Meditation for Anxiety

(and 11 other easy ways to reduce anxiety right now)​

Meditation is a great way to reduce anxiety.

We all feel anxious sometimes. A sense of overwhelm and fear to the point of being paralysed. 

It could be the Coronavirus. Or our workload has us so stressed that all we can do is stare at it and freeze, not knowing where to start. 

Or we feel a panic attack when we need to speak up and assert ourselves. 

There are a thousand ways that fear, anxiety, and stress can make itself seen and felt. Life is complicated. We are complicated. Some of us feel anxious almost all of the time. 
 
How do we address that? Is there a solution? 
 
Yes, there are many small steps we can take. 
(I find small and easy steps are best, because then it doesn’t add to the overwhelm!)

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Can meditation reduce anxiety?

Yes, meditation is a great way to reduce anxiety. Meditation is very relaxing. 
 
Actually meditation can do a lot more than just relax us. It can show us the true nature of our mind, who we really are. And help us pave a path for who we want to become. But as a bare minimum meditation is very calming and relaxing.
 
Here is a very simple guided breathing meditation that I wrote, with relaxing music. (It plays instantly, no need to download or sign up.) 
meditation for anxiety
The trouble is when we’re right in the middle of an anxiety attack we probably find it impossible to meditate. What we really want is to scream or cry or hit something, not sit still. Our mind is racing and can’t keep on something as simple as the breath.

How do you instantly reduce anxiety?

We need a defence that kicks in as soon as anxiety rears up and threatens to take over our mind. 

Something that counteracts the hugely exaggerated stories we tell ourselves when in the middle of an anxiety attack.  

Whenever we feel overwhelmed by anxiety we’re usually stuck in thoughts about the future. Something that has not happened yet.
 
I find as a first step it works well to look up and around. (I don’t know about you but when I’m in panic mode I tend to look down and inward, completely trapped in my own bubble). Then take a deep breath and become aware of my reality in this very moment.
 
I usually find that right here, right now I’m quite alright. I’m perfectly safe. I’m quite well. And so are my loved ones. 
 
Then it’s good to anchor this realisation into the nervous system with a simple affirmation.

Affirmations for Anxiety

Choose an affirmation that resonates with you and makes you feel calm and grounded.
 
Here are some of those that I use.
 
  • All is well in my world.
  • I am perfectly alright right now.
  • I am safe.
  • My body and mind are calm.
  • I can do this.
  • I am safe. 
  • I love myself just the way I am.
  • I am enough.
  • I am worthy.
  • I am well and happy. 
  • I trust the process.
Say your chosen affirmation a few times while breathing in deeply and breathing out with a relaxing sigh. 
 
Breathing is the quickest way “home”. 
 
Consciously let go of tension in your shoulders, in your jaw. Relax the body and say your affirmation to yourself, slowly, a few more times.
 
Practice this until it becomes automatic. What we want is that as soon as anxiety arises in our mind we automatically turn to our affirmation. 

If anxiety arises 10 times a day say your affirmations 11 times. If it is 999 times a day it doesn’t matter, say your affirmations 1000 times.

How do you meditate for anxiety?

Hopefully deep breathing and affirmations can get us to a place from where we’re then able to access the power of meditation. 
 
There’re a great many different Types of Meditation so there’s bound to be something that suits you and your specific needs on any given day. Here’s just one suggestion

Mindfulness

Mindfulness meditation can work great to counteract anxiety. 
 
Mindfulness simply means being fully present, fully aware of our feelings and thoughts right now but without getting caught up in them.
 
Here is a short guided mindfulness meditation for anxiety:

10 Minute guided mindfulness meditation for anxiety:

Sit with your back straight. It’s not necessary to sit on the floor, on a chair is perfectly fine too. Try not to lean against the backrest if you can but be comfortable. Sitting on the very edge of a cushion so your rear is elevated can really help with this. Have both feet firmly on the floor. 

Close your eyes. Take a deep breath and sigh as you exhale. Relax. Relax your shoulders, relax your jaw. Relax everything, even your eyeballs behind your closed eyes.  

Become aware of where your body touches the chair. How much pressure is there? Place your attention on where your feet touch the floor. Does this feel hot or cold? Where do your hands and your arms touch your body? Just become aware. Be here. Be where your body is. 
 
Notice your chest rising with each in and out breath. How fast or slow is your breath? How deep or shallow? Just notice. No need to judge or label. Just know where you are and how you are right now. 
 
If there’s pain direct your breath to that area and let the breath dissipate the pain. Also, feel free to adjust your posture.
 

Now notice your emotions. Any and every emotion is allowed. Be honest with yourself. Feel the anxiety, fear, worry, stress. 

Maybe there are other emotions by now too. Some calm, or some boredom perhaps? Some impatience, or a feeling of relief that the anxiety attack is subsiding? It’s all fine. Just know how you really are right now. Know yourself. Where does the emotion sit in your body? How does it actually feel? Hot? Cold? Sickening? Searing, stabbing? 

 

Now even watch the thoughts in your mind. Any labels, judgments, stories. Observe them from the outside – don’t engage with them. Know your mind. When you’re distracted and your mind wanders off the meditation where does it go? Are you indulging in memories or fantasies? Are you judging yourself? Are you engaging in horror stories of worst case scenarios? 

How much are your thoughts rooted in reality? How helpful are they? Start to know where your mind goes whenever you’re “not looking”, not aware. No judgement, just knowing and acceptance.

Now slowly come out of the meditation. Wriggle your toes, move your hands, sway your body side to side. Gently open your eyes. Tell yourself, “Well done” for doing the meditation. Journal if you feel like it. 
 

This self-awareness itself is like therapy. It puts us back in charge of our minds and makes us feel in control.

Unlike the exaggerated horror stories we tell ourselves when we’re overwhelmed with anxiety, this is not something we conjure up.

This is a first step to calmly looking at our anxious thoughts and feelings and coming back to ourselves rather than let our anxiety run riot. 

If you’d like to try more meditations you’ll find further scripts for another 10 different types of guided meditations here.
 

Some people even swear by the use for crystals to aid the effectiveness of meditation.

How long should I meditate for anxiety?

Try to meditate for 10-20 minutes every day. We need to build up a strong defence so that when anxiety threatens to engulf our mind we can still find that path back to calm, sanity, and reason, because we’ve practiced it. 

Think of it like having done a fire drill many times. In case of a real fire you will keep so much calmer if you’ve practiced where to go and what to do to get to a safe space. 
 
Many researchers have found that on average, just ten to twenty minutes a day of mindfulness meditation over one month was enough to support more positive emotions, reduce stress, increase self-awareness, compassion, strengthen focus and even make fewer mistakes in daily life.
 
If you find it difficult to practice daily what helps me is listening to “meditation music” on Sounds True – they have sounds specifically and conveniently designed to assist meditation and centering yourself. 

Further Resources: Yoga for anxiety

Is yoga good for anxiety?

Yoga is fantastic to combat anxiety.

It doesn’t require the same stillness and mental discipline as meditation but it’s not as “mind-less” as going to the gym. It works with your mind – through your body.

In fact, yoga was originally practiced as a way to prepare the mind for more effective meditation. (Not as a way to work out, or to get fit). If you find meditation hard try to do yoga first.

yoga for anxiety

Which yoga is best for anxiety and depression?

Every person is different and we’re all dealing with different things. There is a right type of yoga for everyone.

Paul Teodo Live Yoga Classes
Power Yoga with Paul Teodo

The most gentle style of yoga is Yin Yoga (as in the gentle half of Yin&Yang). 

Here is a beautiful example of a Yin practice on YouTube with my London yoga teacher Norman Blair. It is truly de-stressing and relaxing.

If you need something more invigorating try Ashtanga Yoga, or even Power Yoga. Here is a range of Power Yoga videos with my Bali teacher Paul Teodo. Great fun – and physically quite demanding.

In between the relaxing Yin Yoga and the demanding Power Yoga are a great many more styles. Here are the most common ones to try:

    •    Hatha yoga is a slower yoga where you stop every now and then to feel the effect of the poses.
    •    Iyengar yoga puts emphasis on proper alignment of the body and utilizes props like blocks and blankets for support.
    •    Kundalini yoga combines poses, chanting mantra, meditation, and breathing techniques.
    •    Hot yoga is practiced in a heated, humid environment.
    •    Vinyasa is a popular flow style of yoga that keeps moving from pose to pose.
 

The most important thing is to listen to what your body and mind need in the moment. If you find a style that you enjoy and that encourages you to do yoga regularly – pick that one.

Which exercise is best for anxiety?

There are a myriad of excellent Youtube videos for which you don’t need any equipment.

I personally use classes by Jessica Smith who has a free weekly workout schedule called Calm And Strong on Youtube.

Further Resources for Anxiety

Laugh

Studies have shown that laughter significantly lowers stress levels, soothes tension, relieves pain, boosts mood and the immune system.  

Here is my favourite funny clip ever, just thinking about it makes me laugh! (It’s Michael McIntyre at the dentist – which doesn’t sound very funny … but I defy you not to laugh watching this.) 

What makes you laugh? What song puts you in a good mood? Have those on standby to turn to.
James Sill Sofa Singers
James Sill leading the Sofa Singers

Sing

Singing is joyful and healing as well as a fun way to connect to a global community. James Sill set up a fantastic free weekly online singing event called The Sofa Singers
Ryan Heffington: Dance!

Dance

Choreographer Ryan Heffington is doing an amazing, super fun Dance Sweat Fest live on Instagram every week. Or you can just dance along with his IGTV videos.
Rebecca Campbell guided meditations during Coronavirus times
Rebecca Campbell

Spiritual Practice

Rebecca Campbell (bestselling author of Rise Sister Rise) is offering soulful meditations and spiritual practices on her facebook and instagram pages. Here is a replay of her meditation to calm the nervous system.

Kristina Day
Kristina Day, SpiritandTravel

One-to-One Guided Meditations by donation 

I offer one-to-one guided meditation sessions, face to face (via skype/zoom), tailored to your specific needs.
 

For a limited time these are donation based to make them accessible to all. Pay what you wish. More info and book here. 

(I believe that meditation, prayer, and spiritual support are essentials. And I want to live in a world where everybody has access to the essentials.)

Spiritual movie night

Here is a list of Spiritual Movies that are good for your soul. They will make you laugh and cry and may even connect you to something more meaningful when you’re having a difficult time. 

Take  a course

Two of my favorite teachers, Jack Kornfield and Tara Brach, have come together to create an extraordinary video series on The Power of Awareness. Best of all, it’s free! Just register here.

plant based diet for anxiety

Eat healthy

Eat more fresh fruit and veg, reduce sugar and alcohol, cut out junk food. plant based diet is generally considered one of the healthiest ways you can eat. 
 
In addition, there are certain foods that have been found to reduce anxiety such as those rich in magnesium, zinc, and B vitamins, like avocado and almonds. 
 
There are whole cookbooks dedicated to healing and anti-anxiety food solutions.  

Get lots of (good quality) sleep

Don’t skimp on sleep! Getting good sleep every night makes a huge difference to our health, both physically and mentally.
 
Make a point of deeply relaxing just before drifting off so the sleep you get is truly restful. Here is a sleep meditation and a body scan to help you relax and get deep restful sleep.

A Final Thought

Being faced with anxiety attacks might be an opportunity to make changes in our life that we’ve been meaning to do for a long time. Practice mental self-care, live more healthily, and also enjoy life more! 

If you have further resources that you’ve found to be effective to deal with anxiety I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

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2 thoughts on “Meditation for Anxiety (and 11 other easy ways to reduce anxiety right now)”

  1. Fabulous post K, I shall enjoy going through the various links. I hope you’re very well, all fine for me here, just adjusting to not going out. Vitamin C is said to be good at this time of Covid-19. A lot of people are thinking that setting a daily schedule can help with home isolation, the online live broadcasts will be good for people setting aside that important time, not so easy for those with children at home though. At 15:30 every day a few of us on our street are going outside with a cup of tea and standing 3m apart having a chat. xxx

    1. Thanks for the fabulous update, Rach! Big yes to Vit-C, and echinacea and zinc too. And I love that idea of going outside and connecting, even though it has to be 3m apart! Physical distancing, social solidarity.

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