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Let It Be: Using Mindfulness to Overcome Anxiety and Depression

Mindful

“Perhaps many things inside you have been transformed; perhaps somewhere, someplace deep inside your being, you have undergone important changes while you were sad.” ~Rainer Maria Rilke

When I was twelve years old, I figured out how to get out of things.

It was a rainy Saturday morning and I was supposed to be getting ready for choir practice—an eight-hour rehearsal before a big concert. Eight hours! I began to obsess about how much time this was in my then tiny life.

As though by my own will, a heavy sensation of dread and nausea arose. I wasn’t aware of it at the time but my brain had said to my body, “Hey, if you feel sick, we can get out of this!”

Unfortunately for me, this would happen many more times, well into my adult life.

Commitment equaling nausea coupled with a terrible fear of vomiting. Concerts, sport events, sleep overs at friends’ houses—any situation that might be awkward to get out of.

It wasn’t until I was sixteen that it started affecting school. Too paralyzed to turn up to the first day of year eleven, I was taken to the doctor. She said I was anxious. She prescribed Effexor, an anti depressant. I wasn’t depressed. I would end up taking one tablet everyday for the next eight years.

At twenty-four, a friend made a comment: “I don’t think those tablets are actually treating what you think they’re treating. Maybe you would be fine without them.”

I realized then that I had been swallowing them purely out of habit. Maybe they had been my crutch—a morning ritual to keep the wolves at bay. By that time I wasn’t really experiencing too many of the attacks. I felt okay. I started to slowly wean myself off the medication while on a trip overseas.

The withdrawal symptoms were horrendous, but I came through—a bit dazed and spaced-out but “clean” nonetheless.

I returned home. At first I was happy, comforted by the familiarity of my pets and family. But something was slightly off. I started having strange thoughts—negative and disarming.

Usually one might shrug such moods off but they came with such conviction that I began to worry. I Googled: “Why don’t I want to do anything anymore?” and “Why do I feel detached?”

A month later I experienced what one might call a nervous breakdown. Lying in bed watching a film, something in me clicked: “Life is meaningless.”

A horrific wave of panic and racing thoughts ensued. My mind was trapped in cycles of anxious rumination and would go on like this for months, with little to no respite except in sleep.

Everything seemed bizarre and pointless and menacing. Worst of all it felt as though, despite their best efforts, nobody could reach me.

Anxiety is not the nerves you feel before a performance. It is not the quickening heart upon realizing you left the stove on at home. Anyone who says, “Just relax!” to a person who is experiencing anxiety or depression should know this; they just cannot. Not yet anyway.

Both are fuelled by worry. Not only about these new and disorienting sensations, but also of the thought “Will I be this way forever?”

I tried CBT and it was a waste of time. Maybe I sought the wrong psychologist, but she seemed more concerned with the small clock on her table than my exasperated tears.

I was prescribed anti-depressants again—but even through the hardest days, a tiny voice inside said “No drugs. Just wait. Please.”

I found another psychologist, a Romanian man who was kind and spoke my language. I bought $300 worth of useless supplements. Trial and error.

Anxiety plays tricks. It tells you that everything you feel is serious. Depression paints everything in black and white. Together, they skew perceptions. 

One day I became truly convinced I was developing schizophrenia. I Googled “disturbing thoughts.” This time I stumbled upon a website called Anxiety No More, created by a man named Paul David, an ex-sufferer himself.

It summed up every symptom I had—racing and disturbing thoughts, dizziness, panic, depressed feelings, detached feelings, plus a myriad of others. Paul had suffered anxiety and came through completely unscathed. The answer? No drugs and no expensive smoke cleansing rituals.

The answer was so beautiful and near unbelievable in its simplicity: Stop fighting it. Let it come.

This was the first breakthrough for me, and from then on I became determined to learn as much as I could about the human brain; why we experience anxiety and depression.

I learned that those born post 1940 are ten times more likely to experience depression. This indicated that in many cases, life events are to blame; the stress we endure, assuming we are unbreakable. You only need to watch someone trying to balance two iPhones, a laptop, and an iPad on one knee to see how we even overload ourselves.

I learned that anxiety is a slow-to-evolve trait leftover from our prehistoric ancestors (apparently our brains haven’t received the memo that the lions are no longer lurking behind bushes.) 

And depression? In many cases it is the brain saying, “I can only handle so much! Bye!” and feelings are seemingly switched off—a defense mechanism.

That is not to discredit cases of severe depression caused by other factors where medication is necessary, but knowing how easily and frequently anti-depressants are prescribed, one has to ask: at what cost exactly?

Are we perhaps interfering with a natural defense process that might be best left to run its course, approached with patience instead of a ‘fighting’ attitude?

I had read all the books. I was meditating daily with soothing music and practicing breathing exercises.

I let the panicked feelings come and go and surely enough, over time they lessened until I no longer anticipated them. Feelings came back. I could laugh. I felt battered and worn, but hopeful.

But still the dark thoughts would seep in, slowly swelling in my mind. Heavy as wet wool. Despite my best efforts, I was left in depression and wanted so terribly not to be.

Sure, thoughts came with less urgency, but they were still there and I remained in a daze, as though I was swimming an inch away from reality.

I Googled. I was lead to mindfulness.

Mindfulness—the final stepping-stone of my path to healing.

It was intuition that led me to the practice of mindfulness. All along, medication and CBT felt wrong for me. Even chanting affirmations, burning lavender candles, and distracting techniques seemed unproductive—as though I was telling my mind “This is a thing that must be gotten rid of!”

It really is the equivalent to “Don’t think about pink elephants!” Of course we will. It is in our nature.

The great revelation came when I was listening to a podcast about mindfulness and secular Buddhism by a man named Peter Strong, a mindfulness expert and Skype counselor. His own experience with anxiety and depression as a young adult mirrored my own.

I organized a Skype session with Peter, excited to learn more about mindfulness and encouraged by what I had read.

I confessed to him that I saw breathing exercises as an attempt to distract. He said, “Yes. It’s a tool. Mindfulness is all in the subtleties.” Then he paused and told me, “Instead, when thoughts and feelings come, you simply say to them ‘Hello. I see you. Welcome.’”

After almost two years of struggling with my mind, the battle was coming to an end. I let the thoughts in. I let them stay. I treated them as one might a small wounded bird. Compassionately.

As promised, the negative taboo enshrouding them dissolved. The rumination stopped. I finally felt free.

It is my genuine wish that no one suffer needlessly as I did and as so many others do. My story was one of trial and error, one that has taken almost two years.

I think if I had discovered mindfulness earlier, the road could have been a little shorter. Trust me when I say that I thought I would be trapped like that for the rest of my life. But I took the advice to sit it out, be patient, and not take everything my mind threw at me so seriously. It takes time. Relapses happen, but you do heal.

Accept the uncertainty, open up to those close to you, and try to allow commotion to coexist with who you are. And believe me when I say that despite how hopeless it may feel, you are still there—temporarily clouded, but there, waiting.

Photo by Moyan Brenn

Avatar of Lucy Roleff

About Lucy Roleff

Lucy Roleff is a Musician, Poet and Illustrator living in Melbourne, Australia. She is an advocate for daily mindfulness and mindfulness-based meditation and hopes to one day teach others about its benefits. Lucy has released her first book “Somewhere; poems and illustrations from a place” inspired by her own healing from anxiety and depression. You can find her at lucyroleff.com.

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  • PRI

    I am so so happy you read At Last a Life by Paul David – it’s one of the most powerful tools out there to help people who suffer from anxiety. I read it over the summer (bits & pieces) and it really helped me, I hope that everything in your life is much better now and that you’ve made your own human revolution!

  • Sheena Vasani

    I am currently learning this myself through ACT therapy. Nothing else has worked on me so far and while I am a novice at mindfulness, there are moments where I experience greater healing than I’ve with other approaches. Thank you for this! I’m taking it as a sign I am on the right track.

  • Lucy Roleff

    I’m sure you are on the right track, Sheena. One of the best pieces of advice I ever received was to just keep at it. Once we get into the habit of anxious or depressive thinking, it can be hard to break those habits, so don’t feel disheartened if you don’t feel 100% straight away. Everyday it seems there is a new scientific article about the physical effects mindfulness meditation has on the brain – I found this really encouraging when I was starting out and not sure about it all :)

  • Guest

    Thankyou! Finding At Last a Life was indeed a small miracle – i’m so glad I found Paul’s site really early on. Glad to hear it helped you too :)

  • Lucy Roleff

    Thankyou! Reading At Last a Life was indeed a small miracle. I’m so glad I found Paul’s site early on. Happy to hear it has helped you too :)

  • http://upliftedliving.com/ Meg Sylvia

    Lucy – thank you so much for sharing you story. I experience some pretty severe anxiety myself about a year ago. Fortunately, it only took about a month for me to try several unhelpful therapists and solutions until I stumbled upon mindfulness and correcting limiting beliefs. Truly life changing.

    Thank you so much for spreading the word to more people – I honestly believe the mindfulness is the most loving, lasting solution to anxiety and enhancing life experiences in general!

  • Tom

    I’m over 60 now and I have suffered from anxiety (2 types) and depression my entire life. Well, since I was 5 or 6 years old anyway. Diazepam works pretty well for the anxiety, and I’m on an old anti-depressant that helps, but mindfulness, when I can actually accomplish it, practically takes it all away. My problem is that mindfulness is very hard for me, probably due to the decades-old habits I’ve picked up – the automatic responses in my brain that are so deeply entrenched. I will continue working on mindfulness, and I hope to break away from the devastating effects of the anxiety. Thank you for this article and for the inspiration!

  • Guest

    I find it amazing how effective mindfulness can be. I’ve struggled with a lifelong depression (To the point of being suicidal) since I was about 7ish and after I discovered mindfulness this summer my life has changed so much in such a short time. In addition to helping me fight depression it has also helped me change so many of my habits, such as: I’m so longer a slave to instant gratification, I exercise and go for walks/jogs regularly, my diet now consists of mostly veggies, I don’t mindlessly watch TV anymore, I’ve started reading books (Something my attention would never have been capable of before), etc. In short: life-changing. It’s really nice that it’s getting more attention now.

  • Me

    Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t out to get you.

    “…apparently our brains haven’t received the memo that the lions are no longer lurking behind bushes.”

    Society is breeding legions of lions – in our institutions, traditions, members and elsewhere – that, though metaphorical, are very real dangers. The fact you can meditate away any sense of responsibility for addressing these births – “fitting in” as it were, despite all claims to being “authentic” – simply ensures mankind will soon be outnumbered by it’s self-created demons.

    I also see that as God’s will. The only way this mess could ever be “fixed” is to tear it down and start over.

    I so can’t wait to say: “I told you so.”

  • Sara Harvey

    Beautiful! Thank you so much. I see hardly anything in the collective conversation’s general flow that’s not, “Do this to fix that.” “Not doing” is powerful, too. “Hello. I see you. Welcome.”

  • Joana

    Thank you. That was beautiful. I felt like I was reading about my life. Mindfulness is my life now. I am really happy for you.

  • Josh

    thanks for this, i too was on effexor for an extended period, (10 years) and when i came off them my experience mirrored yours in many ways. There is growing evidence that taking these type of drugs for extended periods actually causes various receptors in the brain to whither away and it can take a year or more for them to become as they were prior to when you started taking the drug! Much longer than the so called ‘discontinuation syndrome’ period. I think that is why it takes so long to recover, and why so many end up back on medication. Again, thanks for the post. it really is about letting things flow through and out of you, welcoming rather than resisting, cheers,, Josh

  • niamhb

    This story has resonated so much with me, its so so similar to my own experience. Mindfulness has been a feeling of finally coming home and finding solace, understanding of my own journey and learning to live my life so much more fully. I cannot put into words how much it has helped me.

  • Amberlea87

    I used to get physically ill from anxiety, for a couple of years when I first left home for college. My turning point came when I read ‘A New Earth’ by Eckhart Tolle. It’s an amazing book, and I highly recommend it to everyone, especially to those dealing with anxiety like this.

  • Deanna Lang

    This gave me tears. It’s nice to know that I’m not alone in these feelings. Especially this: “Everything seemed bizarre and pointless and menacing. Worst of
    all it felt as though, despite their best efforts, nobody could reach
    me.” I’m trying to not be a martyr about it and work through it, but this is exactly how I’ve been feeling off and on for the last year or two. My new mantra is ‘Let go let go let go…’ Thank you.

  • Gabrielle Stapleton

    Thank you Lucy, I was in need of this article today. I had not realized how much I have been letting my anxiety control my life and my goals. After nearly succumbing to a near breakdown today after losing my final research paper, I decided this morning that taking my final exam this afternoon was simply pointless. What was the point, I wasn’t prepared, I had self sabotaged myself to a point past repair and decided firmly against even going, simply accepting a zero. I’m sitting here now having read this article having realized my greatest self sabotage in accepting defeat…which now I cannot change, only accept. So here I go picking up the pieces of my work and my scattered mind trying to remember to breathe and focus and continue to repair what I can. I’m still working through my cycle of self destruction but it is encouraging to hear of your self recovery and it gives me hope to make it through today.

  • The Healthy Eating Guide

    Very brave of you to share your story, Lucy. Glad to hear you’re in a good place.

  • Desta

    I’m embarking on the mindfulness journey through meditation. I’ve coupled it with Kava Root supplements and I’ve been feeling so much better. Trading the negative thoughts for thoughts of gratitude, forgiveness and awareness has been the key.

  • tms71972

    What a brave, wonderful essay. I commend you for sharing it with everyone. It truly resonates with me and my past. Thank you!

  • Emma

    I tried meditation, going to an actual Buddhist run meditation group but I could not shut my mind off no matter how I tried. It just keeps going over and over everything in my life, lack of relationship issues, job issues and how I don’t know what to do in my life….I cant stop it. If meditation and listening to relaxation CDs and exercise does not work what next….I go for walks which help a little. I have had counselling and CBT and not a help and I have tried medication, again did not help…..I just want my mind to stop and to be normal again..

  • Μιχάλης

    Hi. I think these two videos can help with this kind of frustration during meditation (they helped me)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X-8aXvl1XXc&list=WLADE2C73F0F91D49C

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7YLGJdbuWm4&list=WLADE2C73F0F91D49C

  • wrikar

    Hi Emma, I don’t know anyone that can just “shut off” their mind but, at least as I’ve experienced it, mindfulness isn’t about that. Mindfulness tells us its our very effort to always be relaxed when we’re actually uptight, to not think when we’re actually ruminating/obsessing, to always be trying to control and avoid our unwanted inner experiences that keeps us trapped in them. This makes us frustrated and feeling like we’ve failed. Its like having insomnia and trying harder and herder to get to sleep, gritting our teeth and tossing & turning- we usually just end up wide awake. Its a paradox but, as Lucy describes, we need to learn these counter-intuitive skills to break out of this cycle. Mindfulness asks us to stop fighting and trying to block these unwanted experiences in order to transform our relationship to them, to reduce their power over us. Perhaps you could look for a contemporary mindfulness course in your area? That’s what turned it around for me. Good luck Emma- you sound really normal to me :)

  • C

    god this is beautiful. my life with anxiety began at age 3 with my first panic attack. now at age 28 they seem to have returned after a couple years of just anxiety, but no panic. i needed to read this just now. it was seriously lovely.

  • Franziska

    It almost felt as if this was written by a (hopefully) future me. I still have to learn a lot, but this article really helped me. Thank you very much for it! :)

  • Lucy Roleff

    Thanks Franziska. It certainly does feel like there is much to learn sometimes – and it sounds like you are on the right path. The minute you give in to the uncertainty of it all and trust (as best you can) that you will get better, the easier it becomes :) Best of luck

  • Lucy Roleff

    Thank you! It is amazing how the brain hangs on to these old habits and they pop up every now and then. Even today I get little rushes of panic and what not, but I let them come in, do what they please, and they eventually get bored and leave me alone :)

  • Lucy Roleff

    Hi Emma. Trying to shut my mind off was how I first approached meditation too. Then i learnt about the subtleties of the practice and how this is actually another way of telling your brain that it needs to ‘sit down and shut up.’ The ultimate goal is to let all thoughts, no matter what they are, come in to your mind and not judge or try to cast them out. It takes practice but you WILL get there. I would highly recommend having a look through Anxiety No More.co.uk – Paul talks alot about how to approach thoughts that just won’t stop. Also the free meditations you can download from ‘Meditation Oasis’ I found to be excellent – her approach is exactly the style of mindfulness that I practice. Good luck

  • Lucy Roleff

    Wonderfully put! Of all the practices it seems that Mindfulness is the most complimentary with how the human brain works. Practices that try to control or ‘tame’ the mind often feel counter intuitive, though we at first assume they make the most sense – wanting so much to be rid of the ‘bad things.’ I love the analogy of trying to fall asleep – such a classic issue for sufferers

  • Lucy Roleff

    Thank you :) x

  • Lucy Roleff

    Gratitude is certainly a powerful emotion! Glad to hear you are on the mend x

  • Lucy Roleff

    You will get there, Gabrielle. Remember to be gentle on yourself and take it step by step. Sometimes it feels like there is a literal mountain of things that need to be done, in our own minds and in our lives. I often felt just making a list of what I needed to do really helped me. Weeks later I would go back, read the list and realise what was a big deal and what really didn’t need all my stress energy. Anxiety held me back from pursuing some things for ages – and I hadn’t even realised. Realising is half the work! Many stay in that state their whole lives. Good luck x

  • Lucy Roleff

    It really is a huge part of the human condition to experience these things, Deanna. That sounds like a good mantra. There are some fantastic relaxing meditations you can download for free from “Meditation Oasis” with titles such as “let it be” and “letting go” which I must have listened to at least 100 times each :)

  • Lucy Roleff

    That is absolutely spot on about ‘finally coming home,’ Niamh. I remember hearing Sarah Silverman on a program, likening her feelings of depression to ‘being homesick’ and yet she was home.’ Getting well again is really like a returning, but with much less baggage :)

  • Lucy Roleff

    Beautifully put, Josh. It breaks my heart to think that people go through such terrible withdrawal from these medications. I know it’s sometimes necessary but in cases where it isn’t, it seems so unfair

  • Lucy Roleff

    Thank you so much for sharing this. In many of the cases I researched, it seemed those who struggled with depression from an early age were more likely to think their problem was purely neurological and perhaps discredit meditation practices. I’m so glad to hear you are doing so well.

  • Lucy Roleff

    Thank you for sharing your story, Tom. Those automatic responses sure do get themselves buried deep, don’t they? My ‘nausea’ response was with me for about 15 years and granted it took a bit longer to ‘fade away’ than more short-term symptoms, but reading about neuroplasticity gave me hope that any neural pathway can be changed – with practice of course. Good luck to you!

  • Lucy Roleff

    Thank you Meg. I’m so glad to hear you are on the right path :)

  • Satish

    Four times of “Googling”. Is that all to get out of anxiety? :-) Just kidding… the article was really great and I enjoyed reading it.

  • Lucy Roleff

    thank you :)

  • Lucy Roleff

    Hehe. Thank goodness for the internet, I guess!

  • Katie

    Thank you for your post! I love that I can trust this blog to not feel alone!! It’s really easy for me to get discouraged with anxiety but mindfulness is the single most helpful skill I’ve ever learned. It gave me the power back to respond to my negative thoughts and feelings instead of letting them take over. I recommend taking the official 8 week course Mindfulness based stress reduction (MBSR) developed by Jon kabat – zinn. It changes my life! Then I found a therapist who specializes in mindfulness and was trained in MBSR to support my path. This has really helped!

  • Lucy Roleff

    Thanks Katie! I would highly recommend that anyone struggling should seek a therapist or counsellor who is trained in mindfulness – often in the early stages one might feel disheartened or have alot of questions. It’s good to have someone to run it all past and help you through

  • Sage

    Brave and courageous living is the result of living through what doesn’t work. I am only courageous after the fact. Pain has motivated me most of my life to seek the Truth. Today, I am motivated by the Truth even when the pain is powerful – it doesn’t hold the same power as in the past. Mindfulness is one of the tools I use to find peace and my place in Truth. Thank you for your honesty in sharing your journey.

  • DominoTricks

    I have become known in my group of friends as someone who ‘pikes’ at the last minute. Someone who can’t be relied upon to show up, and it has been the source of joking and semi-serious jibes at my expense. These things aren’t understood by many, and unfortunately to try to explain it to someone is too much for me. Thank you for the article, despite my present tears. it’s nice to know others suffer from this as well.

  • Dominotricks

    I didn’t mean it’s nice to know others suffer!! It’s just nice to not be alone.

  • Mikey

    Thank you soooo much for sharing your story Lucy. Like others I identify all too well with your experience, the irrational, disturbing fears, afraid you will never be yourself again. It is so comforting knowing you’re not alone. Your words of encouragement and conviction that this is something that can and will get better was exactly what I needed to hear. Thank you thank you!

  • Lucy Roleff

    You most certainly are not alone. I too got in the habit of cancelling plans without realising I was being controlled by the anxiety. I hope there is someone you can speak with openly

  • Kirsten

    This was exactly the blog post i needed today, thanks.

  • Lucy Roleff

    You’re very welcome Mikey. I truly was in the position where I simply couldn’t foresee a future where I didn’t feel awful and needed constant reminders from people who had recovered – but you just take as many tiny steps as you can and, as with most things, it is when you have stopped analysing how you feel that the symptoms quieten down and eventually make their exit

  • Lucy Roleff

    Thank you, Sage. Sounds like you have a good system going on :)

  • Anxiety Girl

    Wow. This hit me so very hard. I have experienced anxiety as long as I can remember and I am merely twenty. It, in the last year, has increased after a few traumatic events and I am struggling very hard with anxiety and depression now. I had felt so tragically hopeless and alone, especially regarding the “disturbing thoughts”, like there is something severely wrong with me; like I should feel guilty; and like no one around me understands or would understand.

    I am currently pursuing my Bachelors degree in Psychology with a minor in Art, but finding it difficult to maintain motivation enough to do much of any of the work, (which is very unlike me, I am an A/B student). The worst part of this entire plot is not knowing how to deal with any of it on top of all of the other daily struggles in my life, it’s like you said: “You only need to watch someone trying to balance two iPhones, a laptop, and an iPad on one knee to see how we even overload ourselves.”

    It is interesting that the root cause for anxiety is worry, and then we experience these ongoing disturbing symptoms and it creates more worry, which just feeds the anxiety.

  • Amy

    Thanks Lucy :) I am coming to the end of my anxiety journey too! It’s been pretty awful and I never thought I would ever be free. Some days are tough and I really have to remind myself that thoughts come and go, especially about not so nice things from the past, but they are just that thoughts. They can’t hurt or actually do anything at all! Mindfulness has really been my savior as well! Thanks again Lucy :) this article seemed like a well timed reminder after a bit of a difficult day!

  • Lucy Roleff

    Glad to hear you’re doing so well, Amy! You are so right. Once we allow all the stuff that gets attached to a thought to fall away, the thought itself is often not all that horrible

  • Lucy Roleff

    Exactly right. It’s a vicious cycle. It sounds like you are burnt out and i’m sorry to hear you’re having a rough time. Where those disturbing thoughts are concerned, many many people think that there is something very wrong with them when often it is just anxiety throwing whatever it can at you for a reaction. It’s not at all uncommon for sufferers to have strange thoughts of harming others or doing strange things (not that they would ever follow through but their anxiety makes them fear they could!) It is also very common to go through such turmoil in our 20s because there is so much change and having to establish who we are. I hope there’s someone you can chat to because you really are not alone x

  • http://www.medio-cracy.com/ Almedin Candic

    What a well-written, precious and helpful text you have written there! Thanks so much for sharing your experiences with these two huge errors of the human soul and body.

  • Val

    Thank you so so so so soooooooo much for writing this Lucy. It’s a beautiful thing to know you’re not alone and crazy in your struggles with inner peace. These random waves of panic have only recently started to happen to me, probably with the adding stresses if life, as you mentioned. I am confident I will reach a state of peace and mindfulness, it’s just a matter of being patient and loving/accepting all feelings as they come and go :) thank you again! Much love and luck to everyone who has/is going through this.

  • Michael Dittmar

    Most do not come to realization that, as a person you are one second away from happiness, for the rest of your life. Smile and start living it.

  • Lucy Roleff

    Thank you, Val :)

  • Lucy Roleff

    Hi Guys – here is a list of some of the books and websites I referenced in the article. I hope they are of some help to you too x

    - Paul David’s website and blog: anxietynomore.co.uk
    - The User’s Guide to the Human Mind – Why our brains make us unhappy, anxious and neurotic and what we can do about it. – Shawn T. Smith, PsyD
    - Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway – Susan Jeffers
    - The Mindful Path through worry and rumination – Sameet M. Kumar, PH.D.
    - The Path of Mindfulness Meditation – Peter Strong PH.D.
    - Meditationoasis.com – Mindfulness meditations for all situations
    - Smilingmind.com.au – Interactive mindfulness meditations

  • Hilge

    Give up the “I”-dentification and there is no more fear.

  • Holly

    Mindfulness has been the ONLY thing that ever worked to help my anxiety. Now, I just think, “Okay, I here is the anxiety”, and it surfaces, no big deal. There it is. Then it goes away because I am not struggling to force it to go away. I try another trick at times…..I do something I know will make me anxious or uncomfortable just to remind myself that whatever it is actually is not going to kill me or even do much of anything.

  • Mindfulness

    I will try and give myself a little rest the next couple of days and try and read this post and remember to keep myself healing :) thank you for sharing your “battle” with us, you are a great inspiration :) keep fighting the good fight! for nirvana! :p

  • Lucy Roleff

    Fantastic attitude, Holly. Many sufferers have reported that they purposefully do the things their anxiety tells them not to – over time the anxious responses fade away

  • ConcernedMama

    What a wonderful article, thank you for writing it. I wonder if you have any advice for parents of children who are developing these patterns. My son is 10 years old and while he does not appear outwardly anxious, he is sensitive and at times has severe stomach pains that the doctors attribute to stress. Do you have any insights into what would have helped you prevent the path of suffering you endured before you found answers? Thank you!

  • Lucy Roleff

    Thank you :)

    Absolutely – when I was 12 and the nausea stuff started to happen, I didn’t realise I was anxious as I had no real concept of what that might be. Thus, whatever brought up the anxiety would be blamed – having to go to choir practice, stressful classes and so on. In hindsight I realised it wasn’t the situations I was in, it was just that I was a sensitive girl and certain things got to me that may not have affected others.

    There are now more and more yoga schools, meditation teachers and primary/elementary schools who are introducing mindfulness meditation to children from a very young age and from what I have read, the results have been fantastic! I would highly suggest that if there are such resources available near you, that you take your son to some classes where mindfulness meditation is offered for kids – and where it’s not too heavy! it should be relaxing and enjoyable for him :)

    One website in particular that is doing wonderfully in Australia is smilingmind.com.au – there are different meditations catered to children, teenagers and adults. The layout of the site is fun and encouraging – kind of like a game with a bit of visual interaction – and it’s completely free.

    10 seems a perfect age to begin mindfulness as children are already by nature more ‘in the moment’ than us grown ups :) For kids that show signs of being a little more sensitive, the earlier they are given tools to express their feelings and manage anxieties, the easier they will coast through things that come up in the future. Good luck!

  • Lucy Roleff

    p.s. you may also like to listen to this program by a woman who teaches children mindfulness

    http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/lifematters/meditation-for-kids/2999252

  • sooraj

    THIS was EXACTLY what i needed. I feel a little lighter now. I know exactly what lucy muat have gone through, i haven’t been diagnosed with anxiety and depression(haven’t been to a psychiatrist) , i’ve been dealingbwith bith anxiety and depression on and off for about 4 years,and they are back now with a greater control over me jow, bt i’ve been practicing meditation, reading, breathing exercises, yoga and it seems to be helping a bit, i want to keep medication at bay for as long as possible. The thoughts seem to have control over me, and that is followed bt minor panic attacks and anxiety. I’ve started to avoid people ,circumstances and situations. Its hard, but is feels good that i’m nit alone in this battle. There is still a lot to learn and thank you so much for this post, will try to welcome the thoughts without having a sword fight with them. Hope we all get better and reach a place of mental tranquillity.

  • Lucy Roleff

    It definitely sounds like you are on the right road. I listed some resources in a comment below if you are hunting for some extra tools :) all the best

  • ConcernedMama

    Thank you Lucy! I appreciate your suggestions and thank you again for sharing your story.

  • Jeevan/Mirthu/Gupt

    Thank You for sharing your story. As someone who still struggles with anxiety & depression…stories like these gives more of a hope that maybe..just maybe I’ll be fine afterall! :)

  • Lucy Roleff

    Thank you. I shared my story because I too went through the horrible uncertainty of whether I would ever get better. It is, ironically, once we give up the struggle that things start to get easier. Good luck!

  • onewithnature

    Heartfelt. Much respect to you. Thank you.

  • Kayleigh

    Thankyou so much for this, thats exactly what I needed to hear. It’s scary and lonely when you’re in the grips of anxiety and depression, I’m comforted to know that despite what my silly brain tells me, it won’t be like this forever.

  • Jeevan/Mirthu/Gupt

    I’ll try to remember that more often…:)

  • Nikki

    I agree with the power of mindfulness. But how do I get rid of the sinking feeling, or heaviness I feel. It’s not just the thoughts…

  • Lucy Roleff

    It’s all connected, Nikki. Sometimes the subconscious can play little games and we might feel horrible with no real idea as to why. This is why panic attacks are so awful for sufferers as often they are brought on with no obvious cause and thus, hard to avoid. The mindful and compassionate attitude can be applied to both thoughts and unpleasant feelings. In time it will lift

  • Tony

    I liked the part about welcoming the feelings or thoughts that are overwhelming me. Treat them with compassion and understanding. That may just help me to stop feeling broken.

    Great read.

  • Sooraj

    This was exactly what i wanted to hear. i could totally relate to it. thank you for sharing your story. i’m 23 and struggling, life has fallen apart since 3-4 years and unable to put the pieces together, doesn’t make any sense, job,education etc i’ve been telling myself “my story” again and again for justifying where i’m today and its hard to move on, dealing with pain, depression and anxiety.(back-story: bullying, failed/rejected love, failed and directionless career, no jobs, all plans of career and job fell apart, nothing working, paralyzed by fear) i’m trying meditation, yoga and breathing exercises, its helping a lot but sometimes the anxiety, the overwhelming feelings of failure get to you and you get stuck in that cycle again. sometimes it does feel a lonely journey when you see all your counterparts/friends have moved ahead. I want to break free from this negativity and i wish there was an easy way to just switch off the thoughts and LIVE my life without the physical and mental stress. it would be so beautiful, so light and peaceful. We all are a work in progress i guess..sometimes i wish i had like-minded people to talk to and share things. Thank you again..will practice(and google) mindfulness.. :)

  • Sooraj

    This was exactly what i wanted to hear. i could totally relate to it.
    thank you for sharing your story. i’m 23 and struggling, life has fallen
    apart since 3-4 years and unable to put the pieces together, doesn’t
    make any sense, job,education etc i’ve been telling myself “my story”
    again and again for justifying where i’m today and its hard to move on,
    dealing with pain, depression and anxiety.(back-story: bullying,
    failed/rejected love, failed and directionless career, no jobs, all
    plans of career and job fell apart, nothing working, paralyzed by fear)
    i’m trying meditation, yoga and breathing exercises, its helping a lot
    but sometimes the anxiety, the overwhelming feelings of failure get to
    you and you get stuck in that cycle again. sometimes it does feel a
    lonely journey when you see all your counterparts/friends have moved
    ahead. I want to break free from this negativity and i wish there was an
    easy way to just switch off the thoughts and LIVE my life without the
    physical and mental stress. it would be so beautiful, so light and
    peaceful. We all are a work in progress i guess..This story gives me hope that i’ll beok after all!!! need to let go!! sometimes i wish i had
    like-minded people to talk to and share things. Thank you again..will
    practice(and google) mindfulness.. :)

  • http://www.productiveinsights.com/ Ash

    Hi Lucy. Excellent article. Thanks for sharing your story.

    I’ve been practising mindfulness for about 2 years now and I agree with Peter’s comments that it’s all in the subtleties.

    I’m so taken with the concept that I recently wrote the ultimate guide to mindfulness which lists 34 benefits (I think there are many more). http://bit.ly/1bvoaZz

    Watching your thoughts as a witness rather than buying into them is a very subtle but powerful mental shift.

    It has an incredible impact if practised consistently over a long period of time. And the best part is that you can incorporate it into your everyday activities.

    I wish you all the best in your incredible journey.

  • http://www.productiveinsights.com/ Ash

    I agree that the analogy of forcing yourself to sleep to cure insomnia is a great one. Thanks for sharing it. :)

  • http://www.productiveinsights.com/ Ash

    Something that you may find helpful is trying to focus on bodily sensations. This helps to bring the mind back to the present moment and out of the thoughts projected into the past or future.

    If you’re feeling fear for example … try and notice the sensations in your body. Perhaps it’s a tingling in your shoulders … or butterflies in your stomach. I find this approach very useful in getting me out of my head.

  • http://www.productiveinsights.com/ Ash

    Yes they’ve even got a term for it. Exposure and response prevention (ERP). It’s used for people who suffer from OCD.

    A combination of mindfulness and ERP can be truly transformational in my experience. It builds confidence in all aspects of life.

  • http://www.productiveinsights.com/ Ash

    Totally agree. The critical thing here is that you have to give it time for it to work. And that’s the part I found to be the hardest. Patience and time. But eventually it does work.

  • http://www.productiveinsights.com/ Ash

    Yes focusing on the fact that all things will pass is very powerful in dealing with anxiety I think.

    The buddhist principles of interdependence and impermanence are very powerful in freeing the mind from ‘black and white’ thinking which is almost always at the root of a victim mindset in my experience.

  • http://www.productiveinsights.com/ Ash

    Great point. I too have a little boy who appears to have similar anxiety symptoms to me. I find practising mindfulness myself and modelling the right behaviour is very effective. But I look forward to checking out Lucy’s link in her response below. ‘

    Thanks Lucy.

  • Tony Zipple

    Lucy (love your name!), congrats on progress. There is no question that antidepressants are over prescribed. Most people do just as well or better with cognitive behavioral treatment for depression and anxiety. One small point: anxiety and depression highly related are linked at a neurochemical level. Antidepressants are sometimes effectively used to treat people who primarily have anxiety. I am not saying that you needed them, but the treatment may not have been so far off.

    Be well!

    Tony

  • drewdiscyo

    Such a simple and yet effective method, Yay mindfullness :D

  • jamie

    Hi, this is good insight.
    My story – I’ve had a couple of bouts of mild depression in my late 20s, but have usually been happy and anxiety-free. But I was ill about 14 months ago, was frightened and eventually became depressed. The depression got hold of me and got me anxious about things in my past that I’m not proud of and worry that something could come up in the future that reveals this (its nothing illegal by the way, but I regret the lifestyle). My wife is very supportive, knows exactly what I’m worried about, but is not concerned about what worries me.
    I’ve been practising Mindfulness for a few months, but only 4 weeks in to a book-lead course. It is helping, but at the moment I feel as if I’m coping rather than dealing with my issues.
    When I’m resolute and not under too much pressure, I am patient and accept the thoughts and feelings as things that will pass and I trust that eventually I will go back to being my old care-free self. When I’m low, I worry that I will always feel anxious.
    While I have enough control to be medication-free and live my life normally (work, exercise etc), I don’t get any real joy out of life and I am bombarded with negative thoughts all day long.
    My question is, am I being realistic when I hope to be back to the ‘old me’, how I was before I became depressed?
    The next chapter in my book is about facing difficulties by welcoming the thoughts and treating them with compassion. I expect that stage to be difficult and I know I need to be patient and not try to force myself to feel better.
    To someone with experience, is it possible that through continued practice, the onslaught of anxious thoughts will eventually lose their emotional power over me and fade away? Also, is this something that takes years to work, or can specific anxious thoughts be dealt with more quickly if the sufferer is committed to Mindfulness?
    Many thanks.

  • Veganzombie

    Thank you for this. I am now embracing all the thoughts that come through my mind and understanding I shouldn’t panic, just staring at them has made me heal. Kudos.

  • Lucy Roleff

    Hi Jamie. You are being realistic when you hope that the ‘old you’ will return! I read somewhere that you may view the real you as being ‘clouded over’ by the symptoms. You haven’t gone anywhere.

    Rather than seeing your mental health as a battle to be won, Jamie, it seems more effective to accept that these are the thoughts and feelings you are experiencing right now and aiming instead to alter your attitude towards them as a whole (rather than tackling each thought one by one.)

    For me, it was when I stopped waking up everyday, wondering if I would feel better, that I eventually actually did wake up one day …and felt better! Rather than seeing Mindfulness as something you have to practice for weeks and weeks in order to ‘break down’ or ‘fade out’ your anxious thoughts, see it as a whole new way of perceiving your thoughts – effectively seeing them in a new way – one devoid of judgements and all the attached emotional reactions that come. Sure, it takes time, but if your goal isn’t to completely eradicate or forget your problems, the rewards will be the all the sweeter

    Good luck!

  • jamie

    Hi Lucy, thanks for the reply.
    I am in full agreement with you in that accepting, rather than battling your thoughts and feelings is the progressive way.
    I mentioned I’m following a book-based Mindfulness course. This week has been about just that – acceptance. 3 days in to it, I have already felt comfortable taking responsibility, accepting my feelings and not avoiding my thoughts. In less than a week I already feel much more positive and relaxed.
    I think the key so far for me has been to – as you say – accept now for now rather than try to ‘make’ myself better. I’ve had the same negative thoughts a million times. I’ve realised they no longer have the control over me they once did. It’s liberating and also positive in that I am still relatively early in my Mindfulness ‘career’ – and I’m loving meditating :)
    Thank you again, Jamie

  • Emma

    Hi Lucy,

    I hope this message gets to you. Your story is tremendously encouraging, I read it last night and I couldn’t stop thinking about . I was just wondering if you still consider yourself recovered after posting this article and how you are doing today? I was also wondering how long you were in therapy with Dr. Strong and if you would recommend Skype therapy with him.

    Thank you in advance :)

    Emma

  • Lucy Roleff

    Hey Emma,

    Thanks for your message. Yes, I do see myself as recovered. This is not to say I don’t have days where I feel down or a bit anxious. The real difference is that it doesn’t really bother me anymore because I know it will pass.

    I think many people are waiting (in vain) for the day when they feel 100% awesome – as if they had never experienced any anxiety or depression. A valuable piece of information someone told me was that our memories can trick us into thinking we are returning to ‘the bad times’ (not judging! that’s just what we think) when really it’s just learned responses flickering away in our heads. It is confusing and annoying yes but over time, patience and a bit of distancing our sense of selves from our thoughts – these episodes lessen.

    For me I only needed one session with Peter Strong to just solidify some things I knew and to answer some questions. I would definitely recommend having a chat to him. He’s the type of guy you chat to and feel you’ve known a long time. Good luck xx

  • carlan8611

    your post really resonates with me because I am going through a relapse right now. I’ve been diagnosed with anxiety for 18 years now, have tried anti anxiety medication and have been perscribed antidepressant medications a thousand times, but I will not take them. I’ve tried CBT and regular talk therapy
    which helps a little but I’ve been through so many therapists, its crazy.

    last month I was introduced to mindfulness and DBT therapy. at first I was very skeptical, I think that is in our nature though and the anxiety tells us to be skeptical of anything new.

    but after committing myself, I do a mindfulness meditation for at least 15 minutes everyday, and have found that this week I have been more symptom free even tho I’m still a bit disoriented from some lingering depression. but I know it takes some time since this isn’t my first relapse.

  • jamie

    Hi Lucy, I asked you a question about ‘letting it be’ a couple of months ago and you gave what has proved to be the correct answer. You can get over your anxieties – I have experienced this – and Mindfulness is the answer.

    I have just completed a 6 session one to one Mindfulness course with a very experienced practitioner and I have to say, ‘letting it be’ is the answer. Not AN answer, but THE answer. Just observing and being aware of your anxious thoughts, no matter how painful is the only way to go. Through Mindfulness, you learn to notice these thoughts and feelings – when they happen, how they happen and why they happen. Through CONSTANT training, you see these thoughts for what they are – thoughts, nothing more.

    It becomes natural to focus on the moment. It stops you ruminating on the same old anxieties every second of the day – in a healthy way. You embrace the dark thoughts, they relinquish their power over you and then you notice that the uneasy feelings and painful thoughts simply dissolve.

    You are still aware of your anxieties – that’s normal and healthy – but you are free to live the life you want to live.

    I wanted to post this as motivation for people who may be suffering the constant cycle of arguing with their thoughts. I felt COMPLETELY helpless. I was worried about something specific, a horrible worry that would affect my entire existence – I felt sick when I wondered how I would be able to live with that sort of fear.

    That anxiety lasted over a year. Now, 2 months after formal training, I am back to my normal self – actually better than ever because I have learned to be mindful.

    To anyone who is suffering – take it from me – you can be absolutely, 100% fine again if you commit to mindfulness. Notice the doubt, the cynicism and the lethargic mind states – just be – as much as you can. DO NOT strive to be ‘better’ – that is counter productive. Just accept what you are experiencing and let it go. In time, it becomes natural. The anxieties lose their power and you become empowered and confident.

    Never give up, always maintain that hope and just relax. Mindfulness is remarkable – commit to it.

  • Lucy Roleff

    beautifully said, Jamie!

  • AnxietyControl8

    Such an awesome post. Be sure to check out my new anxiety site if you have time Lucy! http://www.gettingoveranxiety.com/

  • Silvia

    Omg. This article describes what I’m currently struggling with. My mind swings from anxiety to depression over and over to the point I feel I will go mad. I’ve been taking medication for almost 8 years. I’ve tried so many, I lost count. I’m surprised my brain hasn’t fried. I’ve heard of mindfulness but it’s hard to follow. I meditate at times and I do feel some relief, but I can’t help wanting to find a “cure.” Maybe I haven’t understood fully what mindfulness is all about or something. I would appreciate any feedback. Thank you.

  • Lucy Roleff

    Hi Silvia,

    These extra resources may help you understand Mindfulness (see below)

    The best way to view Mindfulness is that you are developing a new attitude to your thoughts – all the time (not just for ten or fifteen minutes a day.) Although meditating is of course beneficial and has been proven to make physical changes in the brain, true mindfulness is being able to take a little step back from your moods and thoughts as they pop up, and see them as what they are – just moods and thoughts. With time, all the extra stuff that gets attached to them (physical responses, worry, rumination etc) fades. You might like to start with the meditations on smiling mind x

    - http://www.lisaesile.com
    - Paul David’s website and blog: anxietynomore.co.uk
    - The User’s Guide to the Human Mind – Why our brains make us unhappy, anxious and neurotic and what we can do about it. – Shawn T. Smith, PsyD
    - The Mindful Path through worry and rumination – Sameet M. Kumar, PH.D.
    - The Path of Mindfulness Meditation – Peter Strong PH.D.
    - Meditationoasis.com – Mindfulness meditations for all situations (free)
    - Smilingmind.com.au – Interactive mindfulness meditations (free)

  • Sarah Chase

    This spoke to me on many levels. Thank you for sharing!