Mindfulness Exercises For Anxiety Are The Best Thing You Can Do in 2022

I have given myself an impossible task. I wanted to explain why mindfulness is the most important skill to learn in 2022 at the precise moment when I have no desire to practice it.

Omicron upset, disappointed and worried me. Days before Christmas, a loved one and their young, high-risk family tested positive for COVID. Separately, another loved one, despite good intentions, exposed himself to significant COVID risk just as Omicron began to spread rapidly across the country. The domino effect of this potential exhibition turned my Christmas plans and those of many others upside down.

For me, anger and uncertainty release both adrenaline and motivation. I have to function to the best of my problem-solving ability, trying to anticipate what the future holds. I help my loved ones get tested, scramble to find housing where they can isolate themselves and talk about their worrying symptoms. Fortunately, they are mostly vaccinated and boosted, but the highly contagious variant that eludes the immune system presents new questions about its effect on vulnerable children and the elderly to which I have no answers.

To be honest, I had a sip of whiskey when I first put the stakes down. Then I took action. It wasn’t until later that I stopped to sit down and recognize the intense emotions, without pushing them away or letting them panic more. This act of being fully present, coupled with self-compassion for the pain I have felt, is mindfulness. Mindfulness expert Jon Kabat-Zinn It also defines it as a consciousness that arises by paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, without passing judgment.

When I practice mindfulness effectively, I am not in the past wishing someone had chosen a different path, and I do not imagine a future with devastating consequences. Instead, I am in the moment, using self-compassion and radical acceptance recognize how I feel and be kind to myself.

I’m sharing this experience because I suspect it looks familiar or will become common in 2022, thanks to Omicron. The most difficult season of the post-vaccination pandemic may be upon us, and the uncertainty will be push many of us into a spiral of anxiety. If that were not enough, the coming year will bring new but expected crises, such as extreme weather conditions linked to climate change, and others that we have not yet anticipated. Either way, social media algorithms will amplify our greatest fears and suspicions, pumping out users full of rage and cynicism, like late capitalism demands that we sacrifice everything for work while neglecting to meet people’s basic needs. It is not a culture naturally inclined to mindfulness. Instead, it can make us reactive, numb, and even more likely to worry about the disaster than we already are as humans.

This makes mindfulness the most important skill to cultivate. It deepens our ability to deal with anxiety and other difficult emotions by gently interrupting runaway thoughts and feelings. When practiced in tandem with self-compassion and radical acceptance, it opens the heart and mind in remarkable ways. We see the possibility instead of the fear. We feel connected instead of lonely.

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Mindfulness can seem elusive when the goal is mistakenly seen as perfection. Rather, it is the act of starting over – and over and over again – when an impulse, thought, or feeling pulls us into the past or the future. Some people use the breath as a physiological attachment to the present, especially when meditating. Rhythmic breathing calms the nervous system and makes it easier to focus on what is under our control. But mindfulness doesn’t require breathing or meditation. Mindfulness can be practiced through activities such as walking, washing dishes, gardening, exercising, playing or driving. When a thought, good or bad, bursts in, mindfulness means observing it with curiosity and openness, then returning to the present moment, where we notice the musty smell of leaves in winter or how the horizon meets Highway.

It’s easy to believe that we are able to tame the anxiety that arises from uncertainty thanks to the pandemic. But this can be a false assumption. Dr. Jack Nitschke, clinical psychologist and associate professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin, told me that exposure to unpredictability doesn’t necessarily improve our coping skills. “In fact, I don’t think people tolerate uncertainty better just because there is a lot of it,” he said.

“In fact, I don’t think people tolerate uncertainty better just because there is a lot of it.”

Instead, when we remain guided by fear and anxiety, our malleable brains develop neurocircuits to support these thought patterns and feelings. Anxious thinking becomes a track we subconsciously return to over and over again because the brain has developed neural connections to support this habit. Nitschke thinks we can also do the opposite. When we take a break, come back to the present moment, and interrupt a cycle of worried thoughts, the brain develops new associations. The more we practice mindfulness, the more the brain learns to lean into it. Something will inevitably blow up this relative calm, like bad news, but we are still able to strengthen our brain connections for mindfulness. Over time, returning to the present, even in times of crisis, becomes easier.

It may be more difficult for some than for others. While Nitschke believes anyone can take advantage of brain plasticity to adopt effective ways to cope with the pandemic and uncertainty, those with a history of trauma or mental illness may think it is more. difficult to interrupt their dominant thought patterns. Likewise, a person who suffers disproportionately from injustice, trauma, and economic hardship may experience mindfulness as one sandbag in a downpour.

“There are a number of concrete, institutional, environmental and community factors that contribute in very tangible ways to the psychological distress these people experience,” Dr. Inger Burnett-Zeigler, clinical psychologist and associate professor of psychiatry and human sciences. behavior at Northwestern University, told me.

Burnett-Zeigler believes mindfulness is one way to combat this stress and has studied related interventions in low-income communities of color, particularly in black women who have suffered from depression and trauma. In one pilot study in South Chicago, Burnett-Zeigler taught participants techniques such as body scanning, sitting meditation, yoga, detecting pleasant and unpleasant events, and conscious communication. Most women reported better anger management, increased awareness, a feeling of calm and relaxation, and better control over their thoughts, emotions and behaviors. Most also experienced a decrease in trauma symptoms, but a small number reported more severe trauma symptoms. Burnett-Zeigler suspects that these participants so powerfully (and understandably) used avoidance and denial to deal with their trauma that mindfulness brought painful feelings to the surface instead of allaying them.

Burnett-Zeigler remains convinced that the skills encompassed by mindfulness – awareness, stillness, self-compassion and stress regulation – are valuable tools for everyone. And yet, people with trauma may need additional resources tailored to their experience, such as yoga classes in which participants are not asked to close their eyes and the lights stay on. This is no small caveat in a time of severe grief and trauma, especially in communities of color that experience racial injustice and have also been hit hard by COVID.

It’s also clear that the burden we carry – some of us carrying much heavier loads than others – isn’t going to get any lighter anytime soon. When considering a skill to be learned in 2022, whether for adventure, self-improvement, or satisfaction, consider mindfulness a challenge worthy of the name. Education is everywhere, including in books, podcasts, online course, and applications. There is no competition, judgment or failure; just the ever-present chance of finding calm in the midst of relentless uncertainty.


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