Practicing Mindfulness to Manage Anxiety

June 02, 2020

Practicing Mindfulness to Manage Anxiety

Now, more than ever before, it is important for us to come together as a community (while practicing social distancing, of course!) and support one another. As individuals and families experience increasing levels of stress and anxiety in the face of Covid-19, JF&CS clinician, Julie Zeff, offers some mindfulness exercises to help us embrace the uncertainty and “messy” moments of the current climate.

Julie Zeff
Julie Zeff

Julie is new to JF&CS, but has been a social worker and virtual life coach for the past 15 years, conducting group and individual therapy over the phone. This experience puts her in a unique position to provide remote support. She is also trained in yoga, and weaves mindfulness and body awareness into her therapy work.

According to Julie, the most important thing to remember right now is that these are unprecedented times and to “give ourselves permission…to feel messy and for this to be messy”. She says that, especially during this time, people have a tendency to feel a lot of “shoulds” and “musts” that tell us that we’re not doing things right or we’re not being productive enough. She recommends giving yourself full permission to be who and where you are and embracing all the moments, both messy and productive. Noting the difficulty of embracing the discomfort and unknown of the current situation, she urges people to reach out to friends and loved ones, emphasizing that we are all in this together.

When asked for the best ways to reduce anxiety during this time, she emphasized that the first step is simply noticing what we’re experiencing. Our minds and bodies are connected, so our thoughts are often coupled with a physiological response. By recognizing the sensations that appear when we’re feeling anxious, we can take the first step towards reducing anxiety.

Symptoms can manifest as tightness in your chest, butterflies in your stomach, nausea, and more. Once we realize that we are experiencing anxiety, we can actually do something about it. Julie recommends repeating a phrase or mantra that reaffirms that we are here and safe in the present moment.

She also suggests taking several moments to focus on the breath and physical sensations to center yourself. While none of us can predict the future, reminding ourselves that we are okay in the present moment can help calm our anxiety. By taking life “10 seconds at a time” and staying mindful in the present, we avoid worrying about the past or future, Julie advises. She also suggests finding an outlet, such as writing, to unload stress, rather than pushing it away, as “what we resist, persists”. While we may try to push thoughts away or distract ourselves, anxiety often resurfaces, so it can be helpful to determine how best to be with it, to shift it. Sometimes, simply talking to someone, whether it be a family member, friend, or a clinician at JF&CS, is often quite therapeutic. By making a small change, you create a ripple effect that can lead to personal growth and self-acceptance.

If you are feeling anxious, depressed, or having a difficult time, please call 770-677-9474 to schedule a telehealth appointment with a caring JF&CS clinician. We are here to help.