by a nice warm lavender vanilla bubble bath! This means what works for us, typically works for them. If you have more than one, and bath time is normally full of conflict, maybe bathe them one at a time tonight!
  • Got play-dough in the craft room? Give some to your kid and let them squish it between their fingers, roll it around. Playing with something in their hands can be a grounding effect. For people who suffer from panic or severe anxiety one of the most suggested ways to ground oneself is find things you can see, smell, touch, hear, taste. Squishy play-dough is something to feel.
  • Get some exercise in! Go for a bike ride, play tag, jump rope, just get outside and run around. Exercise in any form can release endorphins to have a calming effect.
  • If you notice that your kid still suffers from anxiety and have tried a variety of calming methods perhaps it is time to look into counseling. One of the main modes of therapy for kids is play therapy and incorporating expressive art therapy. Both of these modalities is helpful for children who struggle to express their feelings verbally or who express most feelings physically, in a more negative manner as it allows them to express their feelings in any form in a safe, contained area.

I hope you find these methods helpful in your household! I know the struggles of living with children with anxiety, as it often feeds our own anxiety which feeds theirs and we end up in a never ending cycle. These methods have been shown to break the cycle! If we can calm our children down it will reduce our own anxiety as well.

Military parents, we know how stressful military life though for our kids! Between deployments, PCSs and mom/dad coming and going, friends PCSing our kids are placed under so much stress! If you looking for great ways to help lead your children through these transitions hop over to my Military Parenting Page and check out my program coming soon: Parenting Coaching Designed specifically for Military Parents to address the unique concerns that we face with our children. Take a moment and sign up for updates and receive a FREE GIFT: Behavior Chart & an Easy How to Guide for Promoting Positive Behavior in our children.



What are the best methods you have found to help reduce anxiety and stress in your kiddos?

10 ways to reduce anxiety in kids

*This post contains affiliate links

Wellness Challenge Part 2: 15 Healthy Coping Skills to try this Year

15 Healthy Coping Skills

So who is ready for part 2 of the Wellness Challenge! This week I wanted to focus on mental health and take it a step further into mental wellness. As a trained marriage and family counselor, this is my area of expertise, helping people learn how to cope with their circumstances in ways which will help them overcome and grow rather than avoid or be manipulated by their circumstances. While mental illness is definitely a big deal (it is a subject for another time because it is so important it deserves its own space), we don’t want to just avoid mental illness, we also want to thrive, and that is mental wellness. This is a preventative measure against developing mental illness.

For those struggling with anxiety and depression, many of these unhealthy coping mechanisms may look familiar to you, but it is definitely possible to incorporate the healthy coping mechanisms I listed below as well!  So that is why my week two goal is to continue to incorporate these Healthy coping strategies into my everyday life. And you should too, because mental wellness is affected and effects every part of your life. As we saw last week, it affects your relationships, especially your marriage; it affects work, parenting, it even affects your physical health.

I recently read a blog post, 15 Unhealthy Coping Skills,  written by Jackie over at Laughter & Loving Life. And it got me thinking there are so many unhealthy coping skills that we all engage in on a daily basis. I have seen so many unhealthy coping skills in my experience as a family counselor, used by both children and adults. But what I have noticed is that no matter what strategy they used, the point to these unhealthy coping skills was to avoid the problem and having to deal with it. Here are the 15 unhealthy coping skills Jackie came up with:

Unhealthy Coping Skills

  1. Leave without warning
  2. Fighting & negative comebacks
  3. Defensiveness
  4. Flight-mentally
  5. Sleeping away the problem
  6. Passive-aggressive behavior (ultimatums)
  7. Negative body language: crossed arms, rolled eyes, crossed and closed off legs and arms
  8. Not listening but jumping in waiting to talk
  9. Avoiding eye contact
  10. Over-eating
  11. Under-eating
  12. Lack of sleep
  13. Letting go of reality
  14. Lack of proper hygiene
  15. Lack of communication

If we always use unhealthy coping mechanisms, we will never feel as though we have overcome the situation that is causing the stress in the first place. In fact, it will probably cause more issues and we will continue the cycle of unhealthy coping by avoiding those extra issues by using the same unhealthy patterns. It may temporarily make us feel better, but in the long run we have solved nothing, but avoiding a problem. And until the problem is solved, we will continue to be plagued by the circumstances we are actively avoiding. That is not a way to live well; which is something we should all be striving for!

So from a family counselor here are 15 Healthy counter coping strategies to try out instead of the ones above. I have compiled this list from talking to clients about what works for them in difficult situations and other suggestions that other counselors often give their own clients, as well as things that have worked for me in the past.

Healthy Coping Skills

  1. Stay present in the moment, take in as much information as you an – it might help later
  2. Maintain a positive attitude – being negative has never solved anyone’s problems; positivity breed creativity for ways out of the issue
  3. At least try to identify the role you play in the situation – and share it if you can
  4. Maintain healthy sleep hygiene – only stay in bed to sleep, make your bedroom a safe haven
  5. Be confrontational (this is not a negative) if necessary, this simply means pointing out discrepant facts
  6. Be an active listener – engage in the Speaker-Listening technique 
  7. Eat Healthy – fruits, vegetables, protein, healthy carbs, avoid sugars and alcohol
  8. Exercise – even if it’s just a little bit, every small amount helps
  9. Talk to somebody, but don’t just bash the stressor (especially if it’s a person), but talk about your feelings about the situation
  10. Shower, brush your teeth, brush your hair, put some clothes on (other than yoga pants)
  11. Make a pro-con list, weigh the options of the whatever decisions might need to be made – don’t avoid them
  12. Take some time for self-care – pamper yourself a bit, go get a mani/pedi or do one yourself or whatever makes you feel good
  13. Check out for a bit, but don’t let it be for too long – checking out can be helpful in extreme stress situations, but maintaining that position is just avoidant
  14.  Seek support, don’t isolate yourself
  15. Relax, take a deep breath, practice any sort of relaxation technique that works for you: deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, etc.

So there you have it, 15 healthy coping mechanisms that I would recommend to any of my clients. Not all coping skills will work for everyone in all situations, but I am sure there is at least one or two that can be used in any situation by any person. With the New Year just starting, here is my challenge to you, try to replace one of your unhealthy coping skills with one of the healthy choices from the 2nd list. Try it out and see if it helps!

Let me know if it does or doesn’t and why it did or didn’t work for you! But it is my suspicion that while it may be more uncomfortable in the moment, it will help you solve the issue more quickly which will remove an even bigger discomfort! So choose emotional health this New Year! And don’t just settle for the absense of mental illness or lessened severity of mental illness, strive for mental health and above that mental wellness, and just maybe you’ll find yourself growing in the year 20171

So your challenge this week: pick 2 to 3 unhealthy coping mechanisms and try to replace them with 1 or 2 Healthy Coping Mechanisms. Try it for a week and see if it makes a difference for you! For more detailed tips see my Guest Post for the Military Wife & Mom on how Military Spouses can Reduce Anxiety in Times of High Stress
​What are your go to coping mechanisms?

Stress can be hard to deal with, but with these 15 Healthy Coping skills you can grow from your challenges!

Check out Week 1 and Week 3 here!

Where Anxiety Comes from & Why it Won’t go Away

Where does Anxiety Come from & How we can make it go awat

We always think, once that test I over, once my husband gets home from deployment, TDY, the field; my kid grows out of this phase then I won’t be anxious any more. As soon as that event ends and we think we can relax. We just find something else to be anxious about. Why can’t we just relax? Well I will tell you.

The reason we have so much anxiety in our lives is because the society we live in perpetuates it. Just watch any TV commercial it will tell you all about the products you are missing out on and that you just have to have, and you will see that it is breeding grounds for feeling like we are missing out. We are constantly comparing our lives to everyone around us, who we assume always has everything perfectly together. And we suddenly feel very inadequate. Sure, come January first and we are making our new year’s resolution we will vow not to compare ourselves to other, but January 2nd rolls around and we go to a friend’s house and their house is already un-decorated, put away and cleaned. And we go home to our house filled with boxes of unfinished, unorganized Christmas decorations and we fall back into the trap.

So what can we do about this vicious cycle? Because we are imperfect people, we will never rid our lives of anxiety fully, but if we recognize the cycle and can identify it in our own lives then we can get one step closer to living peacefully alongside our anxiety. Wait what did you just say you might ask? Living peacefully alongside anxiety? That sounds like an oxymoron. In some ways maybe. There is always going to be a new product out. Our friends will always be doing something different from us. We are always going to have that anxiety in our lives; and that’s ok. It is how we respond to our anxiety that determines whether or not we live peacefully.

Often we think we are in the wrong for feeling anxious, because everyone hides their anxiety from everyone else; trying to pretend it doesn’t exist. By acknowledging it we gain power of it, we are no longer acting out of anxious reactivity we can choose how we respond to the anxiety. Reactivity to anxiety is what keeps us in the falsehood of as soon as the circumstances change our anxiety will lift; keeps us constantly purchasing the next “it” item of clothing, make-up, toy for our child; it’s what keeps us constantly looking for something else to satisfy our void. Reactivity will never make our anxiety go away it will just shift the focus of our anxiety. Recognizing our anxiety, operating knowing that we have control over it means freedom.

We own our anxiety by recognizing that its present and choosing to act despite it. It is the push to try something new, dare to be different, and own and accept your life for what it is and what God has given to you. Way easier said than done I agree; however, with prayer, patience, and knowing we aren’t always going to get it right we can live peacefully alongside our anxiety instead of imprisoned by its constraints.

After we recognize our anxiety what are we supposed to do about it? Here is where our coping skills come into play. Below I have linked to another post all about coping skills. I wanted to talk about one in particular that seems to be helpful for just about everybody. And that is talking to someone! A lot of us have someone we can trust that we can turn to. But sometimes that person may be gone thanks to Military Life. If you are looking for someone to talk to and don’t know where to turn, Better Help has some great suggestions.

Here are some more handy coping skills when you’re struggling with anxiety!

We all face some anxiety, some of us more than others. But despite our levels of anxiety if we don;t know how to address it we can never learn how to live with our anxiety.