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There’s no one reason why people practice meditation. In addition, there is far more than one way to meditate. These two realities serve people with anxiety well. Firstly, it offers a self-help tactic that can ease the symptoms. Secondly, the wide range of meditative techniques removes the pressure about finding “the right way” and making sure you “do it right.”

Meditation, generally speaking, is a word used to describe many practices that help you focus your mind — right here and right now. Think about it. So much of struggling with anxiety involves regretting the past and/or dreading the future. How relieving does it sound to be able to let those concerns go and find ways to remain present?

Meditation Can Reduce Anxiety Symptoms

Eastern spiritual practices have long extolled the virtues of meditation for easing anxiety. More recently, Western medicine has been slowly catching up. There is enough existing research now that a meta-analysis of 209 studies could be compiled. It found mindfulness-based therapy to be an effective form of anxiety relief.

Very recent studies have also found:
  • Meditation facilitates functional brain changes that aid with the regulation of emotions
  • As little as five minutes of daily meditation produced rapid, positive results
  • Stress modulation in the brain is enhanced in those who meditate regularly
Do You Really Expect an Anxious Person to Sit Still?

Truth be told, meditation is a challenge for everyone — at first. So, let’s explore some basic advice for easing into this life-changing practice:

  • Don’t jump right into it. Choose a time to start and ease yourself into that time so you’re not overly distracted. If possible, slow your breathing beforehand.  Many have found that doing it first thing in the morning has the most impact.
  • Once you sit, do a full scan of your body. If you find tension, do your best to release it through your breath.
  • Start small. If your first session lasts for one minute, it’s a victory. No one — I repeat, no one — will sit quietly for 30 or 60 minutes without some practice.
  • If you find your thoughts too sticky, come up with imagery to visualize you releasing them. You may blow them away with your exhales or tie them to a balloon and watch them float away.  Think of them as clouds passing through a clear blue sky.
  • Fully accept that there are many ways to meditate. Over time, conjure up your own variations to make this practice feel personal and sustainable.
  • Try using any of the increasing number of mediation apps available. It could be an ideal entry point in this digital age.   I use and suggest clients try the headspace app. It has all types of guided meditations and provides helpful info to get you started and understand the basics of  mindful meditation.
A Few Different Types of Meditation For Calming Your Anxiety
  • Simple counting: Find a spot on which you can sit comfortably. Feel yourself rooted there before you begin. Then, start breathing. Perform inhales and exhales through your nostrils. Think “and” with each inhale and think the next number with each exhale. Choose a goal in advance (let’s say 100 breaths and go from there.
  • Touching your lips: When you’re anxious, the sympathetic nervous kicks into gear. If you can activate your parasympathetic nervous system, you can reverse these feelings. Touching your lips with two fingers as you breathe, has been shown to let the nerve fibers know that you are safe.
  • Non-traditional meditation: You can practice mindfulness during virtually any activity. Common daily activities that are ideal for this include taking a walk, taking a shower, performing household chores, and eating. Really pay attention to and notice the qualities of the experience you are having: sights, sounds, tastes and touch.  Get out of your head and into your environment.  Over time, you may come to discover more and more times in which you can center and calm yourself.
Your Therapist Can Help You Implement These Tools

Working with a psychologist puts you in the position to learn more about anxiety and mindfulness. Although I do not meditate with clients in session often, I use the concepts of mindful meditation all the time with clients to help them work on being in touch with but not controlled by their emotions.  Let’s connect soon and talk more about ways to manage your anxiety.

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