Reducing Anxiety With Meditation and Mindfulness Techniques
Do you feel safe in this world?
I’m not talking about the sick feeling in the pit of your stomach after watching the news where its portrayed that the world may or may not go to hell in a hand basket.
What I’m actually asking you is…Do you feel generally safe and secure with your place in the universe?
Your answer to this has a lot to do with whether you experience anxiety or not.
I have anxiety and people like me can have a general trust issue with the world. We don’t feel very safe. We try to control a lot more than we can with the hopes that it will tame our anxiety from bubbling over. But the opposite is true.
It’s not to say the universe/divine/God aren’t incredibly powerful sources with our best interest at heart– anxiety has nothing to do with whether those elements are trustworthy.
Anxiety is actually caused by your perception of the world– introduced to you when you were much younger, including trauma and genetics. It can also be exasperated by physical stress such as lack of sleep and poor nutrition. Anxiety is a perfect storm.
It’s no wonder that 7 million people suffer from GAD (General Anxiety Disorder), with 15 million suffering from social anxiety disorder, and 7.7 million affected by post-traumatic stress disorder.
Anxiety can make you feel “swept up” or “carried away” by fear. People regularly describe it this way too. The opposing force to being swept away is being supported, connected, and grounded.
On an existential and emotional level, we lose our faith in the world as a supportive place. We lose our trust in anyone or anything besides ourselves…and hey, we know ourselves (we know our flaws) so that’s putting our trust/faith on shaky ground too.
What’s worse (see, that’s anxiety talking 😉 is that we try to control everything around us, which strips the people close to us of their power and we end up doing more, taking on more, while they sort of coast in the background. Eventually we lose faith in their ability to be a significant support system. We cause that which we are most scared of; that it will all fall apart without us.
During times of disproportionate stress, we isolate ourselves further contributing to getting in our own way by staying stuck in our head as if what we think and how we feel is always the truth.
Maybe your past has shown you that even you can’t control everything. Further back to childhood, you may have experienced parents, adults or situations that failed to help you feel safe or keep you safe. You may have lacked support or had little to perhaps nobody to trust.
People with anxiety struggle with relying on anybody.
We struggle with relying on ourselves.
We struggle with realizing we aren’t in control.
We struggle with the dim possibility that we may lose control.
It’s time to break the cycle.
I’d like to discuss how meditation and mindfulness techniques can help relieve your anxiety…and expand your awareness of a more connected, safe, and secure sense of the world.
*Meditation really helps with anxiety. However, you do not have to practice it to use many of the techniques I mention below. It wasn’t until I started meditating though that I learned these techniques.
To be completely honest, after meditating a few years I still have anxiety from time to time. I’m not cured of anxiety because I meditate, but I’m not suffering from anxiety…because I meditate. If anxiety creeps up, it’s usually because I haven’t been following some of the following techniques.
I had anxiety last night.
…and for good reason. I have two parents in the hospital more than out of the hospital so far this year. There’s a lot of unknowns and moving pieces. I also have two young kids at home relying on me too.
The peak of my anxiety last night was merely a speed bump though. The rush of anxious thoughts and feelings didn’t carry me away like they have in the past. They didn’t peak and turn into a panic attack. I have tools now. The more I practice them, the faster they work when I employ them.
These are the little gifts (and progress) you can appreciate with meditation and mindfulness techniques.
Most of the time, we take our thoughts too seriously because we’re living on autopilot so we don’t have time to investigate whether those thoughts are real emergencies or not.
In meditation thoughts can become like watching a poorly produced film. The kind where you can’t help but notice all the awkward flaws. All while repeating to yourself, ‘Oh that would never happen’ or ‘This plot is going nowhere’ and ‘Why would that person do that?’ You begin to notice your thoughts, but they’re not as “real” (or accurate) as you would normally view them.
Before I introduced meditation, mindfulness, and affirmations to my life, my anxious thoughts would immediately default to inner dialogue along the lines of ‘You’re doomed!’ ‘Should I do this or that, but what if that happens?’ During anxiety attacks, you may be well aware, your thoughts are ‘Am I going to die?’
The way I experience anxiety now just kind of flatlines. There’s a couple of anxious thoughts and feelings that arise…then it dissipates.
One thing to note is that sometimes anxiety can become more intense or prominent when you are reaching new depths in meditation…before a breakthrough! Sometimes people quit meditation during the uncomfortable times. Don’t quit. Trust!
When this happens, it’s important you use a guided meditation or affirmations that include dialogue and/or feelings of safety and security (Grounding For Anxiety meditation below). And continue to increase your time of “letting go” during meditation. Perhaps instead of focusing on eliminating thoughts in meditation (as we tend to do), you can bring gentle awareness to any feelings of “releasing” or “letting go” and “peace”…even if it’s for a few seconds or up to a minute! Welcome them in and simply observe them.
Realize that just because anxiety is fairly common doesn’t mean you have to accept it or let it rule your life.
I’ve compiled a list of techniques, come related to mindfulness and meditation, some not…and a free grounding meditation for anxiety!
Reduce Anxiety Physically:
Nip anxiety in the bud (before the worst of it) with your breathing. A change in your breathing is the first physical sign of fear, anxiety, and stress. The first sign is shallow breathing. We are often not even aware of this until we hyperventilate.
However, you can set the intention (and be mindful) to taking a few deep breaths periodically throughout your day— now you know why yogis make a big deal about deep breathing. There’s a purpose! This signals your body that you are ok.
Reduce Anxiety Psychologically:
We all have thought-loops, repetitive thoughts that end up being circular in nature. It’s described as being trapped by a chain of thoughts, repeating itself to produce anxiety.
There are two ways to stop thought-loops. If you have a minute or two, you can rewrite the thought loop when you notice it. First, write down the thoughts such as I will never feel good again. Then in a column next to the original thoughts, write the opposing thoughts; I feel good about my life. These rewritten second thoughts don’t have to be true in the moment. Logically, you may realize even your original thoughts are not true or accurate either.
The second way to disrupt a thought-loop is to use a mantra when these thoughts arise. You can use mine 😉 ‘One day at a time’.
I have a tendency to get ahead of myself and this produces overwhelm, leading to anxiety. Taking a few deep breaths and repeating, ‘One day at a time’ reminds me to stay present, keeping those negative thought-loops at bay.
Two Ways to reduce anxiety and build security, trust, and connectedness:
- Get grounded
Besides the free meditation I’m offering here to help you get grounded, there are ways to increase this feeling.
Get outside! Take a walk in nature. Have a picnic. Take a country drive and find a scenic place to pull over and get out. Breathe in fresh air. Go barefoot (earthing). We live on earth but are so disconnected- get reacquainted.
Grounding with energy medicine: Watch video. **Wonderful video- also explains what grounding is**
2. Use Affirmations.
Affirmations for grounding:
I have the right to be here exactly as I am.
I am grounded and connected to the earth.
I am open to pursuing my purpose here.
I am connected to all that is around me and this gives me a strong foundation.
Security and stability in life allows me to move with both confidence and connection to who I am.
My body is a glorious place to live.
I am at peace.
I am safe.
I am secure.
I am supported.
My survival needs are met and exceeded.
I trust that which created me.
Mantras and Affirmations for Anxiety:
Repeating affirmations is easier and more effective than trying to think happy thoughts. How often do you wake up with a negative thought and try to say to yourself, ‘Today is going to be a great day!’? Your brain will immediately kick this thought out! It DOES NOT recognize this thought as one of yours.
If you have a running list of positive affirmations you repeat day in and day out, they will become very familiar so when you retrieve one for times that you feel rotten, your brain WILL recognize this thought. You are more likely to actually benefit from it too!
Affirmations can also distract you from the thought-loops we discussed above.
One step at a time.
I release everything that happened today (before bed).
Soothing energy from the universe enters my body.
I am at peace whether or not I am in control.
I am calm whether or not things are going my way right now.
I connect with what is good around me.
I have a well of calm inside me that I can draw from any time. Buckets and buckets of calm!
My tension is melting away.
I don’t have to respond to anything right now.
Calmness washes over me with every breath I take.
Mindfulness meditation is proven to relieve anxiety. People ask me ‘How do I know if meditation is working for me?’ Too tough to answer. Results vary. However, meditation has been studied and does produce some distinct and similar results in most people- one of those is significant relief from anxiety. You may still get anxious (yours truly), but not as often– you catch it before the accompanying emotions and stress sweep you away and it doesn’t develop into sleeplessness and other physical symptoms/issues/ailments.
Increasing mindfulness aside from meditation is possible too! Jon Kabat-Zinn created an entire program called Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) taught to thousands around the globe and offered at an equally impressive number of prominent hospitals.
How to practice mindfulness:
- Eat mindfully. Slow down when you’re eating- chew your food. Mindfulness is about turning everyday activities into purposeful events. Not all the time- a little goes a long way.
- Observe your breathing. You can do this any time. Begin to notice when stressful thoughts arise and focus your attention on purposeful breathing.
- Connect with your senses. Of course this is best practiced outside in order to really engage all of your senses.
- Pause between actions and activities. Instead of doing, doing, doing, purposefully do one thing then pause and intentionally move on to the next thing.
- Do things you love. I’ve heard from people who don’t even know or remember what they love to do anymore because they haven’t enjoyed something for so long. If you are creative, do a variety of creative things, maybe even learn a new hobby. When we do more things we love, we experience flow.
- Do something different. If you are accustomed to complaining when something upsets you, interrupt your usual response and reaction by doing something different. Sit in a chair and breathe forcefully in and out or scream in a pillow or go paint! This way you interrupt the thoughts and emotions that lead to stress and anxiety.
Ease Anxiety and get grounded!
Check out my YouTube channel for this NEW meditation: Grounding For Anxiety Relief
Peace and Be Well