Anxiety can be quite a debilitating condition and can affect many people from differing walks of life in many different ways.
Anxiety disorders are a significant problem for many, affecting millions of people worldwide.
Many people talk about anxiety as though it is something entirely new; in fact, the feelings of anxiety are inbuilt into the human psyche; it is just that some of us are more adept at dealing with it than others.
Most of us, at some time in our lives, have experienced the feelings of fear or panic. These are usually experienced when we are faced with a stressful situation.
What happens in a stressful situation is that the alarm bells start ringing in our minds, and we are aware that something is not quite right, and we have to take some form of action to deal with it.
The body’s physiological reaction is to make us ready for flight or fight.
We become more alert and responsive, and our body pumps more blood around to get us ready for that fight or flight action.
Most humans are not exempt from having feelings of worry and anxiety.
These can be over everyday things like money, relationships. We are generally able to rationalize these feelings, though, and they tend to go away.
The problems occur when a situation is not stressful or worrying, and yet we still feel anxious.
What Is Anxiety
The term anxiety has undergone change over recent years, as research has brought more light on what it is.
Basically, there are two types of anxiety, state and trait anxiety.
State anxiety refers to the duration of a fearful and anxious episode, like when you perceive a situation as threatening. Once you are removed from that situation, those feelings of anxiety should subside.
Trait anxiety refers to your own feelings of that we all have. Still, the difference is some of us will perceive an unthreatening situation as a stressful situation where others will not.
People that have an anxiety problem will experience state anxiety for periods far longer than others in relation to the perceived threat. Plus, they have far more intense feelings of anxiety and fear than other people do.
The symptoms of anxiety are many, and you may need some help if you continually have these feelings encroaching on your everyday activity.
The sorts of feelings to look out for are:
- Being nervous or panicky all the time
- Having feelings of dread
- Feeling out of control
- Trouble sleeping
- Difficulty concentrating
- Feeling faint
Experiencing these symptoms on a regular basis may indicated that you are suffering from an anxiety disorder.
Brain physiology researchers believe that malfunctions may cause these disorders in the brain neural pathways that regulate fear and other emotions.
Some studies have shown that exposure to prolonged-lasting stress can change the way that these brain circuits transmit information.
So when is it that you need to consider getting help for this condition, and when you do, is meditation an excellent way to help you combat this condition?
The actual underlying causes of anxiety are not that fully understood. We all know that certain life experiences, particularly traumatic life events can appear to trigger off anxiety feelings.
The other catalyst for feelings of anxiety can be linked to other health issues.
If you do start suffering from anxiety symptoms, your physician might look to other medical issues that may be causing it. These can be such things as;
- Heart disease
- Drug misuse
- Alcohol withdrawal
- Chronic pain
Types of Anxiety
People with anxiety disorders experience a lot more intense feelings of anxiety than others in a given situation, and it usually lasts for a longer time than others.
This experience of fear, as we have mentioned above, will usually invoke the flight or fight mechanism that we all have.
In anxiety induced conditions, it is only the flight mechanism that is invoked.
Being exposed to prolonged flight mechanism feelings can have a detrimental impact on emotional and physical wellbeing.
Let us consider the main types of anxiety that meditation techniques may be able to have an impact on.
Separation anxiety occurs when a feeling of anxiety is expressed that is inappropriate in being separated from that person for an extended period.
It is characterized by excessive stress response when either separated from the person or from their home.
There are also recurrent feelings of losing the significant figures in our lives that we are significantly attached too.
They are refusing to leave the side of the person due to fear of being separated, and of being left alone without that person present.
To be diagnosed as an adult, you would need to manifest these feelings for at least six months.
This disorder is probably more common in children than in adults.
Phobias are quite commonplace in most of us. They are an excessive fear or feeling of anxiety about a specific place or object. Being exposed to this place or fear always produces a disproportionate response to the perceived threat.
There are, of course, a number of common phobias recognized, such as snakes, spiders, fear of flying, and being in enclosed spaces.
To be a real problem, the person has to display an excessive fear of these situations or things over a long period of time.
Social Anxiety Disorder
With this anxiety disorder, you will have a feeling of fear and anxiety over at least one social situation where you feel other people are scrutinizing you.
Such situations could be meeting new people, being watched when you are eating, or performing in front of others like public speaking or interview situation.
The overriding feeling of this disorder is that you will be humiliated through being in these situations, so you will go out of their way to avoid them.
Once again, the feeling of anxiety is disproportionate to the actual threat of the situation itself.
It is when dysfunctional behaviors are displayed that this has become a real problem for the sufferer.
The symptoms of panic disorder are unexpected panic attacks and excessive worry about experiencing a panic attack.
Panic attacks can impact on both the emotional and the physiological systems of a sufferer. People who have continued panic attacks and cope in a dysfunctional way are usually diagnosed with this type of disorder.
How Meditation Can Help
Having a clear understanding of anxiety is the first step to finding ways to manage the situations that cause anxiety.
Meditation is a form of mental exercise and has become a widespread health practice all over the world.
Regularly practicing meditation has been reported to bring about changes in our mental states and changes in our brain cortex structures.
As we have noted, many people suffer from anxiety and not all consistent display symptoms to be classified as having one of the anxiety disorders.
As anxiety is a purely cognitive state that impacts on our controlling of emotions, changes in brain structure could give some relief from the condition and help people to cope with the condition.
Recent research suggests that with consistent meditation practice, you can gradually reprogram the neural pathways in the brain.
This improvement can then go along way to improving our ability to regulate our emotions and those that cause anxious feelings.
One of the ways that meditation can bring about changes in anxiety conditions is through familiarization.
How that works is that we start to familiarize ourselves with what actually makes us anxious.
We learn to visualize the events or things that make us anxious. We then learn to sit next to them and then to let them go.
Through practicing this technique, we can improve our own ability to regulate our emotions and move to a change in our relationship with anxiety.
It can help us to differentiate with scenarios and situations that genuinely are anxiety-provoking and those that are not.
We know that when anxiety hits, it also causes dramatic changes to our physiological state. We can exhibit an increased heart rate, sweating, and a general restlessness.
By learning how to meditate, we can also learn about our body and what it feels like. We can become more aware of our sensations and internal feelings.
Meditation can teach us to live in the moment and experience at the moment.
The technique teaches us to scan our body and bodily sensations and helps us become more attuned to what we are feeling and experiencing.
By exploring the different sensations, we become at one with our senses, just like how we can become one with our thoughts.
This technique can then be employed when we start to feel anxious, and our body starts to respond.
Fighting the Stress Response with Meditation.
One of the benefits of applying meditation to counteract the stress response that would cause anxiety is that it affects the body in the completely opposite way to how stress impacts on the body.
By applying meditation, it calms and relaxes the body and can help in giving you some feelings of rationalization on the actual event or object.
Once again, research has shown that those subjects who practice meditation on a regular basis begin to experience changes in response to stressful situations or objects.
How this might work is that meditation can also increase positive mood changes, and this can make you more resilient to the feelings of stress and anxiety.
Applying Meditation Techniques
So if you are a bit of a stress cadet or suffer from an anxiety disorder, what meditation techniques can come to your rescue:
An easy technique to master even as a beginner of meditation is to focus all your attention on your breathing pattern when you start to feel stressed.
Focus on your concentration on the feel of your breathing and listen to the rhythm as you exhale and inhale through your nose.
Ensure each breath is deep and slow. If you find your attention wandering, bring it back to your breathing.
When applying this technique, focus your attention on different body parts and become aware of how each one feels be that tense, warm, or relaxed.
Creating your own mantra or using a religious mantra can also help. Things like recalling the Lord’s prayer and repeating it over and over when feeling stressed or anxious can work in reducing the experience.
A great way to bring about relaxation is to walk and meditate at the same time.
When you use this, ensure your walking pace is slowed so that you can focus on the act of walking. Focus on the movement of your legs and feet. Don’t focus on where you are going, just the changes that your limbs are making.
You can use action words to accompany the movements like “moving,” “lifting,” and “placing.”
Prayer is a widely practiced form of meditation. You can pray either with pre-written prayers or create your own.
Sounds easy – is it?
Like learning any new skill, it takes time and patience. Don’t become frustrated if you feel things aren’t working for you as you think they should be.
It is certainly not uncommon for the mind to wander off when you are practicing a meditation technique.
If you are practicing meditation to help in alleviating the symptoms of anxiety or stress, just slowly return to the object or sensation you are focusing on.
Make sure you experiment with the techniques we have mentioned above. You might find that some work great for you, and others have no real benefit, or you find it hard to practice them.
What you have to remember is there is no right or wrong way to meditate. It can be very personal to one person and another.
Try to adapt meditation to suit your particular needs at that specific moment.
All that really matters is that the meditation you are practicing and applying actually help to reduce your anxiety and stress.
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