Do I Have Anxiety?
Feeling anxious or worried is normal, and it can happen to just about anybody, especially if there’s an event that makes you feel nervous. Let’s find out if guided meditation for stress and anxiety can help.
And while anxiety is a buzzword that we say frequently, there are specific signs that indicate whether or not you have one or more of the many anxiety disorders. Even though everyone experiences anxiety, not everyone has anxiety disorders.
So, if you’re not sure whether you have an anxiety disorder or the occasional “normal” anxiety, here’s an in-depth look at anxiety. Plus, you can find out how to manage it effectively and safely, without using any pharmaceutical medicines.
What is Anxiety?
It’s easy to think that anxiety disorders and normal experiences of anxiety are the same thing. Therefore it is rather easy to ask ourselves “Do I Have Anxiety“? For example, are you nervous before getting on a stage, or presenting a speech? I know I am! Several years ago, I competed in a music festival. I practiced the piano for months, and the week before the competition, I was a nervous wreck. I actually woke up in a panic one night, and immediately moved my hands into position to play. Even though this was an intense experience of anxiety, it wasn’t an anxiety disorder because it wasn’t chronic or disruptive. And believe me, once the competition was over, I slept like a baby again.
You may be asking what makes anxiety disorders different from my anxiety leading up to the competition.
The biggest difference is that anxiety disorders disrupt your life, to the point where you can no longer live your day-to-day life normally. That should be the most important point in answering Do I Have Anxiety to yourself. Anxiety disorders can be characterized by obsessive behavior, or behavior that is out-of-proportion to the circumstance. As is the case for many mental disorders, you feel like your emotions are out of your control.
Causes and Common Symptoms of Anxiety
Anxiety disorders actually comprise a number of mental disorders, and they’re all marked by anxious, apprehensive, and fearful feelings. These emotions are typically directed toward a future event, whether real or imaginary. But what causes all of these negative feelings? Most of the time, anxiety is a response to outside situations, such as environmental or medical reasons. Anxiety is also influenced by brain chemistry or genetics. But in most cases, stress is what causes anxiety disorders.
Here are some common anxiety disorders:
Worrying about everything no matter how important or insignificant. This incessant worrying can last for months and present itself with physical symptoms, too, such as extreme tiredness. Having crippling doubts about yourself can also be a form of anxiety, and it can lead to obsessive thoughts and worry.
Sleep disturbances, caused by excessive worry and anxiety, that last for weeks or months.
Phobias, which prevent you from functioning normally. Everyone’s afraid at one time or another, but when your phobia becomes an anxiety disorder, it’s impossible to execute daily plans because your fear is overwhelming.
Digestive issues might not seem appropriate in a discussion about anxiety disorders. But the stomach is like a second brain, and if our mind is filled with worry and fear, it will disturb the rest of our body. Aches, gas, cramping, troubles with bowel movements, and even IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) can all result from anxiety disorders.
Social Anxiety Disorder can make it difficult to interact in a meaningful way with friends, family, and small groups. You feel shaky, nauseous, and even have a hard time eating or speaking in front of others. You might be afraid of embarrassing yourself, or of other people’s judgement.
Separation Anxiety is just the opposite. Instead of feeling anxious when you’re with people, you feel abnormally anxious if you’re separated from someone who makes you feel safe and secure. This is more than simply missing someone; this anxiety prevents you from functioning in a normal way.
Panic Attacks don’t need much explanation here, as they’re a popular anxiety disorder. People who experience panic attacks often think they’re having a heart attack – anxiety is a real issue!
OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder) takes a normal, rational action, and blows it way out of proportion, to the point where it seems crazy. Common actions would be hand-washing, double-checking things over and over again.
PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) is another anxiety disorder where you experience flashbacks and anxiety due to a past, distressing event. This anxiety prevents you from growing in certain areas of your life.
When it comes to anxiety, people will often say, “It’s all in your head”, but as you can see, anxiety is a very real issue that needs to be addressed. Furthermore, anxiety is nothing to be ashamed of. It’s a recognized medical condition that you can definitely manage. And when you do, you can live with more peace and balance.
How Meditation Helps Coping with Anxiety
Meditation might not seem like a legitimate way to reduce anxiety, but even research is finding that it’s as effective as the anti-anxiety medications people take. And while meditation isn’t a quick fix for anxiety disorders, it can truly help you manage your anxiety. Why is that?
Meditation affects our brain in many positive ways.
You see, anxiety makes the hippocampus smaller – that’s the part of the brain that deals with memory. Anxiety also increases the amygdala, which deals with fear.
Now, these changes within the brain further complicate someone’s anxiety disorder. On top of these changes, stress hormones alter the brain’s chemistry and interfere with proper brain function, too.
But meditation can actually reverse these changes that anxiety causes in the brain.
Meditation also restores balance to the brain by lowering cortisol (the stress hormone), and by raising serotonin (the feel-good hormone). It puts the neurotransmitters back into equilibrium – even the neurotransmitters referred to as GABA, which help relax the brain.
Meditation is a practice that helps us focus on the present moment, which is just the opposite of most anxious experiences. Anxiety obsesses about the future, or gets stuck on traumatic experiences from the past. But meditation helps you be present in the here and now. And this can keep your anxiety from getting out of hand.
Anxiety also comes as a response to your thoughts. For example, if you have a phobia of flying, you might imagine many scary scenarios over and over again. But meditation helps us to observe our thoughts without getting caught up in them or judging them.
A counselor once told me that you can picture your thoughts as separate cars on a train, and instead of jumping onto one of the cars, you can simply watch them drive by across your mind. In the end, you can stay calm and not get carried away with them.
One of the most common ways to begin any meditation practice is to focus on your breathing. By doing so, you connect to your body, and feel more relaxed. This breathing also helps you feel more aware and present. If we make mindful breathing a habit, we can use it to re-center ourselves when we feel anxious and worried.
Many of the anxiety disorders are caused by stress, but meditation helps us look at life with less judgement. So, instead of seeing a future event as a threat, we can see it for what it is and remain calm. This is just one of the ways meditation mitigates our anxiety.
The best way to start meditation is to find a quiet and comfortable place where you can sit for 10-15 minutes without being interrupted. If you’re at home, try to let others know that you’re going to meditate, so that they won’t disturb you on accident. And no, you don’t have to sit cross-legged. Just find what’s comfortable for you.
Once you’re ready to begin, turn your attention inside of you, and focus on your breathing. You can keep your breathing the same, and simply observe it. And as you become more relaxed, your breath will become slower or deeper.
With a relaxed body, it’s easier to tune into your mind, and become aware of what’s happening inside it. The stillness and calmness, which you created with your mindful breathing, allows you to observe your thoughts instead of becoming them.
What is a Guided Meditation for Anxiety?
Now, if all of that sounds wonderful, but also totally impossible, don’t worry. Even though meditation is a great tool to manage your anxiety, it can be hard at first. That’s because people with anxiety disorders often have racing and obsessive thoughts. Additionally, fearful and worried thoughts are hard to overcome overnight.
It’s also difficult being alone with our thoughts, and it’s very easy to give up if you don’t see fast results. So, instead of getting discouraged, it’s a good idea to start with a guided meditation for anxiety.
This can be in a group setting if you have a local meditation/yoga studio nearby. Or you can find hundreds of guided meditations online. You can think of it as having your very own meditation coach, guiding your meditation practice.
Guided meditations help you stay in the present moment whenever your mind races off. They are usually very soothing and calm. What’s more, the idea of meditating isn’t as intimidating when you’re supported along the way.
And one more thing: there’s absolutely nothing wrong with using a guided meditation for anxiety. If you follow one, it doesn’t mean your mind is weak, or that you’re worse off than your friends. To be honest, when I first learned how to meditate, I went straight to YouTube, and listened to guided meditations. And I still go back to them when I need help meditating.
Deepak Chopra‘s Guided Meditation for Overcoming Everyday Anxiety can be a very useful tool if there’s an upcoming event that’s causing you anxiety.
In his exercise, you enter into a meditative state (find a quiet place and begin to breath mindfully). Then, try to imagine where the future is in relation to your body. (For example, is the future in front of, or beside you?) Next, picture yourself moving above your body, and toward the future when that anxiety-causing event is done. Then, look back on this event from your futuristic viewpoint and just hold it in your mindfulness. When you’re ready, you can return to the present moment. You’ll see that all of your previous anxiety about it is gone!
Another great resource for guided meditations is the Yoga Journal, including this one, specifically meant to reduce anxiety.
How to Effectively Practice 10 Minute Guided Meditation for Anxiety?
You might get discouraged if you don’t see amazing results after a couple meditations. So, to make the most out of it, try to give priority to your meditation practice. This takes time and commitment, so it’s okay to be super practical about it. Here’s how you can do that:
- Choose a Meditation Style that You Like: Meditation is a very old practice. There are many different approaches and meditation techniques for anxiety. You may like visualizations or repeating a word or phrase. You might like to focus on a theme or simply focus on your breathing. With some simple research, you can easily find a technique that works for you.
- 10 Minutes Timer: Instead of having an indefinite time to meditate, decide on a specific length of time and stick to it. Once you choose the length of your meditation, set a timer and try to enter into your practice. Don’t worry, the timer will let you know when you’re finished!
- Schedule Your Meditation: Practice makes perfect, so write it in your daily agenda and make it a steady practice. Many people find that a morning meditation is most effective for them, so it’s worth a shot, even if you’re not a morning person.
- Find A Spot to Meditate: You probably won’t feel too comfortable trying to meditate if people are walking in and out of the room. As a beginner, it can be difficult to focus if there are many disruptions. So, try to find a nice spot at home that you enjoy. It should be a place where you can sit for 10-20 minutes without being distracted.
- Sit up: You’re probably familiar with the images of people sitting in the cross-legged position. If that’s not comfortable for you, you can always sit in a different position. The important thing is that your back stays straight; this helps your breath become deeper. So, you might be comfortable sitting on the floor or chair, but just make sure you’re sitting upright, with a straight back. This way, you’ll get the most out of your meditation.
- Pay Attention to Your Body: Not only is it important to keep your back straight, but it’s also important to keep tension at bay. You can release tension in your shoulders and relax your arms and hands. When you keep your jaw open (not your mouth!), it helps your body stay relaxed during meditation.
- Be Patient: You probably won’t become an overnight meditation success, and that’s completely normal and okay. Just be patient with yourself and trust that you will benefit from all of your commitment and consistency.
- Release Judgment: Don’t be intimidated by social media, or feel bad if you’re not a meditation pro. Love and accept yourself, exactly as you are, and remove any judgements you have toward yourself. Your mind will wander, but don’t feel disappointed in yourself. The rest of the day is already full of negative thoughts, so let your meditation be a time when you can relax, and stop taking your thoughts so darn seriously!
Meditation Can Calm Anxiety and Restore Peace
Meditation has been shown to help people with anxiety disorders. And yes, while it might seem like a daunting commitment, it is well worth the time and effort. To get started, try any of the guided meditations mentioned here, or find one that resonates with you. Even though anxiety disorders are very difficult to live with, you can manage them with meditation. Hopefully, this 10 minute guided meditation article has brought you some insight and inspiration to do just that.
GUIDED MEDITATION DOWNLOADS AND RESOURCES:
Mindfulness meditation may ease anxiety (Harvard Health Publications)
How to Meditate (The New York Times Guide)
Meditation Programs for Psychological Stress and Well-being (JAMA Research)