While you’re in the middle of an anxiety attack it’s very hard to think clearly. But if you are managing anxiety, or trying to prevent anxiety from getting much worse, is it possible for meditation to heal anxiety? If so, how is this best accomplished?
When you’re in the middle of an anxiety attack, there’s probably nothing more upsetting than someone telling you to just calm down.
Believe me, I definitely understand. My first anxiety attack was like a force of nature. I can recall the physical feelings of doom, feeling a need to run, my vision narrowing and not being able to breath.
What is Anxiety?
It helps to have an understanding of the difference between feeling anxious, having a diagnosis such as generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, or phobias.
Check out the podcast, Understanding Anxiety
It is typical in the everyday human experience to feel anxious. You’ve likely experienced anxiety even today. You may be feeling some anxiety right now as you read this blog post. The feeling of anxiety is simply an emotion associated with worry about future past or present events
Generalized Anxiety Disorder
You begin to think of anxiety as being a chronic condition and possibly a medical condition when the symptoms are pervasive and present for more than 6 months.
Symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder
- Excessive Worry
- Worrying about many different things
- Aches and pains related to muscle tension
- Disrupted Sleep(Combs 2014)
Likely one of the worst consequences of chronic anxiety is panic. This is the experience that many of us call a “panic attack”.
Panic Attacks are very individual but usually start with hyperventilation, palpitations, dilated pupils, shortness of breath, nausea or vomiting or even diarrhea. These events are the end result of a chemical cascade in which the fight or flight symptom has been activated in the body.
If you have been anxious or worried for several hours or days at a time, your endocrine system has been getting a signal from your brain stem that a threat is coming. At some point either your brain perceives the threat has finally arrived, or it’s simply can’t take the stress anymore and your adrenal glands release a large amount of adrenaline. This adrenaline hits your system and does its job in getting your body ready for a fight. The physiologic changes that occur during a panic attack are all a result of the adrenal glands doing what they were designed to do.
Phobias I point out because they often can present as generalized anxiety. Phobias are generally going to be anxiety that is associated with a specific stimulus which can be an event, a place, an object, or generally something that is external to the body.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
OCD, or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is anxiety symptoms that stem form intrusive, often disturbing thoughts. Individuals suffering from OCD often have rituals, or actions they do to relieve the stress caused by the obsessive thoughts.
Meditating to Heal Anxiety
It is difficult to consider sitting still and breathing if you are in the state of anxiety. Particularly, if you have gotten used to being in thoughts of worry constantly it goes against your feelings to sit still and quiet. I advise my own patients that they should always try meditation if they have been diagnosed with anxiety or want to prevent anxiety.
Read more about Anxiety here
Using meditation to heal your anxiety will also help with medications.
Which meditations to do for anxiety
Any of them!
There are many different styles of meditation. Beginners often do well performing guided meditations. These are meditation in which an instructor offers visualization, instructions on breath, and other tools that can help focus the mind and calm the body. Guided meditations often take an additional resource.
Luckily in the age of cell phone apps, there are so many to pick from. Here are my recommendations:
- Inside timer
- Relax melodies
Mindfulness meditation is a style of meditation in which you attempt to quiet the thinking mind. I am studying to be a certified mindfulness meditation instructor. I have found this process endlessly fascinating and have found in my own meditation practice I no longer want guidance and I prefer now to meditate in silence for 20 minutes.
You can easily perform mindfulness meditation by focusing on your breath for 3 to 5 minutes. And that’s it!
This is also my new favorite. Walking meditation is just what it sounds like. Rather than performing your meditation while at rest or lying down you walk. I’ve come to rely on this when I want to move my body but don’t have time to exercise and meditate.
Mantra meditation is using an inspirational phrase or saying to focus the attention. You use your inspirational saying over and over, either chanting it out loud or thinking it in your mind during your meditation.
Ready to start your journey? Pick up a copy of 21-Day Meditation Journey Today.
Meditation is a journey. Anxiety can be a journey as well. And maybe helpful to visualize anxiety is a journey to yourself. Please embrace every way along the process. And make attempts to return to yourself and meditation as much as you can.
- Combs, H.,Markman, J. Anxiety Disorders in Primary Care. In: Pagalilauan G, Editor. 2014. Psychiatric Diagnosis and Management in Primary Care. Seattle (WA): Medical Clinics of North America.