Meditation and Anxiety
Do you feel safe in this world?
I’m not talking about the sick feeling in the pit of your stomach after watching the nightly news where the world may or may not go to hell in a hand basket, but be prepared for the worst!
What I’m actually asking 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. 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 various perceptions of the world introduced to us when we were much younger as well as trauma and genetics, but can 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.
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 my anxiety talking 😉 is that we try to control everything around us, which strips the people close to us of their power so 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. Inadvertently 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 getting stuck in our own heads as if what we think and how we feel is always the only 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 the control that we don’t actually have.
It’s time to break the cycle.
I’d like to discuss how meditation can help relieve your anxiety…and expand your awareness of a more connected, safe, and secure sense of the world. Certain meditations can aid you in feeling safe and supported where you are…in this body…in this life…in this universe, experiencing life from another perspective.
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.
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.
I am an only child so “control” is mine for the taking…and all too tempting with my anxious tendencies. I know better.
The peak of my anxiety last night was merely a speed bump. The rush of anxious thoughts and feelings didn’t carry me away like they have in the past. These are the little gifts (and progress) you can appreciate with meditation.
Afterwards, I became curious about what I could do differently to take better care of myself while adjusting to the new stress of aging parents, including finding ways to support them from a distance with less situations where I am tempted with hands-on control.
I think I’ll survive.
It’s not an emergency.
This is anxiety.
Promptly mindfulness kicks in.
Effortless awareness and observation. (Mindfulness develops naturally from meditation.)
In “live/real” time we take our thoughts so seriously, but in meditation it becomes like watching a poorly produced film. The kind where you sit there picking out all the silly and awkward flaws, repeating to yourself, ‘Oh that would never happen’ or ‘This plot isn’t going anywhere’ and ‘Why would that person do that?’
Before I introduced meditation 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 falls flat. 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 have a guided meditation or affirmations that include dialogue and/or feelings of safety and security. 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!
I realized that just because anxiety is fairly common doesn’t mean I (or you) have to accept it or let it rule my life and I hope you realize this too!
Bottom line: 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.
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**
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.
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. I’m a parent and I know what I love, but it takes planning and prioritizing it. If you are creative, do a variety of creative things, maybe even learn a new creative outlet. 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.
BRAND NEW MEDITATION:
Ease Anxiety and get grounded!
Check out my YouTube channel for this NEW meditation: Grounding For Anxiety Relief
Peace and Be Well