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Decreasing Anxiety With Mindfulness "I Am" Self-Talk

Updated on October 20, 2018
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Denise has General Anxiety Disorder. She shares techniques she has discovered and found to be successful from her own experience.


What Is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness has always been a puzzle for me. The majority of articles I read about it speak of mindfulness as "living in the present." The most common way I have read about achieving it is through the use of meditation. Unfortunately, my efforts at meditation have been met with wandering thoughts and frustration. Sitting and doing nothing, and trying to focus on it, just doesn't seem to work for me.

During my most recent bout with skyrocketing anxiety, I realized that in order for me to relax my body, I need to somehow focus on the present rather than the future. Once again, I go back to mindfulness and wonder how I can incorporate it into my daily life. Since there is much uncertainty in my future, I want to find a way.

I discovered that I can use mindfulness by focusing on the everyday routine activities that I am doing at the moment. Using "I am" statements to simply reiterate what is happening, I am able to let the future be and ground myself in the present. The following paragraphs are examples of how this works for me.

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Focus On The Gratitude

Focusing on gratitude brings feelings of well-being as I notice the little things that I have because I am alive in this world today. Saying "I am grateful..." followed by something that I am using or have in this moment keeps my mind from wandering to things that worry or stress me.

I am grateful for the hot water in this shower.

I am grateful for a clean wash cloth that is right here in my hand.

I am grateful for the pleasant fragrance of this soap.

I am grateful for my hands and all ten of my fingers.

I am grateful for my arms that give my hands ability to move.

I am grateful for my legs that allow me to stand.

I am grateful for my knees that bend.

I am grateful for my feet that keep me balanced.

The more specific and descriptive I am in each statement of gratitude, focusing on the thing that I am describing, the greater is my ability to be in the present moment. Each thing I do, each motion I make as I am walking through the routine activities of my day, I find something in that instance that I am grateful for. I find myself moving slower and enjoying each moment rather than stewing and fretting about the future.

During routine activities, I often find myself on automatic pilot while my mind goes a thousand other places. Anxiety increases the more I think outside of the present. I project myself into the unknown of the future, make assumptions, exaggerate the negative, and blame others for things that haven't even happened.

Focusing on gratitude in the here and now brings me squarely into the present. There is not enough room in the brain to think both about the present and the future at the same time. When I bring myself into the present, I make those preparations that ensure my better future.


Focus On The Visual

Another way I have found to ground myself in the present is to describe what I am doing and what I see using the format, "I am....I see...." For example:

I am getting my boots out of my closet. I see the rich brown leather and the intricate laces as they wind in and out the holes up the front of the boot.

I am sitting on my bed and lifting up my foot to put it inside my boot. I see my pants leg in the way. I lift it up and see the stocking on my foot as I put my foot inside my boot.

I am putting my foot up to set it on the bed. I see the ties of the boot and pick them up. I pull on the ties and see them tighten the leather of the shoe around my foot. I cross the ties and put them around the hooks as I lace up the front of the boot.

I am tying the bootlace with a double knot. I see that my pants are still bunched up around my leg. I lower my pants leg to rest around my boot and set my foot down on the floor.

Focusing on the visual involves more of the brain in the mindfulness process. It gives me an even greater sense of well-being as it brings out the affirmation "I am able." When I focus on my ability and what I can do, I feel good about myself immediately.

This sense of well being carries through into the activities of the day. I focus more on what I am doing at the current moment, and marvel at the ability I have to do many things. These repetitive, daily, mundane activities are the stuff of which life is made.

So often, anxiety robs me of my sense of worth. I forget how much I can do and start focusing on what I can't do, what I can't have, or where I can't go. Discouragement sets in quickly as these limitations bring my feelings of self-worth to an all-time low.

Mindfulness, or focusing on the here and now, allows me to see colors more vividly, shapes more pronounced, and lines and design in ways I have not noticed before. I see the beauty in the world around me and am wrapped in an uplifting sense of well-being.

One day, each of us will run out of tomorrows. Let us not put off what is most important.... Learn from the past. Prepare for the future. Live in the present.

— Thomas S. Monson

Focus On The Tactile

Anxiety heightens all of the senses. In order to focus on the present, I have discovered that I can use this phenomena to my advantage. Tactile has to do with touch. The skin is full of nerve endings that differentiate changes such as smooth, rough, soft, hard, prickly, sticky, hairy, bumpy, etc.

One way to focus on the tactile is through the bath massage (see the tools in the picture below). I fill the tub with as warm of water as is tolerable, using bubble bath or bath salts to add additional texture to the water, then wash my body with body wash.

For the bath massage, I use the self talk "I am....I feel" while rubbing each muscle in my body with the following items:

  • Textured cloth - “I am relaxing. I feel the tension loosening in my muscles as I rub them with this cloth.”
  • Roller bar - “I am relaxing. I feel the tension releasing from my muscles as I roll this bar over them.”
  • Brush - “I am relaxing. I feel the tension leaving my muscles as I brush them with this brush.”

I have found that the bath massage is a great way to release tension stored up in my muscle tissue. The relaxation lasts for many hours. As I focus on the present, my mind is free of thoughts about the past or the future.

The nurturing aspect of positive self talk, coupled with the tactile motion of caressing my muscle tissue gives me a heightened sense of well-being. The "I am valued" affirmation is reinforced in a profound way.


Focus On The Feelings

One of the reasons my anxiety gets out of control is my lack of desire to deal with the difficulties in my life. Whenever I face a situation that I feel I cannot handle, I tend to project my mind into another place and time where I would prefer to be rather than focusing on the present.

To combat this, I use the following strategy. When faced with a difficulty, I say the following in my mind: "I am (state the difficult circumstance).... I am (the resulting negative emotion).... I am (the positive character trait that will help me solve the problem). See the following example:

I am trying to scrub this computer so that I can send it to the recycle center.

I am stressed! Every time I get to the point of downloading the needed file from the Internet, the computer gets stuck. This is taking way more time that I had planned and I have other things to do!

I am persistent. I know computers and will find a way to circumvent the issue and accomplish the task.

This particular sequence of self-talk is significant for three reasons: 1) it grounds me in the present as I acknowledge the current difficulty I am facing; 2) it enables me to identify the negative emotion that I am experiencing rather than stuffing it to fester and grow later; and 3) it calls upon my current abilities, bringing them to the forefront, emphasizing the affirmation "I build", and gives me a pat on the back for the fact that I have this character trait and am able to use it to solve the problem.


Decrease Anxiety With Mindfulness

I decrease my anxiety by using mindfulness "I am" self-talk while performing everyday routine activities. I free myself of worry and stress by grounding myself in the moment, then focusing on the gratitude, the visual, the tactile, and the feelings.

I give myself positive affirmations as I use my own innate abilities to be a more productive individual. I reinforce my own sense of worth and have more happiness, peace and joy in my life.

© 2018 Denise W Anderson


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