Anxiety is our body’s way of saying, “Hey, I’m feeling too much tension all at once.” Although anxiety isn’t supposed to be something we experience regularly, it is, unfortunately, a growing phenomenon in modern life. It’s time to seek support when the sense of being “on alert” becomes background noise that won’t go away. The field of study of mindfulness and meditation for anxiety is ever-expanding to combat this epidemic of mental-emotional health issues, and it brings with it many tools and strategies that you can use to overcome the disruptive, destructive nature of anxiety.  This guide is not intended to be a diagnostic tool or a treatment plan; rather, it’s a set of research and best practices that you can use for relieving anxiety whenever you need them.

What is meditation?

Many meditation techniques have their origins in Buddhist philosophy. When you think about meditation, perhaps visions flow through your mind of a room full of people sitting cross-legged in silence, or repeating words over and over. These are distinct forms of meditation but there are also many other ways to meditate.

Additionally, meditation isn’t about becoming a new or better person; it’s about developing self-awareness and a balanced perspective. Meditation is the practice of learning to pay attention in its most basic form.  When mediation is practiced correctly, it helps you to ground yourself in a deep peace and to see your reality without passing judgement. Meditation can also support a healthier body by improving homeostasis in the body, reducing anxious thoughts and instilling a sense of fullness, relaxation, and equanimity.

Mindfulness meditation for anxiety relief

Meditation and mindfulness are two terms that can be used interchangeably, although they’re not the same. While most people associate meditation with attempting to reach a new state of consciousness, mindfulness refers to becoming aware of the present moment. You could think of mindfulness as a first step toward meditation in this way. Both of these techniques can help you reduce anxiety by allowing you to be conscious without being afraid. Mindfulness teaches you how to remain present with negative emotions rather than analyzing, manipulating, or facilitating them. Mindfulness helps you to safely investigate the root causes of your anxiety and stress. It also allows you to build space around your fears, allowing them to pass you by.

Starting meditation and mindfulness for relieving your anxiety

Bring your focus to the present moment. Become a container for current thoughts, emotions, or sensations in the body, and see if we can keep track of them from one moment to the next. Concentrate on your breathing. The breath speaks for itself, and you maintain a more focused concentration. You may feel tempted to turn your attention to something else. Keep yourself from surrendering to this temptation and again turn your focus back to your breathing. When your mind is filled with anxious thoughts, always acknowledge them but then return your attention to your breathing. Continue to observe in silence for 10 minutes or more. Open your eyes and take note of how you are feeling. Don’t make any judgments; just observe. You can repeat this 10 minute process according to your schedule once or twice a day. 

Recognize that this is a long drawn out process. Your first meditation session will not be pleasant. It takes practice to learn how to do nothing, as ridiculous as it might sound. It will get simpler over time. Keep a diary to keep track of your progress and to see if your anxiety levels have decreased. If you continue to experience persistent and serious anxiety over time, consult a professional for treatment options.

You can check our podcast episode with Kerri Hummingbird: “Healing the Mother Wound”

There are many apps that can assist you with meditation and mindfulness practices. Here are a few to get started:

Waking Up By Sam Harris

Headspace

Calm

You can also check out the book “Mindfulness Meditations for Anxiety” for more information about breathing techniques for relieving stress and anxiety.