Anxiety, stress and fear affect all of us in some way or another. Almost everyone today either knows someone who suffers from an anxiety disorder or has the disorder themselves. It didn’t seem that common to me until a few years ago. I was actually surprised to read that approximately 40 million adults in the United States ages 18-54 suffer from anxiety.
Even with that many people suffering there seems to be a bit of a stigma around anxiety. It’s not a topic you just hear people talking about freely – the sufferers are embarrassed and the non-suffers look at it as an ‘it’s all in your head’ kind of disorder. Until you’ve suffered the true effects of anxiety you have no idea how helpless and scared you feel.
I was a born a ‘glass is half-full’ kind of person. I typically have positive thoughts and am known for looking on the bright side but when my business grew by leaps and bounds a few years ago I started feeling anxious. Suddenly I realized that the more you have the more you have to lose. More clients meant making more people happy, more employees meant more people’s lively hoods I felt responsible for and for a brief moment I started feeling overwhelmed, stressed and fearful of my own success.
Having watched friends and family suffer from anxiety I knew that I needed to take immediate action. I needed to clear my head, narrow my focus and try to stop the anxiety from creeping in. That is when I turned to mindfulness.
According to the dictionary mindfulness means a mental state achieved by focusing one's awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one's feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique. For me mindfulness means achieving a positive outlook on life, casting out fear and replacing it with strength and confidence. The great thing about mindfulness is it can become what you want it to become. You don’t have to fit it into a cookie cutter definition of what someone else wants it to be. It can become what you want it to be.
If you feel run ragged, stressed, tired of your job, exhausted by your kids, or even anxious or depressed mindfulness can help in renewing your sense of purpose, it will increase your energy and motivation, and decrease your stress.
In order to practice mindfulness all you need to do is sit in a quiet comfortable place for just a few minutes each day. You need to close your eyes and concentrate on your breathing, your surroundings, the smells and the sounds. Let all of your muscles relax and just breathe. In and out. Let all of your worries wash away and in that moment just be you – the real you. Not the you everyone else wants you to be – just be you.
Research suggests that practicing mindfulness and meditation decreases anxiety and stress levels as well as can transform personality traits. You can become more positive and obtain a happier disposition as meditation does transform the neurons in your brain. The good news is you don’t need to mediate for years to start reaping the benefits, one study showed brain transformations after just 8 weeks of meditation. For me I honestly felt like I was feeling results immediately! I was calmer, more focused, more positive and was able to push the fear and anxiety right out the window.
Although this sounds super easy, some people find meditation hard to do. Why? Because even as adults some of us can’t sit still. Start with one minute and then increase your time a little bit each day. Set a timer so that you don’t have to worry about how much time is passing. Just concentrate on your thoughts – positive thoughts and your timer will beep at you when your time is up.
One minute may not sound like much but the first time I tried it I set the timer for one minute and was surprised at how long it felt. I now try to fit in 10-15 minutes Monday thru Friday.
I honestly wish I had stumbled across mindfulness when my children were younger because I really could’ve used it back then, too!
Whether you are looking to achieve success or looking for inner peace, mindfulness offers a lot of benefits. The great news is it’s something you can start today!
Danae Branson is the Co-Founder of Elite Virtual Assistants, a virtual assistant company that matches VAs with coaches, authors, speakers, creative entrepreneurs and savvy business professionals. She loves to spend time with her husband and three children soaking up the very few rays of sunshine they get in Minnesota. Danae’s hobbies include reading magazines, paddle boarding and race walking, okay maybe not race walking but she does like to walk.