Meditation for Anxiety: Developing a new practice

Hi everybody! My name is Stephen from YMCA Calgary, and I am here to chat briefly about a subject that has become increasingly important to me throughout the pandemic – meditation for anxiety. I am like millions who experience the countless physical and mental symptoms associated with stress and anxiety, such as:
 

  • Difficulty focusing
  • Problems sleeping
  • Mood swings
  • Low energy
  • Depression
  •  
    Some of these symptoms have become amplified during these uncertain and divisive times. However, meditation has emerged as one of the many tools I use to help reduce stress and bring inner peace whenever I need it most. Like anything, it takes practice, but I have found that just a few minutes a day can make a big difference in my mental and physical well-being.
     
    Meditation is a way for me to sort through the whirlwind of thoughts swirling in my mind at any given moment. When I feel overwhelmed or tense, taking 10 minutes to sit down with my thoughts will go a long way to providing me perspective on the stressors in my life and how I can develop skills or strategies to manage them. Meditation is also a great way to bring about self-awareness and guide my focus to the present rather than getting wrapped up in the multitude of worries about the future. Have you ever disagreed with someone and then replayed that moment over-and-over in your head? A short meditation session is a great way to reduce the negative emotions in those moments and increase your patience and tolerance.
     
    There are numerous ways to meditate, but the three methods that have worked well for me are guided meditation, breathing exercises, and yoga. Experimenting with different methods will help you find a technique that works best for you. Combining techniques is also an excellent way to developing an overall strategy to supporting your overall well-being.
     
    Guided meditation: There are dozens of apps and online sources that provided a guided meditation experience for beginners and experts alike. Apps like Calm, Headspace, and Buddhify are growing in popularity but do your research as some require paid memberships (which are worth every penny, in my humble opinion). You can also find guided meditations on social channels like YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram.
     
    Breathing Exercises: Focusing on your breath is considered a form of meditation because it centers your mind on the now, improves the mind-body connection, and reduces anxiety. A simple exercise that anyone can do is called Box Breathing. It is simple, and here is how it’s done: sit up straight in your chair or lay down flat on your back and close your eyes. Empty your lungs in preparation for your first breath of the exercise. Begin breathing in for four seconds, and then hold for four seconds. Proceed to breathe out for four seconds and then hold for four seconds. Repeat this process for four cycles.
     
    Yoga: Developing a yoga practice is a terrific method of meditation that is both beneficial mentally and physically. By performing a series of yoga postures and using a controlled breath, you will build a flexible body and a calm mind. I often perform yoga first thing in the morning or the middle of a busy day because it allows me to shift my focus from what needs to be done to what I am doing at the moment. YMCA Calgary’s Facebook page has dozens of free yoga classes that you can follow from the comfort of your own home, and there are new live classes added every week! Click here
     
    Starting something new is always scary and is never easy, but the most challenging things in life are the things worth doing. Do not feel scared that meditation is difficult or that you have a hard time quieting your thoughts. Meditation is just a way to listen more closely to those thoughts and understand where they come from. There is a style of mediation for everyone, and I hope that this article has inspired you in some way to explore a meditation practice for yourself.


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