Having been born in Zimbabwe and grown up in Johannesburg, Carolyne Bennett says that there was always a lot of fear around in her childhood.

She was an anxious childhood, and her anxiety only got worse as she grew up.

"It got to the point where I was struggling to sit round the table for meetings at work," says the 42-year-old from Curdridge.

"It was getting worse and worse. I started to struggle to take my daughter to school or go to the supermarket.

"I would feel dizzy and had a fear of fainting. I'd have cold sweats and a deep sense of fear and dread.

"I used to panic about panicking."

Carolyne didn't find medication helpful and feared that she would spend the rest of her life suffering from chronic anxiety.

Then, in 2015, she developed auto-immune disease and her anxiety symptoms got even worse.

"I felt desperate," she says.

"I felt like I was going to be stuck with anxiety forever.

"It was always underlying but there would be periods when it would be really heightened, and it had been that way since I was a teenager."

Carolyne knew she needed to do something to help herself, and began studying meditation and mindfulness, going on to become a meditation and mindfulness instructor.

It has changed her life.

"My anxiety is pretty much non existent now," says Carolyne, who is also a life coach.

"My mind was constantly feeding my anxiety with 'what ifs', worrying about what could go wrong. Your body becomes very sensitive, constantly looking for threats and danger.

"I began the process of quieting my mind, and noticed I was getting fewer anxiety attacks."

Carolyne says that she began noticing some changes quite quickly, which gave her faith in the process, and that it took four to five months for a significant reduction in her anxiety attacks.

"I started with things like basic breathing techniques, which I still do," she says.

"I set my alarm and spend five minutes focusing on my breath. If my mind wanders, I take it back to my breath. I just concentrate on the in and out. If my mind wanders, that's OK, but I bring it back to my breath.

"I also started doing basic mindfulness. Things like focusing on what I could hear – birds, cars, etc, and then switching to all the colours I could see.

"It's about being in the present. Anxiety is about living in the future.

"As I did the mindfulness and meditations, my nervous system began to reset itself to a normal level, rather than being in flight of fight mode."

Meditation and mindfulness have become a way of life for Carolyne.

"I meditate on most days, even if it's just for five minutes, although often it's longer," she says.

"With mindfulness it's something I can do almost all the time, for instance when I'm washing up. I do as much as I can throughout the day.

"I do my best to be as present as I can. It's how I keep a handle on my anxiety."

Carolyne adds that she doesn't know if she would have been prepared to try meditation and mindfulness earlier in her life.

"I'm not sure that I would have been open to it when I was younger," she says.

"I'm pleased I discovered it when I did, I was ready for it and to be serious about my meditation practice.

"Now it's become a solid part of my daily routine, and it's helped me immensely."

Having discovered for herself how life changing mindfulness and meditation can be, Carolyne is keen to share the benefits with others.

"I want people suffering from anxiety to know that there are lifestyle changes that they can make that can be very beneficial," she says.

"I want to get the message out that you don't have to suffer."

Carolyne Bennett’s top 5 tips on how to start meditation:

• Create a nice and calm space. This can be anywhere. If your household seems to hectic, don’t shy away from thinking outside the box. Use your car, your garden – anywhere that works for your everyday life.

• Chose a regular time to meditate every day. This means it becomes part of your routine. Make sure you tell your partner or family that you can’t be interrupted, so choose a time this is possible .

• Sit in a comfortable position. Sitting up is best, as it avoids you falling asleep. Your body restores better if you are able to stay awake. Don’t worry if you do – it’s likely to happen to start with. You can lie down if you prefer, but make sure you’re comfortable.

• Start with short meditation. Anything from around five to seven minutes. This makes it achievable and means your mind is less likely to wonder off and think of other things, as you’re training yourself.

• Focus on the breath. Feel your breath as you inhale through your nose, into your mouth and into your lungs as deeply as you can. Then exhale. If your mind wonders – and it will – don’t beat yourself up, but simply remember to focus on your breathing.