For those people who are really dedicated to getting over anxiety, Mindfulness Meditation can be the key.
The are literally thousands of types of meditation, and many books, CDs and Videos out there which will tell you how to meditate. I’m going to ask you to forget nearly all of those.
All meditation will relax you, but that in itself is not a solution to anxiety, panic attacks, and phobias. Most meditations seem to take you away from the present moment and take your concentration away from your body. Such escapism may bring temporary relief from anxiety but will not free you from it, and meditating through anxious moments is hard.
Enter Mindfulness meditation, a tool I first learnt about through the work of the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society.
So, why is Mindfulness for Anxiety so good? There are a few reasons: firstly, through practicingg mindfulness meditation you learn to be in the present moment. That might sound odd, after all we are all in the present moment all the time – how else could it be? In fact, anxiety, panic, and phobias do not really happen in the present moment. Think about it a second. They happen when you concentrate on bad memories from the past and catastrophic predictions about the future. Mindfulness meditation recognises this and allows you to stay in the present, where everything is just as it should be.
Secondly, with mindfulness meditation you stay in your body and become aware of your body. You become aware of all the tension and stress you are holding in the moment throughout your body. This allows your mind to accept, and not misinterpret tension as a signal to start panicking or feeling anxious.
Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly of all, mindfulness meditation teaches you to be aware of your thoughts as passing entities which are present in a given moment and then fade as all thoughts do. When you learn to see anxious and catastrophic thoughts in this light you are much better placed to chose how to react to them, or indeed whether to react to them at all.
After diligent practice, the mindfulness meditator can decide to let his/her catastrophic thoughts be, to not react to tension, and to focus on what is happening in the moment. The completely different outlook on life which the meditator nurtures revolves around acceptance and understanding, not reaction and fear. In terms of anxiety and panic, the results can be spectacular.
Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Full Catastrophe Living is a fantastic overall guide to Mindfulness and has excellent advice on stress reduction and a whole section on anxiety and panic.
Jeffrey Brantley’s Calming Your Anxious Mind is dedicated to applying Mindfulness Meditation to Anxiety and Panic. It really is a life changing book and one I recommend without reservation.