This is Part One of a six-part series called “Overcoming Anxiety.” It derives from the article Anxiety: Part II, which introduced these topics as ways to combat anxiety. The purpose of this series is to analyze these topics on a deeper level to ensure they provide you with the most meaningful information to apply towards changing your life.
As mentioned in Anxiety: Part II, the importance of meditation is understated; practicing mindfulness through meditation trains the brain to stay in the moment. Simply closing your eyes and focusing on your breath to generate relaxation, even for just 10 minutes per day, can have a huge impact on mental health.
Take a moment to think about everything that happens throughout each day. All the thoughts you think, the decisions you make, the places you go, the people you see, the actions you take, the things you do, and so on. Your mind is constantly at work processing information and guiding you through the journey.
Thoughts can become tangled and overpowering at times, even when we fail to realize it. This is normally what leads to stress. Your mind is the biggest culprit in causing anxiety due to how it interprets your situations.
This sentiment will help you understand the massive benefits of shutting your mind off for 10-20 minutes daily, focusing solely on your breath. It leads to a reset, which is essential for optimal mental health.
How to Meditate
Meditating can be done in a variety of ways. You can download an app or use a website that leads you through guided meditations. You can also position yourself in a comfortable position, close your eyes, put emphasis on your breath and focus your mind on relaxation while finding your happy place.
The app Calm is great for structured, guided meditations. It also taught me how to properly meditate when I choose to do so alone.
Here is their description, straight from the app store:
Calm is the perfect mindfulness app for beginners, but also includes hundreds of programs for intermediate and advanced users. Guided meditation sessions are available in lengths of 3, 5, 10, 15, 20 or 25 minutes so you can choose the perfect length to fit with your schedule.
They have a free service with limited content, as well as a premium yearly subscription that costs $69.99 annually. If used effectively, this option can be worth every penny, giving you access to a larger amount of meditations and other features.
Below is an excerpt from one of Calm’s guided meditations (via “Day 7” of 7 Days of Calming Anxiety) that sums up the concept of befriending anxiety and the influence that meditation can have on our minds:
“Although meditation isn’t the time to psychoanalyze, it’s the perfect time to still our minds, break reactivity and create space for clarity. From that place, we gain perspective and are better able to deal with our emotions.
We’re also able to look at our relationship to anxiety. Some of us respond to anxiety with denial or resistance. Others experience anger, shame or fear. There’s nothing wrong with any of these emotions, but they do have a tendency to shut us down rather than open us.
Therefore, a lovely technique we can bring to the experience of anxiety is love and kindness. What would happen if instead of fearing anxiety, instead of resisting it, we met it with an open heart. What if we approached our discomfort with kindness and compassion?”
It goes on to highlight the process of embracing our anxiety with open arms, rather than fearing it and investing our energy into pushing it away. This is a challenging, yet equally important, step in overcoming anxiety. It preaches acceptance and works to minimize the effects the mental illness can have on us.
This concept, along with many others, can be learned through meditation. Whether it’s guided or just time spent in silence reflecting, you can teach yourself how to calm down and learn about methods that will improve your life.
Learning is every bit a part of meditating as is relaxing. Listening to ways you can improve your anxious symptoms while you are in a peaceful state with controlled breathing can be much more effective than when your mind is cluttered.
Speaking of your breath, breathwork is a big component of meditation, and it can also be practiced on its own. An efficient breathing pattern will allow your body to relax, while also slowing the heartbeat, stabilizing blood pressure and lowering stress.
I like to use the 4×4 method to practice breathwork: four-second inhales, four-second holds, four-second exhales, and four-second pauses before repeating the process.
The ability to control your breath helps prevent against spiraling out of control during high stress situations.
Typically, when you begin to experience anxiety symptoms, the first thing that occurs is a racing heart, accompanied with shortness of breath or rapid breathing. If you have a breathing routine down pat, you can apply it in these situations to prevent the symptoms from getting worse.
In this way, mastering breathwork produces power and liberation. It’s easier said than done, but working on the ability to reverse the rapid breathing and find comfort in a calming breathing routine can go a long way towards stopping anxiety in its tracks.
The Wrap Up
Meditation and breathwork should be a part of everyone’s lives in some capacity. If you have anxiety, you should make it a priority to practice it. Even if you don’t, allowing the mind to reset itself has infinite benefits to your mental health.
Once you begin to meditate regularly, you’ll see the impact it can have on your health. Do your mind this favor, and in return, it will provide you with more peace.
Stay tuned for next week’s article, where diet and fitness will steal the show and prove how important their role is in your journey to happiness.