For more than 10 years, I operated on low levels of anxiety without realising it.
I assumed that the nerves and edginess came with having a corporate career.
I supplemented my poor sleep with multiple cups of coffee, my afternoon lulls with chocolate, and my ever-growing self-doubt with procrastination.
I had no idea that I had anxiety because I had no idea what it was.
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What does anxiety feel like?
Anxiety is really bothersome, it's the feeling of constantly trying to dispel irrational thoughts and unparalleled crises that never happen.
It causes a sense of urgency that isn't often required and at times a feeling of fear that literally takes over one's whole body, leaving you paralysed with a sense of dread.
Is meditation right for you?
Meditation has been widely touted as being a wonderful support to those experiencing anxiety.
However, the first thing you need to know before you embark on your journey of silence is that sometimes, meditation is the worst thing you can do.
If you're experiencing traumatic anxiety or PTSD, trying meditation might not be the wisest option. Perhaps a walk outside or a conversation with your friend is the most beneficial.
Research from the Stanford Centre for Compassion and Altruism shows that having someone compassionately listen to us (without trying to fix the situation) for a short period of time can reduce stress.
But for everyday anxiety, meditation can be a profoundly helpful. Instead of trying to avoid events and people that cause us anxiety — we can begin to arm ourselves with a protective layer of confidence to meet such moments.
Here are a three strategies to help you navigate difficult moments.
1. Slow your out breath
Repetitive, long smooth exhalations are an effective practice to reduce anxiety and depression.
Try breathing in for a count of four and out for a count of six, slowly lengthening the out breath to a 10-count.
This form of breathing engages the vagal-vagus nerve and signals to the brain "Everything is OK, I'm safe".
2. Open to the experience
We can spend a great deal of our time trying to avoid unpleasant feelings. Ironically, this keeps them trapped in our bodies.
When we're navigating difficult emotions, it can help to simply identify what's arising whether it's heartbreak, anxiety, anger.
Feel them, note where they are in your body and name them. Open compassionate space for whatever is arising.
3. Try a sound and body scan
This is a fantastic practice for those new to meditation or those of us with an overactive mind.
The idea of this particular meditation is to bring gentle awareness to different sensory objects.
- 1.Once you've gone through the preparations for meditation, start to bring your awareness to the sounds around you.
- 2.You don't have to analyse what these sounds are or where they come from, simply notice sounds as sounds.
- 3.Now bring your awareness to the sounds that are the most obvious. This might be the sound of traffic or people walking or talking outside. Without identifying what the sound is, simply notice this obvious sound.
- 4.Then notice the sounds that are less obvious and subtle.
- 5.Notice where they are coming from.
- 6.Then begin to shift your awareness to the feeling of your feet. Observe the feet through your sense of touch. Do you notice a warmth or tingling feeling?
You are not your anxiety
Perhaps the most important reminder I hope you take away from this article is that you are not your anxiety.
Anxiety is impermanent and not personal — and most of us are feeling it right now.
Meditation is a wonderful tool to help us deal with and manage our anxiety, alongside a wholesome diet, regular exercise, good sleep and a group of loving and caring people around you.
Manoj Diaz is an expert teacher in mindfulness, meditation & yoga. His book Still Together is out now.
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