If you have anxiety — whether just generalised anxiety or clinical anxiety — then you know how much it can disturb your day-to-day life. Just going through your normal daily chores, work life and responsibilities can seem overwhelming.
If you’re looking for a small lifestyle change that you can make to better help you get a grasp on your anxiety, you may want to try meditation. While it’s not a perfect fix for everyone, meditation has helped many individuals who suffer from anxiety work toward a more balanced mindset.
Do You Suffer from Anxiety?
Are you unsure whether or not you suffer from anxiety? In general, professionals separate anxiety into two categories: anxiety attacks and generalized anxiety disorder. You may have anxiety attacks if you feel sudden, physical symptoms that are occurring due to a build up of anxiety; these physical symptoms might include insomnia, upset stomach, sweaty palms, increased awareness or energy, and others. Generalised anxiety disorder, however, is more of a constant state — it doesn't really go away. You always feel just a little on edge in the back of your mind, as if your body is waiting for the next bad thing to happen.
It’s important to understand that there’s a difference between generalised stress and generalised anxiety. Stress always tied to a particular cause, whether it’s a job, person, living arrangement, whatever. When the source of stress goes away, so does the stress. Generalised anxiety, however, sticks around even when you should technically feel totally calm, if one were to just look at your surroundings and/or life at the moment.
The good news? While both anxiety attacks and generalised anxiety can cause undesirable physical and mental symptoms, there are ways you can reduce these symptoms.
How Meditation Helps Alleviate Anxiety
Talk to any therapist or counselor and they’ll likely tell you that, for those patients that suffer with generalised anxiety, they recommend breathing and grounding exercises to help alleviate feelings of anxiety before they build into a full-on anxiety attack (which is often the result of prolonged generalised anxiety). Meditation shares many similarities with these breathing and grounding exercises. In most, you’re asked to focus entirely on your body and current state and feelings, calming your mind, focusing on your breathing and clearing your thoughts of anything related to the past or future. The exercises ask you to be 100% present.
Meditation does the same. Through meditation, you can calm your mind, relax your body, clear your head of undesirable thoughts and get a better grasp on your emotions, without your thoughts spiraling out of control.
How to Meditate When Feeling Anxious
Sound like something you want to try? If you’d like to give meditation a shot the next time you feel anxious (or even if you’re feeling anxious right this second!), here’s what you can do.
Step 1: Create a safe zone.
The first thing you’ll want to do is create a safe zone. You may think of your home or office as a safe space, but we’re not just talking about a space where you feel like you’re safe from any physical or bodily harm. We’re talking about a mental space where you can truly relax, close your eyes and go through your mediation practice undisturbed. Look for a physical space that allows your mind to be, ideally, alone and comfortable.
Don’t immediately have access to a space like this? You can create a safe zone from scratch using tools like a VR headset or the Flow app, which help to transport your mind to a safer space via carefully curated scenery and sounds.
Once you feel mentally “safe” and like you can fully relax, find a comfortable position, if you can. While meditation traditionally requires you to sit on the ground with your legs crossed, we understand that you can’t always sit this way, so, instead, just try to sit in a way that you’re comfortable. Find a position that won’t be distracting if you sit unmoving for a few moments.
Then, start to pay attention to your present surroundings. As you become more accustomed to creating your own mental safe zone, you’ll likely become more aware of your surroundings anyway. Think about everything you can feel, smell, taste and see. Are your senses adding to your feeling of mental safety, or detracting from it? If the latter, see how you can eliminate these detractors from your experience.
Step 2: Find your ideal guide.
If you’re new to meditation, you might find it helpful to join a guided meditation practice. Just like a guided practice can help you through a new exercise routine or yoga session, guided meditation can help you to fully reap all the benefits of your practice, in ways that you might not if you were to go it alone.
A guided meditation session is simple. The guide merely tells you what to focus on and how to control your breathing. The guide also gives you something concrete to focus on if you have trouble simply sitting in silence with your own thoughts.
You don’t need to go to a physical, in-person meditation practice to find a guide, though. You can find guided meditation sessions online, via services like Flow and also on social media platforms like YouTube.
Having a bit of trouble finding a guide that resonates with you? That’s not uncommon, so don’t feel discouraged. It can take a while for you to find your ideal meditation guide, but, once you do, you’ll find yourself coming back to that guide again and again, whenever you feel a need to recenter yourself and calm your mind.
Step 3: Choose the right type of meditation for you.
You might think that all meditation is the same, but that’s not the case at all. There are actually quite a few different types of meditation that you can choose from, and you might want to pick a guided meditation practice style that best fits your needs at the moment. For example, some meditation practices are geared toward calming your body, which you might find especially useful if you’re experiencing a lot of the physical symptoms of anxiety.
Meanwhile, other practices might be geared toward helping you to gain insights; these types of practices are generally most useful for those who understand their anxiety and know how to calm it in the moment, but who want to better understand from where their anxiety stems.
You can also find meditation practices that incorporate yoga, meditation practices that include sound baths, and more. You can even find meditation practices that incorporate dancing and screaming, if you really need to let off some steam!
Step 4: Realize that there’s no “wrong” way to meditate.
When you just start meditating, you might feel like you have to get everything right, or else you’re failing at this new practice, but don’t let those feelings creep in! There’s no right or wrong way to meditate. You just need to find what works best for you and then continue meditating in that manner. It might take you a bit to find the perfect meditation practice or meditation guide for your needs, but that’s okay, too. It doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you or your anxiety. You just need to find the perfect fit.
Need More Anxiety Help?
But, let’s face it — sometimes our anxiety is far too all-consuming to simply be cured with a quick meditation session. If you’re feeling like your anxiety is a little too large to be calmed with a five-minute meditation sess, you might want to try another lifestyle change.
Consider talking about your anxiety or feelings with a friend, family member or mental health professional. If you find yourself lost in your own thoughts a lot, try to find a new hobby that can distract your mind from its anxiety for a while, whether that’s baking, knitting, hiking or anything else that requires you to move your body and focus on those movements. Listen to a favorite song or music artist, or even a calming podcast. Go outside and enjoy the fresh air.
Whatever works to calm your anxiety, find it and enjoy it. Realize, however, that, sometimes, anxiety does require medication and there’s nothing wrong with that. If you feel like you may need this extra help in calming your anxious thoughts or alleviating your frequent anxiety attacks, talk to a mental health professional about what options are available to you.
3 Ways to Relieve Anxiety in the Flow Meditation App
Want to try using the Flow meditation app to alleviate some of your anxiety symptoms? Here's three ways you can relieve anxiety in the app:
1. Try calming your anxiety with the right breathing technique
Try 8 minutes of “Expand your breath”. In this meditation Tristan Elizabeth guides you to controlling and deepening your breath to release tension. If you’re feeling very anxious, you might experience some resistance at first, but after a couple of rounds of breathing, you will ultimately feel your body relax.
2. Relieve anxiety with the help of nature sounds
Flow offers a large library of Icelandic nature scenes, including soothing nature sounds and music. Go into any meditation, turn the guidance (and if you want, the music) off to truly feel like you’ve teleported into the calming Icelandic wilderness.
3. Get a bit angry and scream your anxiety away
A more unconventional method - find the grit in you and try the “Scream, dance, and release” meditation. Letting go will help you feel lighter and less frustrated.
Download the app and get a 7-day free trial:
or go to https://meditate.flow.is/