Anxiety and fear, in their most basic forms, are intended to be helpful processes that positively contribute to your intelligence, creativity, performance, and even survival. These emotions serve evolutionary and functionally adaptive purposes, such as building mastery in developing skills, initiating social connections with others, and avoiding harm. Yet in modern society, anxiety is an all-too-common negative emotional experience that can lead you to think, feel, and act in ways that cause personal distress or even impairment to your everyday life. When this happens, your anxiety may feel as if it is running your life, rather than you controlling it!
Managing your anxiety requires, of course, motivation and effort, but it also takes skill. One way to approach the management of your anxiety is through an integrated model of mindfulness and emotion regulation, which helps you reduce and manage your day-to-day symptoms. Mindfulness fosters a focus on the present moment and has been consistently associated with lower rates of anxiety and overall greater well-being. In fact, research has shown that treatments for anxiety that incorporate mindfulness practice help people combat their anxiety. Mindfulness works, in part, because of its ability to promote emotion regulation, which refers to the use of specific strategies—such as accepting and developing awareness of your emotions, or reinterpreting the meaning of a thought or behavior that causes a particular anxiety-provoking emotion—that modulate your emotions to enable you to accomplish your desired goals.
If you are curious how mindfulness and emotion regulation can help you with your anxiety, our book, Don’t Let Your Anxiety Run Your Life, will teach you how and when to pay attention to your anxiety, how to react with less intensity to your anxious emotions, and what to do when you feel as if you are overwhelmed by anxiety. We also teach you how to avoid thinking in negative ways so as not to exacerbate or foster excessive anxiety. If you’d like to learn more, try out one of the exercises from the chapter on learning to be more flexible with your emotions:
“Take a moment to identify two or three current fears, worries, or stressors. Now, try your best to reframe each situation by identifying a positive or neutral aspect of the situation. For example, if you recently had an argument with a family member, instead of dwelling on the content of the argument, use this as an opportunity to identify ways to improve your communication or think about how to avoid such an argument in the future. If it’s difficult to reappraise a particular event or situation, imagine how you might view your current anxiety a year from now, or think of how things might be worse (for example, times may be tough, but you likely aren’t going hungry, you have a roof over your head, and you have access to health care). This should give you some distance from your current problems, allowing your perspective to shift.”