Meditation and anxiety

Meditation can be really helpful for managing anxiety, but it can also trigger it. The most important thing to bear in mind is that the individual (be that you, or someone you are working with) is always right. If it doesn’t feel good, it isn’t good, simple as that. It doesn’t matter how useful or helpful someone else thinks a practice is, if it triggers anxiety, don’t do it.

For some of us, learning to control breathing is a great aid in dealing with panic. My panic attacks tend to impact on my breath – the more dramatic the attack, the more likely I am to lose control of my breathing. The discipline of breath control learned in meditation can help me avoid hyperventilating, and it can also help me reassert normal breathing if I have been panicked into entirely losing it. However, breath control is not a magic cure all, and if controlling your breath leaves you feeling anxious, it won’t help you.

A guided meditation or visualisation can be really good for taking the disturbed mind away from itself for a bit. A pathworking can be a wonderful distraction that allows the mind some respite. However, you have to trust the person who is speaking it for you. A recording that you can check through ahead of time may be of most use. A friend who knows your issues may be safe enough, but anyone leading can make mistakes – I’ve triggered participants in meditation, in all innocence. On one occasion I blew out the candle, not knowing one of the people meditating with me was seriously afraid of the dark.

If having someone else tell you what to do pushes anxiety buttons, stay away from guided meditations.

Often, anxiety issues relate to a fundamental fear of losing control or being powerless. Meditation can help you assert a sense of being in control of your own mind, able to step in and out of practices and ideas as you choose. Pick ways of working that support your right to determine what happens inside your head, and that affirm your sense of being in control.

You can use meditation as a safe space to confront issues of not being in control. You can face specific fears by visualising situations, explore letting go of protective measures and use contemplation to work on, or work out underlying issues. This can go a long way towards dealing with the causes of anxiety, but it’s something to do in your own time and on your own terms.


About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, wife to the most amazing artist -Tom Brown. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

12 responses to “Meditation and anxiety

  • Rick Finney

    For someone who can’t visualize, or even daydream in mental images, is it better to leave pathworking and guided meditations alone? Or is there some way to productively engage with these things anyway? I’ve always been attracted to these approaches, but have never been able to find my way into them

    • Nimue Brown

      A lot of them are written/ spoken with an emphasis on the visual. I’m not good at visualising, I find it better to think in tactile ways, to feel my way rather than try and see it. Work with the senses that are most available to you, and see what happens. It’s the experience that has the effect, not how you get to the experience, if that makes sense? I can’t picture lying in the sea on a sunny day and hold that image, but I can feel it as a body experience.

  • Fny

    Another thing to consider is what ‘meditation’ really is, and how it can differ from person to person. Years ago I tried to teach my husband to meditate, he was in a horribly stressed out state and seemed to really need it. We didn’t get far, he just got incredibly frustrated and even angry, it just did not work. At all. However, I soon realized that he has another form of meditation – his painting. What he describes as happening in him when he paints is seriously spot on how one usually describes meditation. And with him the effect seems to be similar too – which is especially noticeable when he doesn’t paint for a good while.

    So what I do is no longer encouraging him to try and learn how to meditate. I just remind him to take the time to paint. Fancy words aside, the effect is the same.

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  • Linda Davis

    Stuggling with visualisation myself at the moment. End up trying to force it & it becomes stressfulI was listening to the musician/artist/ record producer & druid ‘Youth’ talking about stimulating inspiration laterally. (OBOD winter gathering & on December Druidcast). Similar idea, playing with words, painting etc, a bit like mind-mapping/web-weaving. I’m going to give it a go for meditation. Listening to music (not the obvious new-agey sort) too.

  • Very interesting. – A is for Anxiety.

    […] via Meditation and anxiety — Druid Life […]

  • RahulYuvi

    Wonderful write up..very true..Spiritual path can trigger anxiety, especially in early days when you expect results ,forgetting the fact that you have to forget about the results to be in meditative state..most of the people fail to understand that meditation is not an act,its a state to be in as has been explained by Sadhguru.. I myself was so confused in the early days about which method of meditation to follow..Finally I got the one that eventually helped me..Its the path of Sadhguru’s Isha Kriya & Aumkar Meditation..I have explained Aumkar Meditation in detail here

  • RahulYuvi

    You are most welcome.. If anything helps you then you must make sure that it reaches maximum people and help them as well..thats why I have shared Aumkar meditation on various forums

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