What the Experts Say About Meditation for Anxietyby Mike Veny Patient Advocate
As my mind was racing and my heart was hammering, I knew something was wrong. Standing on a New York City sidewalk that I walked down every day, I found myself confused and disoriented. It felt very overwhelming and seemed to get worse by the minute.
A therapist has helped me learn I was having an anxiety attack that day. As I uncover more about my past, I remember anxiety attacks throughout my life. I live with anxiety.
“Anxiety involves racing thoughts, which makes meditation both difficult and necessary,” mental health counselor Tanya J. Peterson says.
“Creating a regular habit of being fairly still (holding and manipulating a small object encourages the rest of you to be still) and letting your thoughts come and go helps quiet the mind and calm anxiety.”
Meditation is a simple yet powerful tool that reduces my anxiety. The style of meditation that I practice is called Primordial Sound Meditation. I find a comfortable position to sit in, close my eyes, and begin silently repeating a mantra in my mind. This tool allows me to have time each day where my body is still and my mind is silent.
As you begin to explore meditation as a tool to cope with your anxiety, it’s important to remind yourself to embrace silence and stillness. For many people, visualizing this can increase anxiety. Once you begin, the steps to reducing your anxiety may look like this:
You’re feeling anxious
You learn to meditate
You make time to meditate regularly
You begin to feel less and less anxious
In my opinion, our entire culture lacks time spent in stillness and silence. Our brains have constant stimulation during every waking hour. Regularly interacting with our mobile technology devices may make anxiety worse.
“Breaking intensive technology-use habits may provide an important supplemental treatment for addressing mental health issues such as general anxiety,” says University of Illinois Professor Andrew Lleras. Putting your smartphone on a diet can help your anxiety, but engaging in meditation on a consistent basis will help it even more.
In all honesty, I was skeptical. But doctors know it works. “Meditation has been tested in the same way that we test prescription medication for anxiety. Patients with clinical anxiety have seen measurable improvements from meditation,”says Madhav Goyal, MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine at Johns Hopkins University.
The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health says: “a 2014 literature review of 47 trials in 3,515 participants suggests that mindfulness meditation programs show moderate evidence of improving anxiety.” Also, “a 2012 review of 36 trials found that 25 of them reported better outcomes for symptoms of anxiety in the meditation groups compared to control groups.”
Learning to meditate is easy. To get started, anxiety Slayer recommends:
“Start with just 2 or 3 minutes at a time dedicated to resting your mind and slowing things down. Here's a simple exercise to help you get started:
Take a long, slow deep breath in, feel your lungs fill with air as your belly expands outwards and say to yourself ‘breathing.’
When your lungs are completely full, hold your breath for a couple of seconds.
Then release the breath slowly, allowing your belly to sink back in and say to yourself ‘calm.’
Repeat for 5-10 breaths being careful to pay careful attention to your breath and on the words that you are using to anchor yourself in a state of calm relaxation.”
To learn more about how meditation can help with your anxiety, I encourage you to check out the following resources:
"As a freshman in college, I was having a lot of trouble adjusting. I took a meditation class to handle anxiety. It really helped. Then as a grad student at Harvard, I was awarded a pre-doctoral traveling fellowship to India, where my focus was on the ancient systems of psychology and meditation practices of Asia." - Daniel Goleman
What has your experience been with meditation?
Mike Veny is one of America’s leading mental health awareness speakers, HealthCentral’s newest social ambassador, and a high energy corporate drumming event facilitator. He delivers educational, engaging, and entertaining presentations to meetings and conferences throughout the world. Learn more and connect with Mike at TransformingStigma.com.