January 2023

Mindfulness for Anxiety: Similar to Drug Therapy?

The New Year serves as a reset for many – a time to set goals for a healthy and happy year ahead. Anxiety and stress can come hand-in-hand, making it a good time for providers to check in on mental health and discuss helpful tools for managing symptoms.

One promising practice to consider is Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR). MBSR is a specific and standardized approach to mindfulness with increasingly promising evidence of benefit. A recent, large-scale preliminary study shows that practicing MBSR for 8 weeks is as effective at reducing anxiety as taking escitalopram 10 or 20 mg daily for 8 weeks. This is one of the highest quality studies to date suggesting that mindfulness can be a true therapeutic alternative for managing anxiety.

In addition to anxiety, there’s also evidence that mindfulness reduces symptoms of depression and can improve sleep quality in people with insomnia. With the holidays behind us and several long, dark months of winter ahead, this can be a difficult time for many. Both MBSR and another form of mindfulness called mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) might help.

If patients express concerns about anxiety, depression, and sleeping problems, ask if they’ve considered mindfulness practices. There are an increasing number of online resources and apps that can help guide patients through the practice. Mindfulness exercises are also much safer and more sustainable for long-term use than many medications for these conditions. But remind patients that mindfulness is called a “practice” for a reason. Patients will need to practice regularly and consistently to see the benefits. Review our monograph to learn more.

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