052: The Most Effective Technique for Relieving Anxiety


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Anxiety, meet the present moment.

I’ve struggled with anxiety for the greater part of my life.

It wasn’t until I went through a particularly anxious period that I went on a search to find an ‘off’ button for my incessant anxious thinking.

I discovered that by bringing my attention to the present moment the intensity of my anxiety began to lessen. Over time, by continuing to practice present moment awareness, I’ve experienced such a significant reduction in my anxious thinking that I often forget how much I was suffering previously.

In this episode, I share how we can use the present moment to diminish the power of our anxiety and begin experiencing effective relief from our worrisome thoughts.

Disclaimer: The technique outlined in this episode assumes that a low, to moderate level of anxiety is present. Practicing this technique may become difficult when experiencing high levels of anxiety.

Show Notes

Click on a time marker to hear the full podcast

What is Anxiety? 05:04

Anxiety is the experience which is caused by imagining the possibility of something unpleasant happening at a future point in time.

How the experience of anxiety begins and becomes stronger:

  1. We have a thought about something unpleasant happening (this thought can be conscious or sub-conscious).
  2. Our body has a physiological reaction to the thought (a sensation in the body).
  3. We react to the unpleasant sensation in the body with anxious thoughts on what the sensation could mean.
  4. Our body has an even stronger physiological reaction to the increased anxiety of our thoughts.
  5. We react with even more anxious thinking about what these increased sensations could mean.
  6. The cycle continues…

Anxiety Appears to Be a True Representation of Reality 11:34

  • Anxiety is our own synthesised layer of reality which we unconsciously super-impose onto reality itself.
  • Imagine a tree, just existing in nature. If we imagine that tree is a happy tree, we will begin to notice all of the happy attributes of the tree. On the other hand, if we imagine the tree is a sad tree, we will begin to notice all of the tree’s sad attributes.
  • We create a layer of reality which influences how we perceive objects that exist in objective reality.
  • When I realised my anxiety was a layer I was overlaying onto objective events, I realised that my anxious experience was only determined by the layer I had created and was not determined by actuality itself.

The Most Effective Technique for Relieving Anxiety 16:42

  • The present moment is the most effective technique for relieving anxiety.

Anxiety depends on the future projection of something bad happening. If we take away the future point in time, we remove energy from our anxiety and begin to feel some relief.

  • By observing the present moment, we can begin to experience the separation between our anxiety and what is actually occurring around us.

What is The Present Moment? 18:44

  • The present moment is not a thing. It can’t be had, gotten or discovered. The present moment is an experience to be experienced.
  • The present moment is occurring all the time wherever we go. It’s a tool which follows us wherever we go.
  • We perceive the present moment with our senses.

How to Practice Using The Present Moment to Relieve Anxiety 20:42

  • An important note: We are not trying to bypass our anxiety with the present moment.
  • When we’re experiencing anxiety, we start by becoming aware of where our anxious feelings exist in our body and what they feel like.

The Key: we are letting the present moment come to our awareness. We are not going out and trying to get the present moment.

  • For a long time I was attempting to experience the present moment by forcing myself to be more aware.
  • All we need to do is let the experience of the present moment be the experience of the present moment.
  • It can feel scary to let our anxious feelings come into our awareness. However, resisting them is what causes these feelings to persist.
  • By allowing our anxious experience to be with us and come into our awareness, we are entering the present moment through our anxiety.
  • We are using the anxiety we’re experiencing as our entry point into the present moment.
  • Experiencing the present moment doesn’t require us to be aware of every little detail of what’s going on around us. All we need to do is allow our strongest perceptions to come into our awareness.
  • Experiencing the present moment doesn’t require us to understand, conceptualise or do anything. It’s simply an experience to be experienced.

How It Feels to Experience the Present Moment 27:32

  • If I’m doing a lot of thinking and have tension in my head, I may feel my head relax when I experience the present moment.
  • My mind will be less active and I’ll feel very alert, just taking in what’s going on around me.
  • The experience of the present moment is unique for everyone and will be different each time we visit it as it’s an ever changing phenomenon.
  • Knowing how the sensation of anxiety feels in our body, we can enter the present moment sooner by using the sensations as a prompt, letting us know it’s a good time to become aware of what’s happening for us in this moment.

Reassuring Thoughts For Anxiety About Not Feeling Anxious 30:18

We always have the resources available for us to deal with unexpected situations.

  • When I began to experience the present moment more and more, I began to experience anxiety about not being prepared for the possibility of something bad happening.
  • I didn’t trust that I could handle something unexpected occurring if I wasn’t worrying about it beforehand.
  • We are prepared for whatever happens whether we are worrying about it or not.
  • Think back to the times when something unpleasant unexpectedly occurred. We were able to deal with the situation and come through it in one piece.
  • Anxiety serves no practical purpose other than to cause us to worry and feel unpleasant.

The more anxiety we have, the greater relief we’ll experience from the present moment.

  • My mind would create elaborate fantasies about all the terrible things which could happen to me. I would imagine every aspect of a situation in great detail and it caused me a great amount of worry.
  • When I first began to experience the present moment I experienced great relief from my anxiety. The contrast between my anxiety and the present moment was so great that I realised I had forgotten what the present moment actually felt like.
  • Everyone will experience relief from their anxiety in a way that’s unique to them and can’t be compared with another person’s anxious relief.

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The Podcast

The B is for Being Podcast is a collection of conversations with friends, psychologists, and thought-leaders on the most effective tools for uncovering authentic expression and navigating the obstacles we may encounter on the way to discovering ourselves.

About Benjamin

Hi, I’m Benjamin. I podcast and blog about authentic expression and self-discovery. I also make slow-videos for rest and reflection. You can read more about me here.

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