If you have ever wrestled with anxiety or depression, you know that it can feel overwhelming and all-encompassing. It is hard not to give our thoughts and worries control of our lives. The good news is that we don’t have to. Paul, one of the first pastors in Jesus’ movement tells us,
“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7
If we want to attack the anxiety within or around us, we must first center ourselves on reality. Anxiety can exaggerate our fear and toy with our thoughts. So how can we deploy some tools and strategies that help us renew our minds and bodies?
Mindfulness Exercises for Anxiety and Depression
Meditation is a powerful way to attack symptoms of anxiety or depression. Grounding, a form of meditation, is a self-soothing skill that helps keep you in the present. It reorients you to the here-and-now when you're in a spiral.
The next time you feel the overpowering effects of anxiety, try this grounding exercise, using the acronym RAIN, to help you feel calm and quiet your thoughts:
Set the image in your mind. You are standing in the rain, feeling the water bead down your body. As you get present, work through each letter. Begin with taking a deep breath in, and out as you move from one letter to the next.
R: Recognize your thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations.
Slowly take in your surroundings. Name your feelings out loud or silently to yourself. Allow yourself to feel at ease in the present moment.
A: Allow your thoughts, feelings, and sensations come and go as they are.
Let go of any judgment—it is okay to feel however you are feeling. You may tell yourself, “This is how it is right now.”
I: Investigate what you’re thinking and feeling.
What words are going through your mind? How are you experiencing these feelings in your body? Where do you think your feelings are coming from?
N: Nurture yourself with compassion.
Be patient with yourself as you process your emotions and thoughts and use kind self-talk.
The best part about this exercise is that it only takes a few minutes, and you can do it anywhere! You can come back to this mindfulness exercise whenever you start to sense your worries getting out of control, or you can make it part of your daily routine to check in with yourself.
The 54321 Method
Another simple meditation you can use to re-center yourself is the 54321 grounding exercise. This grounding exercise uses each of your 5 senses to bring your awareness back to the present and calm a racing mind. It’s simple to do and you can try it out anywhere:
Focus on 5 things you can see.
You can probably name way more than 5 things in your line of sight, but focus in on only 5. What shape and color are they? How big or small are they? Are they close to you or far away?
Focus on 4 things you can touch.
You might notice the texture of your shirt or the temperature of your water bottle. What do you feel when you touch each of the 4 things? Are they soft or rough? Are they bendable or rigid? Do they feel cool or warm to the touch?
Focus on 3 things you can hear.
When you’re in the midst of an anxiety attack, sounds may be overwhelming or overstimulating at first. You may find it helpful to try to listen for the quieter, more soothing sounds happening in the background as opposed to the loudest and most blaring ones.
Focus on 2 things you can smell.
Smell has incredibly strong ties to feelings and memories. You can smell something nearby like your hair or the shirt you’re wearing, or you can take this opportunity to put on lotion or light a candle for another scent to focus on. Notice if there are any other scents that you didn’t notice at first, like the smells of someone cooking.
Focus on 1 thing you can taste.
Start chewing on a piece of gum or take a sip of your drink if you have one. You can even make observations about what the inside of your mouth tastes like.
The 54321 Method is a quick and simple way to distract your mind and bring your thoughts back to the present moment. While it’s most often recommended for significant anxiety symptoms and panic attacks, this can also come in handy if you’re feeling stressed or having trouble concentrating. It can even help you slow down and take in what’s around you when you’re laying in bed or taking a walk.
When we change our thinking, we change our lives. However, the journey to overcome our anxious thoughts takes time and patience. We’d love to share some additional resources for your mental health journey:
Does Mental Illness Make You a Bad Christian?
Who Do I Talk to About Anxiety?
My Depression is Getting Worse...Now What?
Or, let us know if you’d like us to connect you with a pastor or counselor.
LCBC stands for Lives Changed By Christ. We are one church in multiple locations across Pennsylvania. Find the location closest to you or join us for Church Online. We can’t wait to connect with you!