Get Started: Meditation Tips for the Anxious Mind
The Struggles of Anxiety
If you're familiar with anxiety, it often comes with an overwhelming sense of panic, self-criticism, lack of concentration, and the fear that perhaps you will forever remain labeled as the “anxious type”. This may lead to a lack of motivation to even begin to find methods to ease your anxiety and solve the issues that come with having this common condition.
Perhaps you think it’s too challenging because the cycle continues blossoming into bigger obstacles in your daily life. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, these problems may include trouble socializing, maintaining a job or relationship, and even keeping a decent sleeping pattern. At worst, you may find yourself locking the doors to the next opportunity for success and happiness. You might’ve already tried talking to your doctor, going to counseling, and getting on anti-anxiety medication. You might not feel good enough to open up to the possibility of another way to lessen your anxiety. From experience, I can definitely say it will not hurt to at least familiarize yourself with meditation.
Problems with Getting Started
A study in The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry concludes that the benefits of participating in a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program, such as "breath awareness" and "present-focused awareness", helped their participants with Generalized Anxiety Disorder. They did better with these methods than just taking a "Stress Management Education" course that also combined "posture exercises with a physical therapist".
Even though that sounds great, you may still be a little wary of trying this whole mindfulness business yourself. After all, these participants had an experienced instructor and possibly more time than you do right now. It’s very possible that you've tried meditating and found that your mind just doesn’t want to sit still. Did you find your adrenaline spiked at the attempt to quiet that mind of yours? Did this cause even more anxiety over the fact that you could not do this meditating thing “properly”?
I know I did but only at first. My rapidly moving thoughts sped up with quietness around me. To force my eyes closed and “just relax” caused tension in my shoulders. I opened my eyes and I didn’t attempt it again for weeks. I thought I had “failed”. I felt anxious and slightly that conned that I hadn't felt any immediate effects. However, I still believed that there was a way to get a glimpse of inner peace.
I believed that the calm feeling (you think) everyone else has could be found inside of me. Even when the crippling anxiety beat me down, I kept this hope that someday I would be able to take control. And you, my friend, need to believe that this is possible for you as well. It has to be the first step. You must believe that there is even a slim chance for you to overcome your anxiety.
Find Your Meditation Spot
Getting Started: Tips and Reminders
- Not ONE way will work for everyone but there is a possibility that multiple types of meditation WILL work for you.
- Be open to trying different positions and surroundings. Try lying down on your bed, sitting in a comfy chair indoors or outdoors, or sitting on a yoga mat. You could try meditating alone or with a trusted friend. You may like having certain crystals with you. You can listen to soft music, a meditation video or try sitting with the ambience around you.
- There are many types of meditation techniques. The main ones I use are: Guided Meditation (someone speaking to guide you through the process), Mantra Meditation (repeating aloud or in your mind a certain mantra), and Mindfulness Meditation (focusing on the present moment).
- You will learn in time to get better at sitting still and being OK with your own company.
- It most likely will be a challenge during the first few times. Challenges can improve your chances of breaking barriers you never knew were there until you discovered them while attempting to meditate.
- Silence your phone and put it away. Take a break from the outside world. This is about YOU and YOUR mental health. We all know what happens when anxiety runs on autopilot. This time try being the pilot! Fly with the storm but do not let the storm throw you out of your plane.
- If you find you're saying “I can’t do this", turn this negative thought into “I can do this." Do it immediately for best results. You do have the power! Even if that does sound a little cheesy.
- Create a routine that you can follow. You must be willing to take time to meditate if you truly believe this will benefit your life.
- Write it down in a notebook or calendar. I have a Bullet Journal that isn’t too fancy. I write “Meditate” on the days I know I will have time to practice. Even if I’m unsure if I’ll do it, I write it down anyway to engrave my intentions to find peace within.
- Everyone has stuff to do. Even my cat has to dedicate a few hours of napping. You may have deadlines to meet, family to care for, or you just want to do your own thing. If you can manage to ease your anxiety with meditation techniques, when your symptoms do increase and you're losing control, you'll have the tools to quickly alleviate your inner chaos.
- Don’t have any expectations of immediate results. Notice how you feel during and after.
- I know you want to be free of your anxiety even if it is just to catch your breath. However, rushing into things with too many expectations can hurt the process. Focus on making your body comfortable first. Then let the rest naturally happen.
Try Imagining Yourself Somewhere Peaceful
Meditating can surface some experiences or emotions we haven’t remembered or felt for so long. For instance, the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health says, "There have been rare reports that meditation could cause or worsen symptoms in people with certain psychiatric problems like anxiety and depression." Feelings of doubt, fear of the unknown, resentment, a traumatizing experience, and even old memories can present themselves. Your mind is like a computer and computers are susceptible to viruses. These “viruses” or negative experiences can shut down your system quickly.
There are ways to combat these things on your own if you are healthy or have spoken to a mindfulness instructor or professional.
- You can choose to keep meditating. Focus on a mantra or music, remembering that you are safe wherever you may be.
- Focus on your breathing pattern and recall the good things you may have felt during meditation.
- You can also end the session. Of course, whatever negative thing has appeared to you may still linger and eventually you will need to deal with this. Take a walk, work on something else, talk to yourself positively or spend time with a friend or animal.
You can continue to practice meditation but if you find yourself too overwhelmed by negative experiences or emotions and can’t seem to meditate or focus without this affecting your mental state, it's a good idea to see a counselor or psychiatrist. Some issues are too big to handle on our own if they involve a certain trauma. In other words, meditate responsibly. Only you know you.
Have you noticed changes in your mood, focus, or anxiety levels after a meditation session?
Try It Yourself
Meditating can be a self-empowering tool! I believe it will work for those who want to truly work on disciplining their mind. In my experience, meditation has let me become aware of my own anxiety patterns and the ugliest of self-truths. You may find yourself mindful of things such as letting fear of failure control you, knowing that an addiction needs to be broken, getting too comfortable with the phrase “I can’t”, or letting your past define who you are today.
You can use meditation along with a healthy lifestyle, therapy, and/or doctor prescribed anti-anxiety medications for great results. If you find meditation is not for you after months of practice then don’t worry too much about it. Some people still prefer exercise, art therapy, or reading over mindfulness to ease their anxiety and up their focus. As long as you still believe that you can manage your anxiety healthily and live the life you’ve always wanted, everything should turn out in your favor. Everything good about the human experience can be yours. It just takes some focus along with trial and error!
- Link to study:https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3772979
- Learning to breathe:http://www.anxieties.com/57/panic-step4#.WCJDhiRS320
- Some more info:http://www.spiritual-healing-for-you.com/types-of-meditation.html
- Still need help?:https://www.adaa.org/finding-help
Short on Time? 15 min Meditation Music. Try for a Few Minutes
Remember Your Physical Health is Important Too
- Believe in your abilities to overcome anxiety
- Try using various meditation techniques and methods before giving up.
- Meditating does take practice but you can meditate anytime on your own schedule.
- Work your way up if you are having difficulties. Try taking it just 5 minutes at first and you may find yourself working your way up to 30 minutes or even an hour.
- See a professional if your anxiety becomes too hard to manage alone or if your condition worsens.
- Meditation may not work for everyone and some may need to talk to their doctor first. Trying alternative methods like meditation, yoga, and changing your lifestyle can help you manage your stress and anxiety.