The present moment isn’t always a place of rest. Meditation can put us in touch with our stress and anxiety, and that’s why it can be so helpful. Explore how mindfulness and meditation can help soften feelings of anxiousness, reduce stress, and calm a panic attack in our new mindful guide to meditation for anxiety.
Written by MINDFUL STAFF mindful.org
Anxiety is our body’s way of saying, “Hey, I’m experiencing too much stress all at once.” This happens to the best of us. But, when that feeling of being “always on alert” becomes background noise that doesn’t go away, that’s when it’s time to seek help. Mindfulness and meditation for anxiety is a growing field that can help you navigate the many ways that anxiety can disorder your life. This guide is not meant to serve as a diagnosing tool or a treatment path—It’s simply a collection of research and some practices you can turn to as you begin to right your ship.
Calm Anxiety in Three Steps:
- Open your attention to the present moment. The invitation is to bring attention to our experience in a wider and more open manner that isn’t really involved with selecting or choosing or evaluating, but simply holding—becoming a container for thoughts feelings or sensations in the body that are present and seeing if we can watch them from one moment to the next.
- Focus on the breath. Let go of that widescreen and to bring a focus that’s much more concentrated and centered, so narrower, on breathing in one region of our bodies—the breath of the belly, or the chest, or the nostrils, or anywhere that the breath makes itself known, and keeping that more concentrated focus.
- Bring your attention to your body. move out to become aware of sensations in the body as a whole, sitting with the whole body, the whole breath, once again we move back to wider and spacious container of attention for our experience.
Mindfulness is not a panacea. It’s not the right choice for everyone. But, according to some research, when you can create a little space between yourself and what you’re experiencing, your anxiety can soften. But, if you get too used to that low rumble of stress always being there, it can gradually grow, creating a stress “habit” that is detrimental to your health and well-being. Consequently, when we get caught up in patterns of reactivity, we create more distress in our lives. This is why it’s so important to discern clearly the difference between reacting with unawareness and responding with mindfulness.
How Mindfulness Calms Anxious Feelings
- Mindfulness helps you learn to stay with difficult feelings without analyzing, suppressing, or encouraging them. When you allow yourself to feel and acknowledge your worries, irritations, painful memories, and other difficult thoughts and emotions, this often helps them dissipate.
- Mindfulness allows you to safely explore the underlying causes of your stress and worry. By going with what’s happening rather than expending energy fighting or turning away from it, you create the opportunity to gain insight into what’s driving your concerns.
- Mindfulness helps you create space around your worries so they don’t consume you. When you begin to understand the underlying causes of your apprehension, freedom and a sense of spaciousness naturally emerge.
“In essence, practicing mindfulness is a process of learning to trust and stay with feelings of discomfort rather than trying to escape from or analyze them,” says Bob Stahl, Ph.D., Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) teacher, founder of multiple MBSR programs, and co-author of multiple books on MBSR. “This often leads to a remarkable shift; time and again your feelings will show you everything you need to know about them—and something you need to know for your own well-being.”
Keywords; mindfulness, anxiety