Meditation for Anxiety, Panic Attacks & Stress

We are going to look into different meditation techniques that are used to deal with anxiety, panic disorders and stress. If you are suffering from either, this knowledge is for you. Who knows, it might save you the frequent trips to the doctor to get anxiety pills. Systematically, this article guides the reader through the various techniques known to deal with both anxiety and panic attacks.

Anxiety and Stress Relief Meditation

The goal of anxiety and stress relief meditation is to learn how to let go of whatever is weighing you down and realize the peace and calmness the mind can experience. It serves the purpose of helping someone understand the position they are now in. The past and the future are impermanent. By letting these thoughts cloud our judgment and state of mind, we accept the troubles they drag along with them.

When it comes to anxiety and stress relief, it is highly advisable to separate yourself from everyone else. You need time to restore yourself to your most productive element because you might rub off some of the bad energy onto others. Close your eyes and try to relax your body. It is essential to prepare it to get into a state of well-being. Focus your attention on yourself. It is your time; forget all the other things that cloud your mind. You want to be at peace and resonate peace, and this is your time to manifest its existence. Start by inhaling and exhaling slowly through the nose and mouth in that order. Observe your body and the buildup of tension accumulated from the anxiety and stress.

You can imagine a stream of river passing and washing away all the buildup of anxiety and stress. Let it all go; let it all wash away. You can imagine anything. You can also decide to fold your stress and anxiety in a leaf and let it go in whichever direction the wind chooses to. Every time you exhale, envision all the worries go away. Your mind is your palace of imagination. You can do anything in the space you have created for yourself now. Slowly, go back and observe your breathing again. Keep inhaling through your nose and exhaling through the mouth. You can decide to let it happen naturally or give it intervals of three seconds—your space your choice. If your mind keeps wandering, you can perform a couple of deep breaths to bring back your focus to your breathing.

Now, imagine you are all alone at the beach, and you have worn your favorite pair of swimsuits. You want to take a dip because you are aware of the calming effect water has on you. Picture yourself running towards the sea and splashing your way in. To your surprise, when you take a dip, you start to glow and feel so lovely. The more you dip yourself into the water, the more your worries wash away, leaving you with a charming aura and a sense of peace. Keep imagining this before going back to observe your breathing.

Notice if there is any change in your breathing. Does it feel more natural and relaxed? Do you feel better? If not, start with the breath again. Do not let your source of stress or anxiety plague you in this space. Remember, this is your personal space. It is your time. Nobody can take away your time.

You can use any relevant scenario as a visual tool to let go of the stress and anxiety that has manifested itself. It does not have to be real what is above. If it works for you, that is all that matters. Keep transitioning from your breathing to visual scenarios until the time you desire. Even after feeling better, you might decide to continue doing it for a while just because you can. There is certainly no harm in that.

Apart from the above method, mindfulness meditation, some audio guided meditations, and Vipassana meditation serve as good alternatives to try. The practice of meditation does not restrict you from trying out something different if the one you are accustomed to doing does not show results. Any technique that is good for you is the best.

Self-Healing for On-The-Spot Anxiety

Anxiety can clock in at any time it feels like. Let us compare it to that manager who decides to walk into the office, yet nobody expected them to show up because it was their day off. From minor misunderstandings to significant problems, anxiety always comes packed differently for every individual. Luckily, several methods deal with stress immediately. These methods are:

Mindful Breathing

Take some time out for yourself for just five minutes. If you cannot, only pay attention to yourself wherever you are and start to breathe deeply while assuming an upright posture. Notice how the lower area of your bells expands as you breathe in through your nose and contracts as you breathe out through your mouth. Deep breathing is associated with lowering the heart rate, which in turn reduces blood pressure.

Focus on the Present

As soon as you feel the anxiety starting to kick in, in whatever situation you are in, just begin to focus on what is happening presently. If you are walking, focus on how your feet hit the ground and how the wind is blowing against your face or hair. If you are eating, focus on how your fingers feel holding that spoon. What kind of sensations do you feel around your mouth as you eat? Pay attention to these details, and slowly witness yourself starting to feel less tense.

Scan Your Body

This technique combines bodily awareness and breathing. It helps individuals experience the connection between the body and the mind. Start by observing your breath. Inhale and exhale through your nose. The purpose is to clear all the stories in your head and concentrate on yourself. After a few minutes, focus your attention on a specific group of muscles and release any tension you feel. Move to the after the flesh and so the same. Keep doing this until you have covered the whole body. You can do it in whatever order you like.

Use Guided Imagery

Due to the availability of the internet, it is easy to find apps or audios online that can help you create guided images. However, this technique might not be so efficient for people who have a problem constructing mental models. If you can build mental pictures with ease, make sure that the images are relatable to you. Otherwise, you might not understand what is going on-which beats the whole point. Guided descriptions are there to help someone reinstate the positivity in themselves. If you find it difficult to visualize such images in your mind, you can stare at one image for a few seconds, and then close your eyes with the idea of retaining the image in your account. As you practice this technique, you will find it to be more comfortable and easier to achieve mental imagery.

Start Counting

In school, it was a common thing to hear teachers or parents say, “If you feel angry or you want to say something out of bitterness, just count to ten first.” It is funny how this holds. Counting is one of the many easy ways to deal with your anxiety anywhere it occurs. You do not have to count to ten; you can even do it to one hundred if it feels right. Challenge yourself and score backward as well. This way, you can get your mind into it. Sometimes the anxiety goes away quickly, while other times, it does not. Whatever the case, ensure you try to keep calm and collected. Counting distracts you from the cause of anxiety and keeps your mind busy. It will eventually return you to a state of calm.

Interrupt Your Thoughts

From my experience with anxiety, your thoughts can become so influential to the extent of making you feel like your fears are going to manifest themselves. The idea itself then again doubles your anxiety, and the cycle just keeps going. Then again, you realize that the majority of these things never get to happen and that you were so anxious for no good reason.

Interrupting your thoughts as they come can bring you back to a sense of calm. You can do this by starting to think about a person you love- a person who brings peace into your life. If you like a specific meditation music album, skip to your favorite music and relax. Remember to always observe how you feel after a few minutes. Observe how none of these feelings is permanent.

With these few tips, you are ready to break your anxiety cycle.

Meditation for Panic Attacks

They may occur at any time, even when you are asleep. Sometimes they have no trigger. A panic attack gives you breathing difficulties, makes your heart pound, and it gives you a feeling that you are going crazy or are about to die. It is not a pretty experience just from what it sounds like. Other symptoms that occur may include sweating, shaking, fever, nausea, your legs may ‘turn to jelly’, and feeling a disconnection from yourself.

Many people only get to experience less than five panic attacks in their lifetime. The problem usually then goes away after the stressful episode has ended. Some people have very regularly recurring panic attacks, and they happen to stay in constant fear of the danger of having another panic attack-these people suffer from a condition called panic disorder.

It is difficult to pinpoint what exactly causes feelings of panic and the onset of attacks, but they tend to the families. Major life events such as marriage, graduation and retirement, and the death of someone you love also show a bond with panic attacks and panic disorders. Some medical conditions can also be caused by panic attacks such as hyperthyroidism and low blood sugar. The use of stimulants in the likes of caffeine and cocaine can also trigger panic attacks and disorders. If you have panic disorders, it would be advisable to refrain from such. If you have had a panic attack and it has passed, it would be nice to give your body what it needs. You might feel fatigued, hungry, or even thirsty. Make sure you give yourself some proper treatment after it happens. It is advisable to inform someone that you can confide in about the situation. It is not a bad thing to ask for help.

Below are breathing techniques that reverse the symptoms of panic disorders:

Diaphragm Meditation for Panic Attacks

When we encounter a situation of distress, the pattern and rate of our breathing become different. On an average day, we always breathe slowly using our lower lungs. However, in situations of distress, our breath shifts to be shallow and rapid while situated in the upper lungs. If it happens when resting, it can cause hyperventilation. It also explains some of the symptoms experienced during the panic. Luckily, by knowing how to change your breathing, you can start to reverse the signs of your panic attack.

The body has a natural calming response called the parasympathetic response that triggers by changing how you breathe. It is compelling and is the complete opposite of the emergency response (the feelings that kick in during an attack). When the calming response comes into play, all the primary changes brought about by the emergency response start to shift.

The two meditation techniques recommended to help with this disorder are the natural breathing technique and the calming counting technique. The natural breathing technique is pretty much the same thing as the abdominal breathing technique. If you can practice breathing like this daily, it will only prove beneficial.

The Natural Breathing Technique (Abdominal Breathing Method)

Gently inhale a healthy amount of air through your nostrils, making sure it fills your lower lungs. You can decide to place your hands beneath your lower belly to supervise this, or you can do whatever seems comfortable. Make sure to exhale while focusing on the movements of your lower stomach. Feel it expand as the air gets in and go down when you exhale. Carry this practice with a relaxed mindset, not forgetting to fill your lower lungs with air. Try your best to actually “feel” the oxygen rushing into your body and making its way through your blood. You will feel how every tissue in your body imbibes the fresh oxygen you have just inhaled.

Calming Counts

Assume a comfortable sitting posture and take a deep breath. As you are exhaling, slowly whisper to yourself to relax. Keep your eyes closed to avoid losing focus. Now, start taking natural breaths while counting down from the desired number. Make sure to only count after a successful exhale. As you keep breathing, throw your attention to any areas of tension. Imagine the pressure getting loose and shriveling, leaving you feeling calm and refreshed.

When you arrive at the end of your countdown, open your eyes, and notice any difference in what you are feeling. If it has worked but not as efficiently as desired, give it a longer try making sure your willpower is set to let go of the panic. Eventually, you will notice yourself getting better.

Studies have shown that these meditation techniques if practiced even when one is not anxious, are bound to yield the same results. If you can, dedicate a little time every morning and evening to practice the technique that works best for you.

Two things should be highly observed when practicing these techniques: focusing on changing negative thoughts and not thinking of anything else while meditating. It is because our ideas directly influence our breathing, and changing your negative thoughts can help lessen the symptoms quickly. Concentrate most of your effort into not thinking about anything else. Do not even think about your after breath; it should happen naturally.

What is Mindfulness Meditation

Mindfulness meditation is intentionally paying attention to your experience as it arises, without judging it. Most of the time what we experience just feels like a big blob. However, when we start paying attention we realize that our experience is multi- layered: It is made up of inner and outer experiences, and strands within them. Our inner experience consists of thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations; our outer experience is made up of the environment, behavior, and actions (our own and those of other people). All these arise individually and simultaneously, and interact with and influence one another. How we pay attention is crucial. We want to notice whatever is arising without judging it, and actively cultivate attitudes of kindness and gentleness to what we notice. When we start practicing mindfulness meditation, the first thing we often notice is how judgmental we are— judging situations, others, and, of course, ourselves. It is easy to fall into the trap of judging ourselves for being so judgmental! However, there is a difference between judging and discerning, and there is nothing wrong with having preferences. We can cultivate the quality of mindfulness meditation through practicing meditation, both formal (a regular practice that might include sitting practice, movement—yoga, walking, tai chi, qiqong—or a body scan) and informal, when we pay attention to what we are doing while we are doing it as we go about our day. Both types of practice are valuable and support each other. More about mindfulness meditation down below.


Mindfulness Meditation Music

The recent popularity of mindfulness meditation may lead you to think that it is something new, but it is quite the opposite. Mindfulness is a quality within us all, but it can be cultivated consciously through meditation, and this has been practiced for thousands of years. The secular form of mindfulness meditation that we discuss here came to the West more than 30 years ago and was developed by Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn and his colleagues at the University of Massachusetts Hospital as a way of helping patients with chronic medical conditions learn to live with them. Since then its use has spread, and adapted mindfulness-based approaches are being used for medical disorders such as depression, anxiety, addiction, cancer, and pain, among many others, as well as in mainstream contexts such as schools, prisons, government, the workplace, and the sports arena. One reason that it has been accepted into such a diverse range of areas is the strong evidence for its efficacy. This is growing all the time, particularly in new areas, and mindfulness and sleep is one of those.

When we practice mindfulness meditation, we are focusing our attention on something in particular (such as the breath, physical sensations, sounds, or thoughts) for a certain amount of time. The regularity of the practice is more important than the duration, so try to do it a few times a week if you can’t do it every day. It is better to sit for a shorter time, perhaps 5 minutes to begin with, and build it up, rather than struggle to sit for 30 minutes and feel that you have failed. When we meditate, our mind will wander sooner rather than later, and at some point we notice that. This is a moment of pure awareness—we are in the present moment and we know that we are thinking. We acknowledge that we are “thinking” and bring our attention back to the focus, whatever that is. If we practice mindfulness meditation regularly, we end up doing this thousands of times. Every time we bring the attention back we are practicing letting go of a distraction, encouraging the unconscious mind to notice mind-wandering (which is why it is important not to beat ourselves up about it), practicing deliberately placing our attention where we want it to be, and cultivating attitudes of kindness, gentleness, curiosity, patience, letting go, acceptance, and non-striving. Therefore every time we exercise this muscle of awareness, we lay down new neural pathways in the brain: We change our brain and the way it works. Much of our day-to-day stress is caused by trying to control our experience, and particularly by things not being as we would like them to be, and the same thing happens at night if we are not sleeping as we think we should. When we practice mindfulness meditation regularly, we notice how our experience is always changing. We become more comfortable with change and realize that we can’t control our experience. When we struggle with not sleeping, we can get into a vicious cycle of trying to control all the elements that may influence sleep; but actually, this undermines it. As we meditate, every state of mind will arise at some point: physical discomfort, boredom, restlessness, irritation, calm, peace, ease … Learning to explore these different states “on the mat” in a safe environment gives us the opportunity to practice being with them. Through noticing how they manifest in the body and how we habitually react to them, and through meeting them, we learn a different way to respond to them. Thus, when the same states of mind arise in everyday life, we are already familiar with them. There is also an important element of showing up to practice. If we establish a regular mindfulness meditation practice (maybe just 10–15 minutes a day), we do it regardless of whether we are in the mood. This is important: It cultivates a willingness to be with whatever shows up, however we are, and it can be helpful when we experience a bout of insomnia or face unexpected events. We often find it easier to pay attention to our experience if we make a specific time to do so, without any distractions, and setting aside a time to meditate allows this.

According to Mindful Nation UK, mindfulness meditation training teaches people to become more aware of their thoughts, emotions, and body sensations, as well as being less reactive and judgmental toward them. They start recognizing thoughts as mental events rather than facts, and discover ways of dealing with automatic reactions to stress. They also become able to notice pleasant events and enjoy them, and develop a greater overall attitude of unconditional kindness, both toward themselves and others. The result of this is that they respond to their own experience, and to events in their lives and the people around them, in a healthier and more compassionate way. Whatever brings us to mindfulness meditation—anxiety, pain, sleeplessness, or something else—we never actually try to “fix” that particular problem. Instead, we learn to relate to our “suffering”—whether physical or psychological—in a different way. Forcing ourselves to fall asleep (or resisting being awake) is a non-starter. Learning how to move from a place of resisting or not wanting our experience to one of allowing it to be (since it’s already here) is at the heart of mindfulness meditation practice. Paradoxically, by letting go of the need to fall asleep you may find that your sleep improves. Regardless of this, however, acceptance involves letting go of the mental struggle that can be so exhausting, and therefore you may feel less tired even if you are not actually sleeping more.

Guided Mindfulness Meditations

Relaxing Zen Music