Are you struggling with an overactive mind? Are your racing thoughts keeping you awake long into the night? Maybe you have an overwhelming desire to curl up and hide or run away? Meditation can help alleviate this difficult time for you. Read on to learn how to manage your anxiety with meditation.
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When you live with anxiety, it can seem like no one understands the daily struggles you have to face. But you aren’t alone. Many of us have and do suffer with this crippling illness. But we are starting to find ways to fight back and find out who we really are. Meditation is just one of the many ways to manage your anxiety…
Can meditation relieve anxiety?
The short answer is absolutely! Meditation works by bringing your attention to the here and now. Focusing on this moment instead of the worries you have built up about upcoming events. Your anxiety is triggered by things you are worrying about, but have no control over.
By spending time focusing purely on your breath; the constant, effortless ebb and flow of air through your body, your mind is taken away from the thoughts that are creating the fight or flight feeling inside you. It’s this feeling that creates the catalyst to anxiety, but this feeling is temporary. The human body and mind cannot sustain such a heightened state permanently, so by taking your focus away from the anxiety, you allow it to pass while keeping yourself calm and centred.
Training your mind in this way, if done regularly, will eventually become a habit. You will start to find that as you recognise the onset of anxiety, rather than panic and make it worse, you will automatically switch to focusing on breathing and manage your anxiety instead.
How many times a day should you meditate?
This is really a personal choice, and will be determined by many things. How much time do you have to devote to your practice? What are you struggling most with? When will you be completely free to meditate without distractions?
I personally find that a 10 minute session every morning works well for me, but if I’m struggling with sleep, I will add an extra session just before bed, or while I’m in bed to regain my sleep routine.
If you find that you have a spare 10 minutes in the morning, it is an ideal time to meditate. You have the opportunity to set the scene for your day. Beginning with a calm, centred approach can help you find more positivity in the unlikeliest of situations.
However if you find that lunch time is better for you, that works too. And if, like me, you struggle with sleep, even sometimes, I would strongly recommend an evening session at the very least. Experiment with it and see what works for you.
Here is a simple meditation technique you can try:
- Set a timer for 10-15 minutes
- Sit comfortably in a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed
- Relax your body but keep your back tall and straight
- Close your eyes and take 3-5 deep, slow breaths
- Now relax the rhythm of your breathing, and focus on the breath entering and leaving your body until your timer goes off
It’s important to remember that your mind will wander during your practice, it’s normal for this to happen. When you notice that your mind has wandered, gently return to focusing on your breath and continue. Don’t get frustrated. The more you practice, the quicker you will notice your wanderings, but there will always be days when it is harder than others. The important thing to note is how you feel after a few days of practice. You should notice a change in your mood, attitude and, hopefully, sleep pattern.
Here is a free printable meditation tracker to help you follow your progress:
Can you meditate with music?
Yes! I would highly recommend it in fact. Music not only gives you a focus for your practice, but it can also help with your emotional state. Find music that works for your mood at the time of your practice. If you are feeling very stressed or anxious, try some relaxation music, if you are feeling tired, try something more motivational. There are hundreds of CD’s or digital downloads that you can find to help you.
A few of my favourites are:
Dance Of Life by Peder B. Helland -MP3 download
These are just the ones that I love to listen to over and over, but there are so many different types of meditation music, relaxation music, sleep music and so on. So find out what works for you!
What should you think of when you meditate?
This largely depends on how you feel when you come to your practice. If you have a very active mind, it can help to focus on your breathing, making your breaths, long, deep and slow. If you are feeling low or depressed, visualisation can help. Picture your favourite place, and imagine you are there. What would you be doing? Who would you be with?
‘White noise’ can be helpful too. The sound of household appliances, a fan in the background, or playing some nature sounds to focus on. The point is that meditation isn’t about emptying the mind or trying to ignore your emotions. It’s about being present in the now, recognising your emotions, and learning how to change the way you react to them.
Guided meditation vs Self-led meditation
There is no stead fast rule about how to go about meditation. I really like guided meditation. It helps me to better stay focused than if I try to do it alone. I use an app on my phone called Calm. The 10 minute daily calm program is my go to, and not only does it help me to focus on the present moment, there is also a helpful hint or tip each day to help you see things differently.
However, if you prefer to do things your own way, and at your own pace, that is also absolutely fine. You may find it slightly harder to focus in the beginning, but the more you practice, the better you will get at it, as is the way with anything.
A parting thought…
I have been using meditation to help me manage my anxiety for almost three months now, and although I can’t claim to be ‘cured,’ I will say it’s been the most helpful thing I’ve found yet. When I forget to practice or I’m too busy, I can definitely tell the difference. Now I am finding that I can see the positive in life a lot more; I feel calmer, happier and more alert.
The main difference is that I actually want to get out of bed in the morning and face the challenges life will bring my way, because each moment is brand new, and even if it’s not great, it’s only temporary.