Using Mindfulness to Manage Anxiety and Depressive Symptoms

By Jan Cheek, MSW, LCSW

Research has indicated that mindfulness practices are effective ways to reduce and manage symptoms of anxiety and depression. Thoughts and beliefs influence feelings and thus sensations and ultimately symptoms of anxiety and depression. These thoughts and feelings can rapidly change with anxiety or sometimes become stuck and keep repeating like a hiccup; and similarly with depression, the thoughts can race through the mind or become rhythmic perseverations.  With mindfulness, one can learn to practice gentle observation and acceptance of symptoms in the here and now without judgment. With mindfulness one can learn to tolerate and accept the symptoms as simply being a temporary process and not a permanent part of one’s being or becoming defined by the symptoms.  Thus, mindfulness can ultimately decreases the intensity and duration of symptoms of anxiety and depression.

With mindfulness, the key is observation in the present moment without judgment. If the mind drifts to the past or the future, one can self-correct by focusing once again on the current moment and without being judgmental. Creating that sense of acceptance of self, also allows for the acceptance of the process. Particularly with anxiety and depressive symptoms, the thoughts and beliefs that fuel those symptoms are often not completely rational and often not completely evidence based. One can notice and observe during mindfulness exercises that thoughts are simply thoughts and feelings are simply feelings. They are not facts. Often when there is no judgment and there is an observation that is evaluated completely on the present moment and removing any judgment and influence other than acceptance of something’s existence, it loses much of its power and impact. With acute symptoms of anxiety and depression, it is often the case when one practices mindfulness techniques either routinely or intermittently, that the acute power and impact is drastically reduced.

Mindfulness is an empowering intervention that can be helpful for many other concerns in addition to anxiety and depression. Mindfulness has been shown to help with issues such as but not limited to the following:  regulating emotions, anger management, eating disorders, chronic pain management, improving focus and concentration, addictive symptoms, sleep disturbances, chronic health disturbances, and stress management.

To assist with learning more about mindfulness techniques and ways it can be used effectively, along with other treatments and research based interventions for mental health conditions, contact Behavioral Healthcare Associates, LLC.  BHA, LLC is a multidisciplinary practice with four experienced psychotherapists and a double board certified Child-Adolescent and General Psychiatrist.  Call 919-292-1464 to establish an appointment or to seek more information.  Or follow up on our website