Daily Meditations for Anxiety

Stress and anxiety are two terms that today’s society uses interchangeably. These two psychological issues are common, from acute to chronic, specific and unique to each person’s condition and capacity. But there is a fine line that separates stress and anxiety. 

According to the theoretical concept by Lazarus and Folkman (1984), stress (or conceptually as psychological stress) is a relationship between an individual and the environment that is perceived by the individual as draining or exceeding their resources and posing a threat to their well-being.

Meanwhile, anxiety is a mood disorder marked by tension and worried thoughts, as well as physical changes such as increased blood pressure (American Psychological Association, n.d.). 

Anxiety also refers to the anticipation of a future concern and is more associated with muscle tension and avoidance behavior. Anxiety is a fear-based response, where fear is an emotional response to an immediate threat and is more associated with a fight or flight reaction — either staying to fight or leaving to escape danger.

American Psychological Association (2022) stated that stress and anxiety are emotional responses, but an external trigger is more likely to cause stress. Stress triggers can be short-term, which makes them temporary such as being unable to work, social discrimination, or chronic illness. There are a number of mental and physical symptoms associated with stress, such as irritability, anger, fatigue, muscle pain, digestive problems, and difficulty sleeping.

In contrast to stress, anxiety involves persistent, excessive worries that persist even without a stressor. It is common for anxiety to cause insomnia, difficulty concentrating, fatigue, muscle tension, and irritability, which are nearly identical to the symptoms of stress. This point makes clear that anxiety will cause more harm and longer effect than just being stressed. 

This article will discuss deeper about anxiety, how anxiety affects the body functions, and what you can do to manage anxiety through meditation. 

Anxiety’s effect on the body

According to the American Psychiatric Association (2021), nearly 30% of American adults are affected by anxiety disorders which makes it the most common mental disorder in the USA. 

Usually, people with anxiety disorders experience recurring intrusive thoughts or concerns. Occasionally, they may avoid certain situations for fear of causing harm. There may also be physical symptoms such as sweating, trembling, dizziness, or a rapid heartbeat.

A study by Bystritky and Kronemyer (2014) listed comprehensive bodily and psychological experiences of having anxiety. Basically, there are some similarities between bodily and psychological responses between stress and anxiety, but anxiety responses are tenser and impact wider areas. For instance, anxiety symptoms are including apprehension and worry, vigilance, and experience of expectation of threat. 

Anxiety impacts vital functions, particularly the human nervous system and cognitive neuroscience as well. The researchers stated that anxiety may disturb the autonomic nervous system which yields irregular breathing, heart palpitations, blood pressure increase, and muscle tension. 

Anxiety also pushes the brain into a “default mode network”, a highly activated, unstable state. In an anxiety state, physiologic alarms are intense, dysfunctional beliefs are formed, dysregulated emotions are experienced, and maladaptive coping mechanisms are deployed. When the anxiety gets worsens, it can lead to catastrophic outcomes like severe anxiety disorders.

Managing anxiety through meditation

There are a lot of methods to get a grasp and control responses when the anxiety wave hits. Anxiety coping strategies mainly focus on how you can practice safety rituals and avoidance behavior in an attempt to escape the threat-maintaining anxiety. In order to be effective, coping strategies should reduce alarm frequency, intensity, and duration, as well as dysfunctional beliefs.

The meditation-based approach is quite well-liked for assisting those who struggle with anxiety. The meditation technique is easy to use and doesn’t have any prerequisites. A profound state of relaxation and a calm mind may be attained by meditation, which is regarded as a sort of mind-body alternative medicine. People who are anxious might release tension and become more aware of their bodies when they are in a deep state of relaxation. 

Dr. Elizabeth Hoge, a psychiatrist at the Center for Anxiety and Traumatic Stress Disorders at Massachusetts General Hospital and an assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, in an editorial from Harvard Medical Publishing, said that mindfulness meditation is a great aid for treating anxiety. Those who suffer from anxiety have trouble handling distracting thoughts and cannot tell the difference between a helpful thought and a worry that is unhelpful.

Numerous research dug deep into how managing anxiety with meditation and how people can reap its benefits. A meta-analysis study by Bamber and Morpeth (2018) was conducted to find the effect of mindfulness meditation on college student anxiety. The conclusion was that mindfulness-based interventions like meditation significantly lower students’ anxiety as long as the meditation is done regularly. 

Another research was conducted to see the effect of meditation on mental health during the COVID-19 situation. Green et al. (2021) found participation in health behaviors such as physical activity and mindfulness meditation reduced the worsening of mental health due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

How to practice meditation

Before stepping into any meditation practice to ease anxiety, it is important to understand the anxiety first. This is the initial step to finding the nature of the triggers of the anxiety and obtaining a better sense of what kind of situation was perceived as threatening. 

Meditation mediates rumbling thoughts, beliefs, and fear in your brain, connecting end-to-end pathways to understand and be aware of the elicited responses. Meditation also pushes and trains you to familiarize yourself and brings your attention to the surface, which makes it difficult to practice at first because of the potentially overwhelming sensations.

To help you be steady with meditation, here are a few tips you can follow to practice meditation for easing anxiety:

Start slow and small

Practicing meditation for the first time does not have to be a long and boring process. You can try to start at least 1 minute in the morning before you start your day. Starting slow and small helps you to train yourself to be attentive and calm down. Do one single meditation each day then increase the durations slowly.

Set a comfortable environment

A comfortable place can help you to succeed in practicing meditation because it will give you a sense of security and safety. You can start practicing meditation on your comfiest rug in your bedroom or in a secluded designated place where you can focus. Things like essential oils, burning incense, or lamps may help you to reach relaxation in your meditation as well.

Choose a meditation method

There are a lot of meditation techniques you can learn. You may choose any technique like mindfulness meditation which trains the attention of your passing thoughts, focused meditation which involves your awareness of your senses and your surroundings like breathing techniques, and movement meditation like walking, yoga, or tai chi. There are also a lot of websites that provide guided meditation for those who are new to practicing meditation.

Do it daily

The key to mastering meditation is practicing regularly. You will never know when the anxiety wave will come and hit your day, that is why you need to make meditation your daily routine. This way also helps you to set good habits and stick to them for a very long time.

Track your progress

In order to keep track of your journey to alleviate anxiety with meditation, it would be beneficial if you record it to check your progress. You can use an app to help, a calendar, or make a journal. Check every day after your meditation, tick the day, and you may put some reflections in your journal about your meditation journey.

In conclusion 

Having anxiety and controlling them is quite a journey. A lot might happen when the anxiety hits and could disturb your daily life. Meditation has been under extensive research and was proven to help alleviate anxiety. Meditation should not be a burden but need to be done regularly. Several tips to help include starting slow in small progress, choosing a comfortable place, choosing an easy technique, and tracking your progress every day.

If you would like to know more about meditations, check out the Personal Science Labs. Based on the research of the Institute for Life Management Science, the lab produces courses, certifications, podcasts, videos, and other learning tools and resources. Visit the Personal Science Labs today.

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