Meditation for anxiety (A Brief Guide)
In this guide, we will discuss how meditation for anxiety can help us to interact better with our world and in turn feel better with ourselves.
Meditation for anxiety: Steps to reduce your stress
There are some steps you can follow for meditation for anxiety, that can help you be more in control, calm and reduce your anxiety levels.
- Find a comfortable and quiet place
- Focus on your breathing, take a deep breath and continue inhaling and exhaling slowly. (But before one tries to incorporate deep breathing in meditation, you need to know whether it helps with anxiety or not?)
- If it helps to concentrate you can put some relaxing instrumental music
- Close your eyes and concentrate
- Try to shut out all other stimuli that may distract you to avoid losing concentration
- Thoughts that make you feel anxious will go through your mind so acknowledge them but go back to focus on your breathing
- Keep focusing for as long as you can, 5 to 10 mins or even half an hour, with practice you will notice how the amount increases
- After opening your eyes try just observing your surroundings and notice how you feel, more relaxed and calm
There are plenty of guided exercises out there, just give it a try, you don’t have anything to lose but only to gain from implementing meditation for anxiety. How many times during the day of the week do we take some time for ourselves?
Yes, we have many things going on, work or school or even being a parent, which causes a lot of stress in our day to day activities.
However, it is important to dedicate some time to remove ourselves from our hectic lives, meditate and relax.
Feeling anxious is something we are used to but how many times you stop and stare at the bigger picture?
How many times do you acknowledge what you are feeling?
Well, the good news is that you are not the only one, approximately 1 in 14 people suffer from anxiety and it can make us feel frustrated and alone.
Let’s think about those “symptoms” or signs that manifest when we are anxious.
Maybe you have felt how your heart is racing so fast you feel like you are having a heart attack or how your heart will pop out from your chest at any moment, known as heart palpitations.
Maybe you have experienced the sweaty palms, the butterflies in your stomach, headaches, among others.
These are normal reactions associated with anxiety and we all have felt it at some point, due to situations perceived as stressful.
However, we need to be aware that even if those reactions are normal, when anxiety starts taking control over your life and interfering significantly with your daily activities then we may consider seeking professional advice since it can indicate an anxiety disorder.
What happens in our bodies when we are anxious?
When we perceive something as harmful or threatening then, our adrenal glands fire a signal to prepare our body to “fight or flight”, our autonomic nervous system starts working, leading to a release of epinephrine and cortisol (stress hormones).
This biological response prevents us from getting harmed or removes us from a potentially life-threatening situation.
In addition, our brains limbic system, more specifically, the amygdala gets activated which is actually considered our emotional thermostat.
So, this brain structure is in charge of processing our emotional responses, governs our senses, how we feel and basically how we react in life.
Having an over-reactive amygdala can generate a disproportionate and exaggerated response to life events.
Therefore, this is considered an adaptative response, but, what happens when it is a prolonged and generalized response?
Then, we are talking about a generalized anxiety disorder if our thoughts and worries are persistent and constant (rumination), keep escalating until the point it impedes our normal functioning, we are always thinking about the worst-case scenario (catastrophizing) and even experience panic attacks.
We may be tired already and would like to do something to fight our anxiety, but we are not sure where to start.
As an answer to your questions, there is a very effective way to manage your anxiety and that answer is “meditation”, however, we need to remain constant and persist.
Stop blaming yourself, your brain is programmed to worry since we are little kids.
Our brains process the information in an attempt to categorize everything and store it accordingly, so there is either a positive or negative bias to everything we experience or see.
Have you wondered why bad news is a priority?
Or why they tend to stay with us during the day or as intrusive thoughts?
This is because our amygdala is always searching for something to fear, however, it is possible to “turn off” your amygdala as a light switch through meditation (EOC institute).
How do I manage my anxiety through meditation?
First of all, we need to understand anxiety and make conscious our cognitive distortions and what actually triggers it.
Identifying the situations that trigger our anxiety is the first step.
Then, we are ready to implement meditation techniques, here our senses and emotions can be felt in a different way as we are normally used to when the anxiety is triggered as an automatic response.
Moreover, researchers have found that consistent meditation has the ability to reprogram our brain and neural pathways.
In addition, with the use of modern imaging techniques, they have been able to find significant changes in the cortical structure of those regions involved in meditation, more specifically “mindfulness”.
Here, the idea is to focus on the present moment with non-judgemental awareness.
As we have discussed, when there is an overreactive amygdala it can be detrimental for us, but studies have shown that meditation helps reduce the size of the amygdala and subsequently, we are more in control of our emotional responses.
The best part about meditation is that there are no side effects so even if you try it once and decide it is not right for you then your health won’t be affected at all.
Yoga, which meditation is a part of also relaxes the mind and body. One’s anxiety can be treated by it.
The “Monkey Mind”
The EOC institute shares a very accurate description of the human mind and how it resembles a room full of drunk monkeys that are constantly jumping, chattering and carrying on all day and all night.
But there is one monkey, in particular, that is in desperate need of our attention, it is the loudest and the one with the most influence, their leader “Fear”.
This monkey is constantly setting off alarms and “points out every single pothole in our path, makes up an infinite number of “what-if scenarios,” while ensuring anxious thoughts always stay at the forefront of our mind”.
This monkey is the most dangerous of the bunch and needs to be on our “imaginary cage” for it to leave us alone, otherwise, it will always have a significant amount of control over our lives and how we interact with the world around us.
Let’s think about the cage as the “mindfulness meditation” cage.
This is when, implementing meditation can tame this problematic monkey and make us an expert “animal trainer” making them in the end, more benevolent, kind and peaceful to us.
It is just the same with anxiety, if we learn about it and embrace it, we will be able to understand this little monkey and fight it back letting us live a much happier life, free of the constant worry and anxiety.
Ways to use Meditation for anxiety
There are a few ways to use meditation for anxiety that can help us improve our lives significantly, here is a list based on ramdass.org:
- Meditate to calm the chaos
- Meditate to manage anger and react better to situations
- Meditate to let go of the drama in your life
- Meditate to see your path
- Meditate to improve your health
- Meditate to feel the natural pacing of life
- Meditate to seek simplicity
- Meditate to learn how to let thoughts go
- Meditate to relax your body
- Meditate to strengthen your faith
- Meditate to cultivate mindfulness
- Meditate to release judgment
- Meditate to allow you to recognize your emotions
Check the list of helpful meditation apps that have reduced anxiety in people.
Why is this blog about meditation for anxiety important?
We have discusses how or hectic and frantic lives are the source of our anxiety and constant worry but if we just stopped for a minute and settle our mind for a few minutes during the day then it can help us gain the control we lost in our lives when we decided to let anxiety control us.
Also, we have identified how our body and our brain respond to threatful and harming situations but if we are constantly having these thoughts and we are constantly anxious then our bodies and our brain are going to keep working round the clock nonstop making us feel frustrated, tired and even depressed.
Meditation is not a miracle solution and you won’t see any results immediately, it requires time and practice but it can have a major impact in your life.
Remember also that meditation for anxiety is not suited for every case or everyone if you are already having anxiety treatment consult with your doctor if meditating can actually be combined with your current treatment.
Please feel free to comment in the comments section below!
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about meditation for anxiety
Can meditation reduce anxiety?
Research has consistently shown how meditation can help reducing stress and anxiety and it is especially true for patients with generalized anxiety disorder and depression.
Additionally, it does not require hours of meditation, a few minutes of your day are powerful enough to even re-shape or rewire your brain and creating new neural pathways.
Can meditation help with stress and anxiety?
Meditation is considered a simple technique that can help you battle with stress and anxiety.
It has also been said to improve cardiovascular health and even provide some tools to achieve calm and relaxing states when needed.
How often should you meditate for anxiety?
There is no fixed amount you should dedicate for meditation, however, try by starting with 5 minutes during your day.
Most people start with 5 minutes and then they even increase it to 20 or 30 minutes of their day.
It actually depends on you and your availability, however, in regards to how often then it is recommended to practice daily meditation.
What are the 3 types of meditation?
There may be more than 3 types of meditation, here we name a few according to medicalnewstoday.com:
Loving-kindness meditation. With the many types of meditation to try, there should be one to suit most individuals.
Body scan or progressive relaxation.
Breath awareness meditation.
What is a good vitamin for anxiety?
It has been suggested that Vitamin B5 intake supports the adrenal glands functioning which helps reduce stress and anxiety levels.
Additionally, Vitamin B9 or folic acid and Vitamin B12 also help to balance your mood and if you ave anxiety due to PMS then, combining Vitamin B6 and magnesium can help balance your anxiety levels.
- The Mind Illuminated: A Complete Meditation Guide Integrating Buddhist Wisdom and Brain Science for Greater Mindfulness
- How to meditate with anxiety
- Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Finding Peace in a Frantic World (Includes Free CD with Guided Meditations)
- Anxious Brain: Don’t Be Anxious for Nothing but Free Yourself Finding Calm and Mindfulness in a Chaotic World, with Easy Exercises and Guided Meditations Vol.1
- How to Meditate: How I stopped doubting meditation, applied simple steps and discovered a 10-minute routine to a successful life
Headspace: Meditation for anxiety
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