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How to Calm Anxiety with Mindfulness

Updated: Dec 30, 2023

As someone who has struggled with managing anxiety due to severe trauma, dissociation disorder, and chronic PTSD, I know firsthand how challenging it can be to find effective coping mechanisms.


When my healing journey began ten years ago and I realized that I am not just a defective person but a wounded soul, mindfulness was one of the first tools I learned to begin to truly heal from my trauma and healthily manage my anxiety.


In this article, I'll share some of the mindfulness techniques that have helped me on my journey of healing and offer practical tips on how to calm anxiety with simple mindfulness techniques.

A person meditating looking calm and serene. The image portrays the inner peace that can be achieved by practicing mindfulness.
There are many practical ways how to calm anxiety with mindfulness.

Body Awareness: A Grounding Practice to Calm Anxiety


When carrying a lot of trauma, the body may often feel like more of an enemy than a home for the soul. Dissociating from the body has been a useful survival mechanism in the past when the actual traumatic things happened, but when trying to heal, you must be present in the body and accept the negative emotions you carry there.


I have spent quite some time mapping the different kinds of emotions in the body. Anxiety is a bit tricky because what I have learned is that it isn’t an actual emotion in itself, but a form of resistance to some other emotion, like fear, shame, or anger.


But when practicing body awareness, it doesn’t matter that much which emotion is at the bottom. The important thing is to locate it and feel it in the body.


I usually feel anxiety in my solar plexus, chest, and throat area. The sensation is kind of a compressing, suffocating feeling accompanied by nausea and a fast heartbeat. I may get cold feet and hands and have cold sweats.


When I have located the feeling of anxiety, I just sit down and feel it. Often I also describe it to myself as I did above, without judgment. If it starts to feel too tense, I may distract myself from it and try again later. There’s no point in torturing yourself, even 10 seconds at a time of acknowledging the feeling promotes the healing process.


Consciously understanding intense emotions within the body forms a pivotal part of learning how to calm anxiety and recover from trauma, but it can be quite scary at first.


I usually comfort myself by telling myself that the feeling has already been as it is now, I just haven’t noticed it, and that it hasn’t killed me before, and it won’t do it now. And yes, I am still alive writing this even though there’s some intense stuff living in my body!


Breathing Your Way to Calm: Anxiety Relief through Breath Awareness


Breath awareness is something that every mindfulness and yoga course tells you to practice. While it can be helpful, for a traumatized person that isn’t always the case. This is just a disclaimer if you have tried this and blame yourself that it doesn’t work. No, there is nothing wrong with you. You are wounded, and this might not just be the way to heal your specific wounds.


Having said that, breath awareness CAN be helpful and soothing. When we get anxious, we usually start breathing more quickly and shallowly, which only fuels the anxiety.


Becoming mindful of your breath can calm the breathing down without any effort, which calms the whole body down.


If you want to be a little more proactive, you can start consciously breathing slower and deeper, making the exhale a little longer than the inhale, which soothes the nervous system. I usually count to 4 at inhale and to 6 or 8 at exhale.


Remember that your needs are unique and mindfulness is about finding what works for you. Don't be discouraged if breath awareness doesn't work for you - there are many other mindfulness techniques to explore that best support your healing and anxiety management journey.

A person calming their anxiety by practicing mindful breath awareness.
Breath awareness is a powerful mindfulness tool for calming anxiety.

Calming Anxiety Through Thought Awareness


Anxiety-generated thoughts are no fun and are the key thing that keeps the anxiety alive and growing. Noticing what you are thinking and realizing that the thoughts are not true may relieve the anxiety significantly.


At some point in my life, I had no chance of seeing anything I was thinking when my anxiety arose: the thoughts became my reality, and I was just fully immersed in them.


After some time of meditation practice, I became more able to distinguish fearful, anxious thoughts from reality and question their truthfulness.


The most useful way for many is, of course, to say their thoughts aloud to someone trusted. But, for example, in my case, I was too ashamed to tell anyone what I was thinking. So, I began to tell the thoughts I could catch to myself aloud (or silently in my head if I wasn’t alone).


Writing them down can be even better; it is a way to get them out of your head onto paper and see them in front of you. Usually, this is enough to get some sense of their untruthfulness, which immediately helps you to calm down.

In the picture there is a woman with checkered shirt writing something down in a red journal.
Writing or drawing down your thoughts may reveal the root causes of your anxiety.

Take Some Time to Find the best ways for You to Calm Your Anxiety


Integrating mindfulness into your daily life can be a potent resource for calming anxiety and recovering from trauma. By increasing your awareness of your body, breath, and thoughts, you can cultivate the ability to acknowledge and manage your emotions better.


Healing is a journey, and it takes time and practice to develop a mindfulness practice that works for you. We all have our individual journeys and our own preferences on how to calm our anxiety. Be patient and compassionate with yourself ❤️.


Through dedication and perseverance, it is possible to develop a more mindful and peaceful life, focusing on one breath at a time.


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