Feeling anxious these days? You’re not alone. Recent surveys have found Americans are increasingly feeling worried, anxious or stressed as we continue to face the effects of COVID-19. These feelings can take a toll on physical health, as prolonged stress and anxiety can lead to cardiovascular disease, gastrointestinal disorders and a weakened immune system.
If you’re feeling heightened stress or anxiety, there are strategies that you can incorporate into your self-care routine to cope. One method is mindfulness, which means to pay attention on purpose and be fully in the present moment.
Studies, including one conducted by Johns Hopkins University researchers and published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, have shown that practicing mindfulness can ease anxiety, depression and pain; increase a person’s ability to focus; and improve memory.
Mindfulness is achieved by practicing meditation. If you’re ready to try, here’s how you can start.
First, sit comfortably on a cushion or chair in a quiet room. Keep your phone or any distractions outside. Your body should feel relaxed, not tense. Next, close your eyes and take several deep, steady breaths. Focus your attention on your breathing and how your body feels. As your mind wanders, allow the thoughts to pass and bring your attention back to your breathing. Aim to practice this mindfulness for five minutes per day, working your way up to 10 minutes or longer with time.
If you need help, there are various apps that offer guided meditation.
Like any skill, meditation requires practice and consistency to reap the full benefits. So, when you can, take five minutes out of your day to be mindful, be present and feel calmer.