Occasionally having some form of stress is very common, but for some of us, it is constant background noise. Dealing with anxiety and stress can be a real struggle and a lengthy process. Meditation can help tremendously when it comes to softening your anxiety.
Maybe you just started looking into meditation or only experienced a few sessions. But even for those of us meditating daily, it is important knowing how to use your meditation practice to help with anxiety relief. Let’s take a closer look at the steps you can take when feeling anxious.
Soften your thoughts with meditation
A good meditation session helps you explore a different perspective to your anxious thoughts. A birdseye view can be very helpful to realize you’re okay, molding your thoughts into gentler ones. This also creates space to recognize underlying causes, helping you to notice early signs of an anxiety attack. This gives you a head start to try and calm down.
Since meditating is about sitting with your thoughts, you will become more aware of them. Over time, you will learn how to stop judging your thoughts, and learn to see them separately. When you are not feeding into them, allowing yourself to feel worried, this usually eases them.
Meditation focuses on becoming aware of your own breath. Did you know that when your anxiety kicks in, you often breathe very shallow, short breaths? This sends a signal to your nervous system that you’re in danger. Deep, controlled breaths do the exact opposite. They let your subconsciousness know you’re safe, and that it’s okay to relax.
If you’re starting out
If you are completely new to meditation, you may be surprised how difficult it can be to sit still with your thoughts. Your thoughts may go into turbo mode, resulting in an agitated or frustrated feeling. That’s why we recommend easing yourself into it, by starting slowly.
Starting your meditation journey is a big step on its own. To improve the chances of sticking with it, it is better to start meditating for only a few minutes a day. Once you’re getting the hang of it, you can gradually increase the time.
If you start to feel an anxiety attack coming up, or you’re particularly stressed, meditation may provide a different perspective to your anxious thoughts. It can serve as an instant calmer to your mind.
If you notice you’re starting to feel overwhelmed, immediately take the time to meditate by bringing your attention to the present moment. Focus on your breath, and on your body.
Try to go somewhere you will not be disturbed by anything. Pick a quiet spot where you feel safe and at ease. If you feel like that is a spot at your home, then read our tips to start practicing at home, here.
Make yourself comfortable. Because if you’re not comfortable, your thoughts will likely be all over the place. If your back is aching, lay down or elevate your buttocks by sitting on a block or meditation cushion.
Take deep, controlled breaths, and allow your thoughts to pass by without judging them. Once a thought has passed, return to focusing on your breath going in, and out again. Think of your breath as being able to breathe out the negative thought, getting rid of it.
It is useful to have a few guided meditations on hand. After practicing for a while you’ll start to notice what works for you, and which type of guided meditations ease your mind. See if you can save one or two on your phone so that you’ll always have those handy. An anxiety attack can pop-up out of nowhere, and feeling like you have something on hand to calm your mind may already help on its own.
Another helpful tip is to see if you can memorize your triggers. Knowing exactly where your anxiety came from, and if there was an external factor influencing the attack, may help you avoid one in the future.
Lastly, it is important to acknowledge anxious thoughts. They are bound to pass by while you’re meditating, which is okay. The most important thing is to let them pass, instead of feeding into them. If you have difficulties letting them pass, it may help to shorten your practice. Additionally, it helps to focus on a more abstract subject, one that has a positive connotation to you. For example the warmth from the sun, or drifting clouds. Instead of focusing on your goals or reflecting on your thoughts, these subjects are less likely to put pressure on you.
What to expect when you’re new to meditation
Starting an inward journey can be a little scary. If you have been putting it off for that reason, it helps if you know what to expect. The stigma around meditation is keeping a lot of people from starting their journey inwards. But for those of us dealing with stress and anxiety, a regular meditation practice can be very rewarding.
Expect your first meditation session to go badly. It is highly likely that you feel somewhat uncomfortable, and that your mind starts racing. As long as you know that’s completely normal, and you recognize that your mind is all over the place, you are already practicing meditation.
Know that there is no big revelation and a magical disappearance of your anxiety after a few practices. It takes regular practice and modifications along the way. The key is to find what feels good to you and to build onto that.
Meditation can play a vital role when it comes to dealing with anxiety. It is known to soften your thoughts, and give you a new perspective. Knowing which steps you can take to calm your thoughts when you’re feeling an anxiety attack coming up, is a great tool to make anxiety less all-consuming.
As with anything, regular and steady practice is necessary to fully benefit from the calming effects of meditation. But the first step is to just start. Don’t worry, you got this.
Guided meditations can be helpful in the process of starting your own meditation practice. Not only because you can find what works for you, but also because with someone guiding you along, you don’t have to sit in complete silence.
Our app Deep Meditate has many different guided meditations available, even ones focused solely on dealing with anxiety. Additionally, there are sleep stories and melodies, and meditative sounds. It contains all the tools you need in order to soften your anxiety attacks.