Om?- Meditation for Anxiety

“Your mind is a garden. Your thoughts are the seeds. Your harvest can either be flowers or weeds.”

William Wordsworth

 

If anyone can easily understand how much internal thought impacts daily life, it would be a person with anxiety. How often do we think a scary or negative thought and allow it to affect how we behave? Certainly none of these thoughts are purposeless, but their function varies more than the anxious brain would care to admit.

 

“What if I forget my keys?”

 

That’s an example of a functional thought. At least, it is if you deal with it in a functional way. If you’re worried about forgetting your keys as you walk out the door, then an appropriate response would be to put your keys in a place where you are less likely to forget them, such as in your coat pocket or on a hook by the door.

 

Now, what’s the alternative? What would be an example of a dysfunctional thought?

 

You’ve put your keys where you are certain you will not forget them. Now you can stop worrying about it, right? But will you? A dysfunctional thought would be to continue to worry about something even after you have done everything in your power to prevent it from happening … Sound familiar?

 

So, I like to be prepared. What’s the big deal?

 

The future is always uncertain, and most often, that is a common source for anxious thoughts, especially for anxious people. What might begin as a brace for the unexpected becomes an exhausting repetition of terror. Gradually, your efforts to prepare become an obsession with those unexpected events until you find yourself focusing more on what could happen rather than what is happening in the present.

 

So, what does that have to do with meditation?

 

Meditation is exercise in mindfulness. You might be thinking, “I’m mindful enough! What I need is to relax!” But you might be surprised.

 

I have found that taking the time to acknowledge my anxious thoughts through meditation allows me to relieve stress by dealing with those thoughts and feelings in a functional way.

 

But how?

 

As I sit calmly in my meditation space, I close my eyes. I breathe deeply and steadily in through my nose and out through my mouth. I begin my practice by focusing on my breath, not attempting to change it in any way, just allowing it to come forth, and bringing my attention toward the space between each inhalation and exhalation.

 

Then, I expand my awareness. I pay attention to my body. I might realize that my neck is a little tight, and I will intentionally relax the muscles as best I can. I repeat this step until I have scanned my entire body for traces of tension. Once I have done this, I allow my thoughts to flow freely.

 

But I thought meditation was an act of clearing your mind of all thought?

 

That is one method, but it is only one of many. For me, attempting to clear my mind of all thought would be more stressful. I don’t know about you, but I have a lot of thoughts! So, instead of attempting to suppress them, I embrace them. A thought crosses my mind; I acknowledge it, and I give it a proper examination. I might even jot down a quick word or phrase in my meditation journal, to remind me of what I was thinking or feeling at that moment.

 

But here’s the important part: once I have done that, I let the thought go.

 

This is the act of being in the present, and it is one of the reasons why meditation has been so influential toward healing my anxiety. As much as I would like to change my anxious thoughts, I know that simple suppression is not the answer. The first thing that I need to do is accept that I am who I am, and my thoughts are a part of that person. The next thing I need to do is practice a conscious effort to not let those thoughts rule my life.

 

Hah! Easier said than done!

I know, I know. It’s a lot more complex than all that. It’s not always easy to remind ourselves that dwelling on what may happen only makes us miserable. And of course, there will always be something for us to be anxious about. But as I’ve said before: “Every journey begins with one step.” That’s all this is: one step toward a less-terrifying future. Take it.

 

*****

 

Stand by for a long-ass Disclaimer… This is why you should never let someone with anxiety run a blog:

 

I’m not trying to put words in anyone’s mouth.

Unless otherwise directly stated within the content, all views expressed on this site are my own and do not represent the opinions of any entity whatsoever with which I have been, am now, or will be affiliated.

 

I’m not liable for anything.

Under no circumstances shall I (or any directly affiliated companies) be held liable for any indirect, incidental, consequential, special, or exemplary damages arising out of or in connection with your access or use of or inability to access or use this site and any third-party content and services, whether or not the damages were foreseeable, and whether or not I was advised of the possibility of such damages.

 

I’m Human. So are you.

I assume no responsibility or liability for any errors or omissions contained within the content of this site. The information contained in this site is provided on an “as-is” and entertainment basis with no guarantees of completeness, accuracy, usefulness, timeliness, or of the results obtained from use of any information on this site. I will not be held responsible for anyone’s use of this site or the content found within. Such use is conducted strictly at your own risk.

 

I respect the efforts of others.

This site contains copyrighted material, the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. I am making such material available for the purpose of commentary and other similar uses. I believe this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. If you wish to use copyrighted material on this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. If you believe that one of the quotes I used was credited in error (this can accidentally happen, since there are tons of incorrectly-labeled quotes out there), please notify me using the “contact me” form.

 

I wrote this stuff. Respect my efforts.

All applicable content is protected under copyright law. No part of this publication may be reproduced or sold without my prior written consent.

 

I don’t tolerate nastiness

I reserve the right to remove any public comments that are self-promotional, rude, or not contributing to the topic at hand. This blog is designed to help support people with anxiety and mental illness. It should be a safe place for those people. Let’s keep it civil.

Always Something- A Target for the Anxiety Arrow

“It just goes to show you, it’s always something — if it ain’t one thing, it’s another.”

– Gilda Radner (as Roseanne Roseannadanna on Saturday Night Live)

 

One of the reasons that I started this blog was to create a safe space for people with anxiety- a place where they could know that someone out there understands them. Because, let’s be honest, as supportive as friends and family members can be, they can sometimes miss the mark when it comes to empathy.

 

It’s not like they mean to be insensitive, I’m sure, but it’s difficult for someone who doesn’t have an anxiety disorder to truly understand what it’s like to have one. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard something like, “Oh, it’s not that bad.” or “Can’t you just calm down?”

 

HAH! If only it were that easy…

 

Trust me, there have been many times where I wished that I could  just will myself into not being anxious, even temporarily. The closest I have ever gotten is through meditating. (Stay tuned for my upcoming post about meditation for anxiety.) With this, and other methods (of which I will go into more detail later), I have managed to improve those feelings, but not eliminate them.

 

I can recall, one of the first things I tried; I wanted to limit the causes of my anxiety. I kept thinking, “Well, if my panicked little brain is a target, then all I need to do is reduce the ammunition.”

 

Sounds reasonable, right?

 

After a lot more contemplation and a ton of trial-and-error, I’ve begun to think that perhaps the opposite of this is true. It seems like my anxiety isn’t a target at all: it is the arrow, and it launches itself at whatever target it can find.

 

“Oh, housework makes you anxious? Why don’t you just keep up better on your housework?”

 

 

“Great! Awesome! Thanks!”

 

 

“Well, I’m not anxious about housework anymore.”

 

 

“See! I told you!”

 

 

“Now, I’m anxious about not having enough to do.”

 

 

-_-

 

It seems all cute and quirky when I write it out like that, but this is an example of an actual issue I’ve had. Or another example: When I started this blog, I was so excited at the prospect that I might help others like me. It also occurred to me that I might also help myself in the process and reach a more ideal level of mental health.

 

 

Then, I thought, “What if I was actually able to somehow cure my anxiety? Wouldn’t that be amazing?!”

 

 

“Oh… But then, wouldn’t I run out of things to blog about?”

 

-_-

 

No joke, even the thought of eliminating my anxiety made me anxious!

 

But, that’s ridiculous!

 

See, that’s exactly my point. Anxiety disorders don’t follow normal patterns of reason. In fact, there are many times when I feel anxious, and I actually cannot come up with a specific reason why: real or imagined.

 

So what do we do now?

Honestly, at the moment, I don’t know the answer to that. I’m really just taking this day-by-day and hoping I survive. I’m sure that many of you are too, but that’s one of the reasons this site is here: so that we can all survive together.

*****

Stand by for a long-ass Disclaimer… This is why you should never let someone with anxiety run a blog:

 

I’m not trying to put words in anyone’s mouth.

Unless otherwise directly stated within the content, all views expressed on this site are my own and do not represent the opinions of any entity whatsoever with which I have been, am now, or will be affiliated.

 

I’m not liable for anything.

Under no circumstances shall I (or any directly affiliated companies) be held liable for any indirect, incidental, consequential, special, or exemplary damages arising out of or in connection with your access or use of or inability to access or use this site and any third-party content and services, whether or not the damages were foreseeable, and whether or not I was advised of the possibility of such damages.

 

I’m Human. So are you.

I assume no responsibility or liability for any errors or omissions contained within the content of this site. The information contained in this site is provided on an “as-is” and entertainment basis with no guarantees of completeness, accuracy, usefulness, timeliness, or of the results obtained from use of any information on this site. I will not be held responsible for anyone’s use of this site or the content found within. Such use is conducted strictly at your own risk.

 

I respect the efforts of others.

This site contains copyrighted material, the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. I am making such material available for the purpose of commentary and other similar uses. I believe this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. If you wish to use copyrighted material on this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

 

I wrote this stuff. Respect my efforts.

All applicable content is protected under copyright law. No part of this publication may be reproduced or sold without my prior written consent.

 

I don’t tolerate nastiness

I reserve the right to remove any public comments that are self-promotional, rude, or not contributing to the topic at hand. This blog is designed to help support people with anxiety and mental illness. It should be a safe place for those people. Let’s keep it civil.

 

Spread the Joy!- A Special “Thank You”

This is not one of my regularly-scheduled blog posts, so I hope that you will forgive its lack of polish. The thing is, I really wanted to get this out there as soon as I could.

 

Not going to lie, it took a lot of determination for me to start this blog. It’s scary putting a piece of yourself out there for the rest of the world to see. But I knew that if I could just help one person by letting them know they were not alone, I would have done what I set out to do: spread the joy.

 

A few days ago, I was checking the stats on this blog, which is relatively new compared to others out there, and I realized that I already had one follower! It might seem silly to celebrate something so small, but to me, it was a step in the right direction.

 

So, here’s a special “Thank you” to my very first follower, James Edgar Skye. You can learn more about him by checking out his awesome collaborative blog.

Rock on, J.E. Us writers should stick together!

Suspense is Scary- Anxiety and Procrastination

“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out of your door,” he used to say. “You step into the Road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there is no knowing where you might be swept off to.”

J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

 

I don’t know about you, but I’m not a big fan of the unexpected. I’ve resigned myself to the fact that most days have quite a few surprises, but I always try to avoid those as much as possible. I end each night prepping for the next: writing my schedule, picking out my clothes, and packing a lunch. I cling to those certainties as the next day unfolds, reminding myself that if nothing else, those are the things I can count on. I also try to begin my day with an optimistic thought- something warm and fuzzy like “Today’s going to be a good day.” or perhaps, the lesser “I’m going to survive today.”

 

So, I’ve got my to-do list, my foolproof schedule, and my can-do attitude. What could go wrong?

 

Sure, preparation can be a big help, but what happens when even the expected is a trigger? Today was one of those days.

 

I had my whole workday planned out for maximum productivity. There were a few things on my list that I didn’t really want to do, but they needed to be done at some point during the day, regardless. I didn’t think that any of those things were worrying me all that much (sometimes it’s hard to tell when everything makes you anxious). Then, the time to complete them drew closer:

 

“Okay, time to get it done”, I’d say to myself.

 

“Now! Get it done now.”

 

“Okayyyyyy…GO!”

 

 

……

 

………

 

Sigh…

 

Sometimes, simple willpower can help me overcome that all-too-familiar feeling of ‘fear paralysis’, and I can force myself through an uncomfortable situation. Other times, hours will go by while I do pretty much anything else to avoid it.

 

The what-ifs and the why-nots…

 

If I let myself, I can always come up with a reason not to do something. Sometimes, it’s not even a specific task that is taunting me, but rather the act of doing anything. There are times when simply getting out of bed or stepping outside my door is met with hesitation, all because of one of two thoughts: “what if?” or “why not?”

 

“What if this happens?”

 

“Why not just do it later? When you’re feeling less anxious?”

 

I put a task off until the last minute, allowing the suspense to build until it’s way bigger than it needs to be. And when I reach that moment of overwhelming stress, I think, “Why on earth did I do this to myself?” I resolve to do better next time, but then next time comes, and I procrastinate all over again.

 

But there is still hope…

 

Every journey begins with one step… one step out the door, one “hello” to a new friend, one word written. When I am paralyzed by fear, that is the one thing that eventually gets me going. “I’m just going to take one step toward this thing,” I’ll say to myself. And before I know it, I’m there, exactly where I feared I’d never get.

 

 

*****

Stand by for a long-ass Disclaimer… This is why you should never let someone with anxiety run a blog:

 

I’m not trying to put words in anyone’s mouth.

Unless otherwise directly stated within the content, all views expressed on this site are my own and do not represent the opinions of any entity whatsoever with which I have been, am now, or will be affiliated.

 

I’m not liable for anything.

Under no circumstances shall I (or any directly affiliated companies) be held liable for any indirect, incidental, consequential, special, or exemplary damages arising out of or in connection with your access or use of or inability to access or use this site and any third-party content and services, whether or not the damages were foreseeable, and whether or not I was advised of the possibility of such damages.

 

I’m Human. So are you.

I assume no responsibility or liability for any errors or omissions contained within the content of this site. The information contained in this site is provided on an “as-is” and entertainment basis with no guarantees of completeness, accuracy, usefulness, timeliness, or of the results obtained from use of any information on this site. I will not be held responsible for anyone’s use of this site or the content found within. Such use is conducted strictly at your own risk.

 

I respect the efforts of others.

This site contains copyrighted material, the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. I am making such material available for the purpose of commentary and other similar uses. I believe this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. If you wish to use copyrighted material on this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

 

I wrote this stuff. Respect my efforts.

All applicable content is protected under copyright law. No part of this publication may be reproduced or sold without my prior written consent.