Dealing with Anxiety

Mindfulness meditation for anxietyI was awake at 3am the other day.

Anxiety.

I couldn’t sleep. I could hardly breathe.

I felt like an elephant was standing on my chest.

A few days prior, I had made the decision to move back to the United States to help create a new school and extra-curricular learning programs built on a foundation of mindfulness principles.

When I initially made the decision, I felt excitement for the awesome opportunity, which I’ll tell you more about in future emails.

I also felt grief to be leaving the community in Bali that I love so much.

But when I awoke at 3am, I felt anxiety. Pure anxiety. The kind of anxiety that pins you down.

All sorts of terrible “What if?” scenarios kept spinning through my mind.

My heart was pounding. My breath was tight. My mind was racing.

I felt absolutely gripped by this anxiety.

So, how did I deal with it?

I used a really simple and powerful technique.

I watched these feelings. I watched my breath. Each time my mind wandered, I brought my attention back to my breath.

Every time my mind went racing into the future, looking for worst-case scenarios, I brought my awareness back to my breath and to the physical sensations of anxiety in my chest.

I also felt my back. I felt my back and the back of my legs pressing against the bed. I felt that contact point between my back and the bed beneath me.

After a few minutes, I noticed that tight, clenched feeling in my chest began to dissipate. I watched it go away.

I continued to watch my breath: I felt every inhale and exhale.

I tell you this story because I want you to know that I know anxiety is real. I feel it too.

I know what it’s like to not sleep at night. I know what it’s like to feel tension in your shoulders, in your jaw, and in your gut.

And I know that these there are really powerful, simple techniques to deal with this anxiety.

Mindfulness meditation has been shown in countless scientific studies to reduce anxiety and stress.

And it worked for me just the other night.

If you find yourself feeling anxiety, try this:

1. Bring your awareness to your breath—Notice each inhale and each exhale. Notice the physical sensations of the breath.

2. Accept that you feel anxiety—Don’t fight against the feeling. If it is here right now, accept it.

3. Bring your awareness back to your breath—Each time your mind wanders, bring it back to your breath. Thoughts can begin to whirlpool quickly. Practice bringing your awareness back to your breath.

4. Feel gravity—If you are standing, feel the soles of your feet on the earth. If you are lying down, feel the effect of gravity on your back and on the backs of your legs. Feel the support of the earth beneath you. Allow the physical sensations of gravity to support you.

Anxiety is a future-focused fear. The more you can bring your awareness to the present moment, the less grip anxiety will have on you.

Physical sensations are a great way to bring your awareness to this moment. You are feeling physical sensations right now—not in the past or the future. Feel them now.

Practicing mindfulness meditation is simple, but not always easy. Practicing when you’re not feeling anxiety is an important way to train yourself.

You can download a free guided meditation by clicking here.

Wishing you peaceful days and restful nights.