Meditation is great for helping anxiety. But sometimes you can feel too anxious to meditate. Luckily, there are some mindfulness techniques you can use to reduce anxiety and panic and help you to feel calmer
Recently, I have been feeling a little anxious. Often, I try to meditate when I feel like this, but lately, I’ve been finding this impossible. Sitting down to meditate makes me even more anxious and almost brings on a panic attack. So, I turned to my online friends and mentors to see if I could find some answers to this problem. Of course, my favorite websites and blogs were brimming with information. I found several mindfulness techniques that can ease anxiety, help you feel calm and allow you to get on with your meditation practice when you are ready.
I’ve picked out some of my favorite pieces of advice on what to do when you are too anxious to meditate to share with you here.
The first of the mindfulness techniques I discovered comes from Evelyn at allmeditate.com. Evelyn suggests gratitude as a vital step to calming anxiety, reducing depression and improving mood. She offers the following advice.
“If you start feeling yourself falling down a stress hole, STOP! Before you go any further into that vicious cycle that you put yourself through, hit the brakes for a second.
- Close your eyes
- Put both hands on your chest
- Take some deep breaths
- Envision 2-3 moments or events in your life that you are really thankful for”
Many studies agree with Evelyn on the benefits of appreciation and gratitude. I have certainly found it beneficial. In fact, I bought myself a journal specifically for writing down what I am grateful for each day. In it, I write down three things I am grateful for and spend some time really feeling the gratitude that wells up inside. Doing this first thing in the morning really sets the tone for the day. It switches my thinking from negative to positive and gets me off to a great start.
My next mindfulness technique comes from Aletheia Luna at lonerwolf.com. This post is a great introduction to journaling. It offers lots of information about the benefits, how to get started and questions to ask yourself. I highly recommend you read it if journaling is something that appeals to you.
Journaling isn’t new to me. I have been practising it for years and find it helps me to calm down and think more clearly and positively. However, my journaling practice is rather random and, when I am busy or stressed I forget to do it completely. Aletheia has the following advice:
“Making journalling into a habit requires you to set aside time every day. I like to personally write at the end of the day, but you might be different. Pick one period of the day and try to stick to it. If you feel inspired to write at a time of the day you’re not accustomed to writing, just flow with it. There are no set-in-stone rules here.”
The third of the mindfulness techniques comes from Jessica Cohen at eatsleepbe.com. Jessica has 12 great suggestions in this post, but my favorite is ‘Take a walk outside’. This is a very simple technique but in my opinion one of the best ways to reduce stress and calm anxiety. Jessica says:
“Just five minutes of exercise in a park, on a nature trail, or other green space has been shown to benefit mental health. Natural, green settings can reduce feelings of stress and anger, while a light or moderate physical activity such as taking a walk or going for a bike ride can help to improve mood and beat the blues.”
A group of researchers from Stanford University have investigated the mental health benefits of walking in nature. Their results, published in The Atlantic show that walking in nature reduced rumination (overthinking) in participants.
The benefits of being in nature have long been known around the world. The Japanese call it Forest Bathing. Qing Li, professor and president of the Japanese Society of Forest Medicine has conducted a number of experiments to test the effects of forest bathing on our moods, stress levels and immune system. He found that forest bathing trips significantly decreased scores for anxiety, depression and anger.
Again, walking in nature is not something that is new to me. But when life is busy and stressful it often takes a back seat as I feel I don’t have time for a walk. However, getting back into the habit of walking has reminded me that it actually saves time. I work better and more efficiently when I am relaxed and calm.
The last of my mindfulness techniques is from a post by Elizabeth Scott, MS at verywell.com and is about getting creative to reduce stress.
Creative activities can be beneficial in a variety of ways. They can help us get into a flow state and take our mind’s off our worries. They also help us to create a balanced life with time for fun as a regular part of our routine. Obviously whatever creative pursuit you love works for this, whether it is baking, car mechanics or opera singing. In fact, many hobbies have multiple benefits – singing involves deep breathing which can reduce stress, and any hobby that involves physical movement will also be stress busting.
Elizabeth also points out that: “It’s difficult to keep ruminating on your problems when you’re focused on creating, and if your problems stay with you, you can incorporate them into your creations. And when you’re finished being engrossed in your sketches, you should have a clearer head with which to tackle your problems again”.
I hope you have been inspired by these mindfulness techniques. Each of them could help you to relieve anxiety and feel calmer. Once you find something that works try to make it part of your regular routine so that you stay happy and well. It’s good to keep in the habit of good self-care even when you feel you don’t need it. That way you are in the best place to deal with tougher times when they come along.
We’d love to hear any techniques you use to ease anxiety and stress. Please share your ideas with us in the comments below.
For more alternatives to traditional meditation check out Not Meditating? Luckily there are many great alternatives