In a recent therapy session I asked what I should do to manage my intense feelings of anxiety and panic. My therapist responded “stop trying”. I did not understand, surely I should do something, utilise some CBT strategies, relaxation techniques ……

My therapist further asked “What if we don’t try to reduce it? What if we just let it be? And we don’t struggle with it or label it? Truly just accept it, for what it is?”. I asked “If I truly just accept it will that make it go away?”. My therapist responded “It’s an experiment. I think you’ll be surprised with what happens”.

We worked together on some mindfulness meditations, how to experience difficult emotions in the here and now, to observe them without trying to push them away or resolve them. I left the session feeling confused and not very hopeful; I could not see how this would work. I trust my therapist and we have a strong therapeutic relationship; she has always validated my feelings whilst encouraging me to be accountable for my attitude and progress. If she thought this was worth a shot, I needed to commit to this.

So, I sat with the panic and anxiety. For 20-30 minutes per day, every day, for two weeks. Some exercises focused on the breath and making space for the emotion while letting thoughts drift on by; some focused on giving it a colour, shape, and texture; some invited me to adopt a curious attitude and really explore what exactly I was feeling physically, while cultivating awareness of labels arising in the mind such as ‘scary’, ‘unbearable’, or ‘unwelcome’.

After the first practice I noticed that while I felt the same emotionally, my mind was quieter. As the days went on and I kept up the practice, I noticed a shift in my attitude; I really was prepared to just ‘feel how I felt’. And with that, the anxiety started to give way a little to sadness, but with a sense of peace. For me, this was much easier to experience.

I arrived at my next session feeling much calmer, and more importantly, stronger. I felt like I’d learned how to grow around the anxiety, and it wasn’t overwhelming me anymore. In fact, it was at a noticeably lower level. My therapist asked how I’d found the homework.

“Well, it wasn’t exactly the quick fix I was hoping for”, I confessed. “But I think now I understand; that was the whole point”.

“Exactly”, she smiled. “Trying to fix an emotion locks you in a struggle with it. When you drop the struggle, you give yourself a chance to process it”.

Mindfulness is now part of my daily life. For anyone trying to cope with difficult emotions or mental health issues, such as depression or anxiety, I can highly recommend finding an insightful therapist to support you. And if they make a suggestion for your wellbeing that you’re not overly confident about, give them the benefit of the doubt. They just might be right!

krysallis have a number of experienced therapists and counsellors who offer confidential, empathetic support.