Almost everyone will experience anxiety at some point in their lives. For many people, this anxiety will be short-term, following on from a stressful event. For others however, anxiety is a part of everyday life.
Anxiety and generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) are conditions that see sufferers experiencing anxiety on an ongoing basis. This can limit daily activity and hinder quality of life.
If you suffer from anxiety the first thing you will need to understand is that it isn’t reality that’s worrying you – it’s a habit of mind, causing you to react with anxiety. Any trigger can prompt this, so it is important to understand what you can do to prevent it.
Treatments for anxiety are varied and include talking therapies and medication. It is also important however, to consider the mind-body connection and the physical side of anxiety. This is often when self-help techniques such as meditation can help.
One common feature of anxiety is racing thoughts. Having this overactive mind can encourage anxiety and lead to other problems such as insomnia. Meditation can help this aspect of anxiety, helping to quiet the mind. Through meditation you can learn to detach yourself from your thoughts and reconnect with your own being, your centre.
Being able to centre yourself is a skill you can draw on whenever anxiety peaks. Some people with anxiety shy away from meditation as they feel they ‘can’t do it’. With patience and practise, anyone can learn to meditate.
There have been numerous studies on the benefits of meditation for anxiety. One study published in the Psychological Bulletin looked at data from 163 different studies and concluded that meditation and/or mindfulness lead to a substantial improvement in areas such as anxiety and stress.
Those with anxiety often display increased reactivity in an area of the brain called the amygdala (the area responsible for regulating emotions). Neuroscientists at Stanford University found that those who practised meditation for eight weeks were more capable of turning down the reactivity in this area.
Regular meditation encourages the brain to create new pathways, helping to develop new ways of thinking. This means the mind will be more open to reacting in a non-anxious way.
When it comes to anxiety it is important to follow a treatment plan that suits your needs. Seeking professional help in the first instance is always advised.