Twenty-seven percent of adults in the United States have anxiety. That’s nearly three in every ten people. Yikes!
Luckily, you can mitigate the effects of anxiety by learning how to meditate.
What is Anxiety?
Anxiety is a persistent feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease about something because you’re uncertain about the outcome. It is a normal and often healthy emotion; everyone experiences anxiety, but it usually goes away as fast as it came.
However, anxiety can become overwhelming and disruptive when it occurs frequently or interferes with daily activities. Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health disorders in the United States, affecting millions yearly.
Types of Anxiety
Anxiety is a normal part of life, but for some individuals, it is an overwhelming experience that interferes with their daily activities.
There are several different types of anxiety disorders, each with unique characteristics and symptoms. Understanding the different types of anxiety can help individuals identify and seek treatment for their specific condition.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
GAD is an anxiety disorder that involves excessive and unrealistic worry about everyday events and activities. If you have GAD, you may find it difficult to control your nervousness, which can interfere with your daily life.
Some symptoms of GAD include restlessness, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, irritability, muscle tension, and sleep disturbances.
If you experience panic disorders, they’re likely recurrent and unexpected. It’s a sudden episode of intense fear or discomfort that lasts for a few minutes.
Heart palpitations, chest pain, and shortness of breath are the most relatable symptoms. You may also feel like you’re losing control or going insane.
Social Anxiety Disorder
Social anxiety disorder, also known as social phobia, entails intense fear and anxiety about social situations.
Individuals with social anxiety disorder often find it difficult to interact with others and avoid social situations altogether. Physical symptoms like blushing, sweating, and trembling in social situations are common.
A specific phobia is an intense fear of particular objects or situations, like heights, flying, closed-in spaces, or water bodies. These fears sometimes get so severe that they interfere with daily activities.
Individuals with specific phobias may go to great lengths to avoid the object or situation they fear.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
OCD is characterized by recurrent, unwanted thoughts or obsessions and repetitive behaviors or compulsions that the individual feels compelled to perform. These obsessions and compulsions can be time-consuming and interfere with daily life.
Symptoms of Anxiety
Symptoms of anxiety can vary from person to person, but common symptoms include:
- Excessive and irrational fear or worry
- Racing or pounding heart
- Rapid breathing or shortness of breath
- Sweating or trembling
- Nausea or stomach discomfort
- Feeling lightheaded or dizzy
- Difficulty concentrating or thinking clearly
- Feeling tense or jumpy
- Fatigue or difficulty sleeping
- Irritability or restlessness
- Avoiding certain situations or activities due to anxiety
Causes of Anxiety
Anxiety is a common mental health condition. Let’s briefly examine the causes:
- Stress: This is the most significant cause of anxiety. A stressful event, like the death of a loved one, a job loss, or a significant life change, can trigger feelings of anxiety. Additionally, everyday stressors, like work pressure, financial challenges, and relationship difficulties, also contribute to anxiety.
- Genetics: Genetics may also cause anxiety. Anxiety disorders can run in families, and some genetic variations may make some people more susceptible to the condition.
- Trauma: Traumatic experiences like abuse, neglect, or violence can lead to anxiety.
- Brain chemistry: Your brain chemistry may also be the reason for your anxiety episodes. Imbalance in the brain chemicals that regulate mood, such as serotonin and GABA, can contribute to anxiety.
- Medical conditions: Some conditions, like thyroid disorders, heart disease, and diabetes, can also cause anxiety.
How to Meditate for Anxiety
Mindful meditation and other forms of meditation may be just what you need for anxious thoughts. You can start with a tool as simple as breath awareness.
Meditation for anxiety as a daily practice reduces symptoms of anxiety.
Meditation is not about stopping your thoughts or achieving a state of emptiness. Instead, it’s about learning to observe your thoughts and emotions without interacting or responding to them.
This gives you a sense of perspective and distance from your anxiety-inducing thoughts and feelings.
Here is a step-by-step guide on how to meditate for anxiety:
- Choose a comfortable place to sit. You don’t have to sit on the floor, a chair will also work. It’s important to straighten your back and plant your feet firmly on the ground. You can also lay down in a comfortable position.
- With your eyes closed, focus on deep breathing and enjoy the sensation of the air moving in and out of your nose. As a beginner, your mind will most likely wander, take note of that thought. Then, consciously bring yourself back to the moment.
- Inhale through your nose, but don’t release it immediately. After a moment, exhale through your mouth. This is a breathing exercise that can help you detach from your thoughts.
- Attempt mindful breathing. This is breath observation. Note the sensation of the air moving in and out of your nose.
- If you include mindfulness-based practices into your daily routine, it becomes easier to control the emotional mind. A daily meditation prompt is repeating a mantra or focus word. Even the simplest words will work. Say it continuously while also focusing on your breath.
- Do this for a couple of minutes daily. Don’t overdo it when you start; you can easily increase the time spent on meditation as you progress.
After your session, take a deep breath in and then exhale. Open your eyes slowly and take a moment to notice how you feel.
Meditation is a practice, and it may take some time to see results. It can be helpful to set aside time each day to meditate, even if it’s just a few minutes. Additionally, it is crucial to be consistent – it is better to practice a little every day than a lot once a week.
Also, remember that meditation is not a cure-all for anxiety, and you should use it in conjunction with other coping mechanisms and if needed, professional help.
Consult with a therapist or counselor trained in mindfulness-based stress reduction programs if you have clinical anxiety or other related conditions.
If you think you might have an anxiety disorder, speak with a mental health professional to receive an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment. Remember, anxiety is a normal part of life, but when it becomes overwhelming and interferes with daily activities, it is time to seek help.