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Montgomery Township Area Martial Arts School Discusses Anxiety

For the past nine years I have been a full-time martial arts instructor. A sizable percentage of my students (of all ages) struggle with anxiety. In addition, I have loved ones who live with General Anxiety or Social Anxiety. I have had my own challenges in the past. In sum, it is fair to say I've had the opportunity to coach several hundred people, including myself and those closest to me. 

We all feel anxious SOMETIMES. That feeling can range from butterflies in the stomach to sheer panic. In real life, it is extremely rare that we are in true panic situation. But our bodies still resort back to what we need to do if being chased by a saber tooth tiger or woolly mammoth. In modern times, the source of our anxiety is usually our own thoughts. 

When I began martial arts training, I was first introduced to the idea of meditation. It was only 30 seconds to a minute before and after class, but it was enough time to help me to understand that my brain was always "ON." I talked to myself a lot. Maybe you do too. Or if we don't, our brain must be stimulated all the time. I'll prove it. Do you need to look at your phone constantly? Do you need YouTube or the radio on while brushing your teeth?

Mindfulness is a practice of tuning out the voice in your head that is constantly ruminating on the past or the future. We do it constantly, and the result is that we are rarely present. But the present is typically peaceful, nothing to be anxious about. We are in the shower, or driving in the car, or having our morning coffee. Nothing to see here folks! Just a brain that won't stop talking. And it is filling us with all the things we have to worry about – and not in a productive, problem-solving way. It’s just mind chatter.  

Try this tomorrow morning when having your morning coffee. Turn off the TV. Put down the newspaper or your phone. Just sit, and sip. When your thoughts wonder, and they will, I want you to focus on one of your senses. That is what is present. You can focus on:

  • Your breath, and how it feels
  • What you actually see in your home
  • Things you hear (that have always been there, and you never noticed)
  • Smells
  • Any feeling in your body of tension or discomfort.

At this point, you don't need to close your eyes. On the contrary. I want you to SEE. You don't need to chant any mantras or anything like that. Just be AWARE. When the self-talk begins, acknowledge it and return to the breath, or simply observing the room without judgement. That part is important. 

If you are like me, you will notice how tense you typically are when you are not being mindful. You will feel a little strange at first, just sitting there, but when you turn off the self-talk and focus on the present, the anxiety will begin to relax. With more practice, this becomes easier. 

The goal is to bring that concept of "being present" with you when you are not actively practicing mindfulness. 

More than anything I have learned in martial arts; it is this concept that has most benefited me. My goal is to share this with people hoping that they can learn to manage their anxiety a little better. 

Would love to hear your thoughts. Any comments or questions, or if you think that martial arts training can help you or someone you love, don't hesitate to contact me. 


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