how i beat my anxiety
I don’t write this post title lightly and I acknowledge that my levels of anxiety weren’t as bad as some. I was never medicated (though in the worst throws of it, maybe I should’ve been.) I tended to err on the side of “I’ll just deal with it” and, most of the time, it didn’t severely impact the way I lived my life. That being said, it still sucked and I always tried my best to temper it. I’m not a doctor, but I’d like to share my take on how I was able to significantly decrease my anxiety. I know this won’t be the end-all-be-all for everybody, but it’s something to consider.
To be totally honest, sometimes it’s hard for me to remember what really bad anxiety feels like now. I say that to point out that it is possible to get to a place where anxiety doesn’t have total control over your life. And I want to share my thoughts on anxiety and how I have significantly reduced my levels of anxiety while also managing flare ups. I could tell you stories about my anxiety, but I think it looks a little bit different on everyone and instead of focusing on the bad parts, I’ll just stick to the part of the story that’s a little happier…
About a year and a half ago I started learning about the power of mindset and law of attraction. One of the first things I started to do was practice meditation. I say practice because I believe that part of the reason that more people don’t meditate is because they think they’re not good at it. The truth is, it’s not easy and the way we live our lives is not conducive to being good at it. I wish more people would understand that just like yoga, running, or weightlifting, it takes time to build up stamina and just because you can’t run a mile the first time you get on a treadmill doesn’t mean you should stop running altogether. This is truly the way I think of meditation - the mental equivalent of going to the gym. Physical exercise keeps your body healthy and meditation keeps your mind healthy. There are ALL KINDS of studies and research that show that meditation is incredible for your brain, productivity, sleep, and overall well-being so I’ll skip to the anxiety part.
Long story short - I believe that meditation rid me of 99% of my anxiety. Here’s how: meditation is the exercise that builds the mindfulness muscle. Mindfulness is the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something. Basically, it’s the ability to be aware of the thoughts in your brain. It sounds simple, but most of the thoughts we have in a day go unnoticed by the thinker. Being able to see the thoughts as your having them allows you to evaluate them - also known as self-awareness. The skill of self-awareness is the one that I think I’m most grateful for. It has truly changed my life because I can see the thoughts in my head and if I don’t like that thought (i.e. ugh, i look terrible today) then I can consciously change it. Self-awareness also helps me identify my limiting beliefs and any mental habits that are getting in my way. But the other thing self-awareness does is help me see the anxious thoughts for what they are. I can tell very quickly when I’ve started an anxious thought loop and then I can decide how I want to handle that. Sometimes it’s as simple as deciding to think a different thought, but if the anxiety is coming on strong, the first thing I do is meditate. Meditation wipes the slate clean on my mind and allows me to start fresh without those anxious thoughts. The combination of meditation > mindfulness > self-awareness has been amazing for me.
Also, I think there’s something to be said about the general “zen” that’s associated with mediation. It’s real. It’s awesome. I’m so much less emotional, less controlling and less quick to react to a situation. All things that bode well for lower anxiety.
Another thing to note is that there’s no “right” way to meditate. I always used to get caught in the thought loop of “am I doing this right?” during my meditations and the answer is, there’s no wrong way to do it unless you’re not doing it at all. Sit up, lie down, use an app, listen to a YouTube guided meditation, or just sit in silence. I usually meditate for between 5 and 20 minutes 3-5 days a week. I’d love to make it a daily habit, but that just hasn’t happened yet. The whole point is to strengthen the muscle that notices when you’re having thoughts so you can gently acknowledge and dismiss them. It’s more about being able to recognize that you’re thinking than it is to sit without thoughts.
Knowing how awful it can be to be imprisoned by anxiety, I truly hope those of you who are suffering might give meditation a try. Try to stick to 5 minutes a day for a week just to see how things change for you. And if you do feel an anxiety attack coming on, try some mindful breathing or sit for a meditation. I know this won’t be a silver bullet for everyone, but if it could help, it’s worth a shot, right? How do you feel about anxiety? Have you tried it?