Anxiety and Meditation

October 3rd, 2014      Email this article to a friend Email this article to a friend

With anxiety there’s the very real chance that your thoughts will take you on a not so pleasant experience. Thoughts can be followed by stories, e.g. series of thoughts + emotions + pictures from memory, and before you know it you’re reliving your worse nightmare again and again making the anxiety attack stronger. For example, after a bad experience on a bus, you might say “I better not get on the bus any more, and just to be safe I might as well avoid cars as well”. This process generally comes with physical effects in the body such as tension, stress, and more anxiety as a result, etc. It’s a vicious circle.

If we can somehow prevent the upcoming anxiety, or perhaps even start to dissolve it, it’s well worth exploring different options.

I always shrugged my shoulders when people told me about meditation, but I thought I’d give it a go, and have made much progress since. I’m not only more relaxed (because of the relaxed breathing), but I’m also more able to snap out of an upcoming anxiety attack, or ride it out. It does require a little bit of practice and time though.

Here’s the low down of how I do my meditation.

  • I find a position where I’m comfortable, and can close my eyes. This can be on a chair, couch, or on your bed. As long as you’re comfortable. I just lie down on my bed flat on my back.
  • All you need to do is breathe which should come natural. 😉
  • Just relax for a bit. Try and relax your breathing. Take a couple of deep breaths.
  • Now focus your attention on the breathing. Try and stay with the breath for as long as possible. It doesn’t really matter how you breathe at this point, because that’s not the goal of this meditation. It’s all about the focus on the breathing.
  • At some point you’ll probably find that your mind has wandered off, and is thinking of something else. That’s okay, that’s normal. The point is that you’re now aware that your mind has wandered off. That’s a major step.
  • Now bring your focus back to the breath, and repeat. When you catch your brain wandering again, bring your focus back to the breathing. That’s all you need to do.

The objective is to become aware of your (anxiety) thoughts, and being able to send your focus in a different direction. This is a crucial stepping stone, because you now you have some time to respond to the anxiety rather than react to it.

For example, when you experience anxiety, taking a deep breath is a good start as it is the first conscious signal coming from your brain to your body that it’s “okay”. The deep breath will trigger other processes in your body that will help you relax, and give you some time to think.

I was told to meditate 2 times 20 minutes per day, but it’s more like 2 times 10 minutes per day for me at the moment. It doesn’t matter. Everything you can fit into your schedule will help.

Anxiety checklist
Once you’ve become aware of your pending anxiety attack, it’s important to stay present in the moment. Try not to spend time in the past or future, e.g. “last time this didn’t go to well”, or “what if this happens, what if that happens?”. Live in the present moment.

Having an anxiety checklist (a list of things that will help you calm down) is a great tool to have. When you become aware of an impending anxiety attack, make sure to grab your anxiety checklist. Write the checklist down, because when you need it you probably won’t remember what’s on it. It doesn’t need to be a checklist by the way, it could also be a toy, or something that grounds you and calms you down. An anchor point.

Here’s my checklist:

  • BREATHE
  • Anxiety is a feeling, and won’t kill me
  • Stop! I can do this
  • I want to do this
  • I will get through this
  • Mindfulness
  • Plan ahead
  • Stop reacting

I was encouraged to write one, after reading this book.

I’d like to invite you to write your own.

Instead of reacting, you will now be responding consciously, because you’ve become aware of what’s going on. It’s like changing the rail road track so that the train will go in a different direction.

Anxiety won’t kill you
The key to anxiety, and this is going to sound stupid, is that it can’t kill you. It’s just extremely unpleasant. Fear might be there, but it’s important not to fight it (which will only make it stronger). Don’t run away, but gently face your fear. Let it do its’ worse, because it can’t kill you, and it will stop at some point. Yes, it will be uncomfortable at first, but progress can certainly be made. Just keep breathing, stay aware, and stick to your checklist.

Medication
Medication can play a big role with anxiety as well, e.g. some general medication does a good job, others not so much. Please feel free to discuss this with your doctor.

There is also medication that can help for the short-term, or as a “one off”, but they can be addictive and the body will get used to it, so they have limited use. I currently use a small dose of Lorezepam (.75 mg) to help with the Akithesia, and I am allowed to have a little more for big events that I know are coming.

Conclusion
There is of course quite a lot to anxiety, but I strongly feel that this meditation can help. It helped me, so why not give it a go. You’re going to be breathing and lying down at some point any way. 😉

This meditation will also help you relax in general, and it will also give you an idea of what is going on inside your head, e.g. the things your mind wanders off too.

Wishing you all the best.

Posted in Mental Illness

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