If you are a human being, the experience of fear is not unusual. But when anxiety starts to control your life this might indicate a problem that requires your attention. This is the reality for over 6 million people in the United States who suffer from Generalized Anxiety Disorder.
The Effects of Anxety
While fear is a common emotion, a simple trigger can do a lot of harm for anyone suffering from chronic anxiety. Not only can anxiety interfere with your daily life but it can also take a toll on your family, friends, and work.
It is easy to tell a person suffering from anxiety to stop worrying, but the problem is usually deeper than it appears on the surface. For someone suffering from chronic anxiety small worries are perceived as huge, complex, exaggerated, and sometimes life threatening circumstances.
If left unchecked, anxiety can eventually cause headaches, inability to concentrate, change in personality, compulsive behaviors, social withdrawal, frequent emotional issues, and alcohol or drug abuse.
Apart from the psychological effects of anxiety, the condition may also take a toll on the person's physical health. This can manifest in the form of insomnia, fatigue, muscle tension, nausea, irritability, digestive problems, and nervous energy. If you experience a combination of any of these symptoms, it is advisable that you seek the advice of a qualified medical professional.
Meditation: Does it help?
Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MSBR) is an established set of meditation techniques that are implemented to reduce symptoms of stress, anxiety and some forms of depression.
This program was developed by Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center and is now used as a complementary treatment that includes several forms of meditation.
Some of these main techniques are based on breath-focused attention, body-scanning, sensory experiences and movement meditation.
The goal is always to shift the person’s attention as close to the present moment a possible. This focused awareness is believed to have a very strong influence on the cognitive processes associated with anxiety disorder, as well as the energy systems of the body.
How does Meditation Work?
Many studies show meditation to have many benefits when it comes to relieving stress. Because stress is one of the main contributors to chronic anxiety, mindfulness training can be positively recommended for people suffering from anxiety. The misconception, however, is that meditation will work immediately.
One of the authors of “The Mindfulness Workbook for OCD” Tom Corboy, reminds his readers that meditation does not work like magic. Instead, it should be exercised on a regular basis for the best results.
Meditation is a self-therapy technique that will allow you to focus on the present moment as much as possible. This practice is known to help clear your mind strengthen the part of your brain responsible for focus and the regulation of your emotional responses.
In a 2011 study by the Yale University, people who practice meditation were found to have the ability to decrease activity in certain parts of the brain.
These parts are associated with psychological conditions such as anxiety and schizophrenia. By controling the activity in these areas of the brain, we are able to positively alter our mental framework and develop a more positive response to certain triggers associated with stress.
In another study carried out by Dr. Elizabeth Hoge of the Center for Anxiety and Traumatic Stress Disorders, meditation was found to be effective in helping people with anxiety to distinguish between nagging thoughts and real problems that need solving. By focusing too much on non-issues, people suffering from anxiety tend to experience more stress and paranoia.
Apart from de-cluttering the brain, mindfulness meditation may also cultivate the attitude of self-acceptance. Most people who suffer from anxiety usually judge themselves far too critically. Meditation helps them to appreciate that problems exist but they need not take over someone’s life. Focusing on positive thoughts helps to over ride negative ones and overvalued conceptualizations.
While meditation may not completely get rid of chronic anxiety, it has been known to be one of the best management tools. In a study that focused on cancer patients who had anxiety issues, meditation proved to be a useful management tool.
Thinking of Meditation Therapy?
If you are suffering from stress, depression or chronic anxiety, developing a simple meditation routine may just be the solution for you. You can learn how to meditate on your own or join a community near you. Joining a group of supportive people will encourage you and help feel like you are not alone. There are also self-help books that can help you develop the art of meditation.
Some people also find recordings helpful in their meditation journey. For some insights and recordings on how the technique works, you can try the guided recordings prepared by experts like Dr. Ronald Siegel, a professor at Harvard Medical School.
Here are some additional resources to help you develop a strong and rewarding meditation practice:
- A Beginner's Guide to Meditation
- How to Use Meditation to Life-Hack Your Entire Day
- Profound Meditation Program by iAwake Technologies