Meditation for Anxiety
Anxiety sucks. It’s like a nagging itch that doesn’t easily go away with a quick scratch. It’s especially crazy when you try to get mindful. This next section sums it up pretty nicely.
In an article on PsychCentral, author Margarita Tartakovsky writes, in regard to an interview she did with Tom Corboy, MFT:
“Many people have the misconception that meditation is like a magic elixir that will quickly and effortlessly reduce their stress and anxiety,” said Tom Corboy, MFT, co-author of The Mindfulness Workbook for OCD.
But the primary purpose of meditation isn’t to melt your anxiety. Instead, it’s to help you become more present right now, in this very moment, he said. “[T]he anxiety reduction is just a pleasant side effect.”
We often experience anxiety because we fixate on the past or on the future, Corboy said. However, when you’re meditating, you’re intentionally focused on the here and now.
Meditation also helps with anxiety because it quiets an overactive brain. “For someone with anxiety, it sometimes feels like their mind is like a hamster on a wheel — constantly running, but not really getting anywhere,” said Corboy, also founder and executive director of the OCD Center of Los Angeles.
We get anxious because we buy into our thoughts and feelings, he said. We take them at face value and get overwhelmed. Yet our thoughts don’t warrant this undivided attention. Again, it’s just our minds spinning a slew of worries and what-ifs.
Meditating helps us stop overattending to our thoughts and feelings and “allows us to get off the wheel, catch our breath, and get some perspective.”
Did you get that part about fixating on the past and future? That’s where we live most of the time. We are time travelers. Always lamenting our past or daydreaming/worrying about our future. Our minds are seldom focused on right now, where it belongs.
Another solid point is that meditation allows you to “get off the wheel.” This is where we get stuck ruminating. We have negative thoughts play over and over again in our heads. This causes a spike in cortisol and makes us feel horrible. It’s also terribly unhealthy…
This video does a good job of explaining what happens to your brain on anxiety. It’s eye-opening and will give you a sense of what is happening when you worry or get all anxious. It’s pretty crazy.
That said, here’s a good meditation for anxiety. This will help calm your nerves and give you some much needed space to think. We’ll use mindful meditation rather than concentrative meditation, as mindful meditation can calm and quiet your mind more gently.
This is more gentle than the meditation I describe on the Quiet the Mind page of this site.
- Close your eyes.
- Inhale for a count of seven. (or whatever is comfy for you) – don’t push it.
- Hold for a couple of seconds.
- Exhale for a count of eleven. (or whatever is comfy for you) – don’t push it.
- Continue this for a few minutes until you feel calmer.
- Turn your attention to your thoughts. They’ll be going wild.
- Gently watch the wildness.
- Feel yourself moving away from the thoughts.
- Picture them getting smaller and fading into black.
- Enjoy the calm for a split second, cause…
- Your thoughts will resume, they always do.
- Do it again and again and again.
- You might see the thoughts against the black. Let them fade away.
- Do this for five minute increments, then open your eyes and continue on your day.
That should help. It might take a while to work for you, especially if you have moderate anxiety and never tried this before. It can work for severe anxiety as well, but that should be a doctor’s call. Severe anxiety can have underlying medical causes, so it’s usually recommended that you seek professional help in addition to meditation if you suffer from anxiety.
There are a few good courses out there like the Linden Method, and Panic Away, as well as Wild Divine and the MUSE, and someday I’ll do a review/write-up on them, but for now I’ll focus on meditation. It’s simple and it’s a good introduction to more advanced methods of helping anxiety.
Remember, calming anxiety can be a side-effect of meditation, and can give you access to the underlying causes of said anxiety, but it’s not meant to cure it.
I hope this helps you.