Have Anxiety? Start Meditating!
When you hear “meditation,” what do you think of? Do you picture a wise, old sage, cross-legged with eyes closed? Or do you picture yoga retreats with incense burning? Maybe you have your own frustrations with meditation and are picturing nodding off, battling with concentration, and trying to resist a scratch that you didn’t notice until you started meditating. In all your imagination about meditation, do you picture the benefits, especially for those with anxiety?
Meditation is one of several mind-body exercises that work to reduce symptoms of anxiety. Aside from anxiety, meditation can help with chronic pain, sleep disorders, depression, and headaches. Meditation can help soothe anxiety by increasing our emotional regulation skills, helping you to stay in the present moment, and decreasing physical symptoms like increased heart rate.
If it’s difficult for you to meditate due to your anxiety, try the following tips to establish a consistent, fruitful practice.
Allow Anxious Thoughts Without Judgment
One of the best parts about meditation is developing the skill of non-judgment. Non-judgment is the act of noticing a thought and allowing it to enter and pass without an emotional response to it. Imagine – what would it be like to think about a typically triggering thought, but allow it to come and go without an intense emotional response? That’s what non-judgment in meditation allows us to develop – the ability to let our thoughts come and go without assigning too much value to them.
Perform a Body Scan to See How Anxiety Feels
Many of us have trouble describing how anxiety actually feels in our body. One form of meditation, commonly called a body scan, allows us to focus on how our body is feeling. In a body scan meditation, the meditator starts at the feet and examines: is there tenseness here? What am I feeling in this part of my body? Then, the meditator continues upward – through their ankles, and knees, and so on – until they reach their head, asking the same questions throughout.
Taking a silent moment to truly see how you’re feeling can reveal signs of anxiety we don’t typically notice otherwise. You may notice some tenseness in your muscles, or fatigue, or tightness in your chest – all signs of anxiety.
Learn to Focus on the Present Moment
Are some of your most anxiety-inducing thoughts about either the past or the present? If this is true for you, learning to focus on the present moment will be an amazing benefit of meditation. During meditation, pick something in the present moment to focus on – maybe your breath, perhaps a candle, or even choose to repeat a mantra. When your mind wanders (as it will certainly do!), bring your thoughts gently back to your focus item. Using guided meditation may help keep you in the present if you find listening to someone else’s voice as the best way to focus.
Whether you’re completely new to meditation or a seasoned meditator, we hope this blog helps you learn some tips and tricks to meditate with anxiety! At Straight Up Treatment, we have clinicians that would love to help you improve your mindfulness skills. Reach out today to talk to an anxiety expert and start your healing journey. We look forward to hearing from you!