How Meditation Helped Me Cope With Anxiety and Panic Attacks

meditation for beginners
| Mind & Body > Mental Health

 

I spent many years avoiding anything that would trigger my panic. Eventually a doctor told me to take two little pills at the onset of an attack, and it would just disappear … like magic. While ultimately helpful, the medication turned me into the walking dead. Any interest I once held in life diminished. Quite probably I’d have reacted better to other medication, but no matter what I did, it always felt like an impending breakdown was hiding in the corners of my life.

Medication can be a really important part of mental health. Anything you do to improve and maintain mental health is something to hold your head high about. If one type of medication doesn’t work, other types out there may suit someone’s needs better. I would never, ever suggest to someone that they don’t take their recommended medication.

In my case, I found that what most helped me cope with anxiety and panic attacks wasn’t medication, but the committed practice of meditation. If I’d had a better response to my prescription, I most probably would have continued with both. As it turned out, in my personal circumstances, regular meditation was enough for me to overcome my panic attacks.

“The more reflective you are, the more effective you are.”

This is a statement I have chosen to live my life by in recent years. Taking the time to focus on myself through the act of meditation has helped me to make sense of senseless and chaotic things in my life. It has provided a moment in my day where things can stop and I can focus on the one thing that matters more than the upheavals in my life: myself.

I’ve broken down why I think I found meditation so helpful in dealing with anxiety, having researched the topic further. I’m no doctor, clearly. But if you also suffer from anxiety and panic attacks, perhaps you can try adding meditation to any medication you may be taking?

Here’s how meditation can help you connect back to yourself. I think it can help with anxiety and have the added benefit of bringing you closer to your spiritual side, to.

The Benefits of Meditation

Meditation is a state of concentrated thinking, focusing on the consciousness within us. Maintaining this type of practice allows a person to discover that their own consciousness is infinite. This is known in the meditation community as “self-realization,” or focusing on who you truly are at the core of your soul. The philosophy of yoga (and meditation) says that there are two different levels to our inner self: our mental/emotional self and our spiritual self. And both are important to tend to effectively.

While meditation is linked to many different religions and cultures, the feeling of spirituality that is obtained through regular practice is not linked to religion. Spirituality itself focuses on the idea of  “infinite consciousness,” and meditation allows for the opportunity to connect spiritually. Infinite consciousness is the ultimate goal of meditation. It is the act of focusing on the search for something sacred.

Meditation helps cultivate a greater sense of self-awareness, which in turn helps us become aware of our own motivations and personal qualities. There are both long-term and short-term neuro-physical changes that occur in the body when meditation is practiced on a regular basis. It allows you to unplug from the frantic energy of the outside world to focus on perceptions of stillness.

When I first started out, I was particularly drawn to research how meditation helps with mental health and wellness, by soothing the nervous system. It helps activate the parasympathetic nervous system. Findings from AHA show an increased activation in the brain on a short-term basis and a huge increase in grey matter when meditation is practiced regularly. This type of self-reflective practice can work to improve mood, anxiety issues, feelings of depression, a lack of sleep, and varying stress levels.

Starting Out with Meditation Practice

My meditation practice began in the midst of a panic attack, ironically enough. As I laid on the floor trying to calm myself and my breathing, I haphazardly fell into a state of meditation. Afterwards, though, I felt like I had transformed into another person. By giving myself permission to practice being still and connecting with myself again, I found a feeling of calm. In all my years, I had found and almost simultaneously lost my feeling of spiritual connectedness, but through my meditation practice, I have begun to cultivate it again.

All you need to practice meditation is a dedicated time, a quiet place and a willingness to learn. But if you need a little more direction, this is the ultimate guide to beginning a meditation practice. Let’s give it a try:

  • Begin by sitting comfortably with your eyes closed. Meditation begins and ends in the body, so closing your eyes helps you focus on your breathing and in turn your own body. Closing your eyes will help combat any distractions that might come your way.
  • Make sure your posture is aligned and lengthened. You can lie down if this is a helpful position for you. Noticing your breath and your posture can help you focus more on your body and mind.
  • The most basic meditation practice involves taking a moment to stop, closing your eyes, and breathing. Focuse on your breathing. Notice when it falls and rises. Count as you breathe. On the breath in, count in 1, out 1, in 2, out 2, and so on, until you reach 10.
  • If you’re interrupted by impending thoughts, remember that it is normal and OK, and begin again at 1. Once you can successfully count to 10, allow yourself to come back into the real world and observe how you feel.

Congratulations, you just meditated.

Types of Meditation to Try

For a more specialized and efficient practice, consider using a guided meditation. This type of practice will walk you through step by step of the meditation process. This can be helpful for people who are interested in honing this skill but who have far too much going on in their head to silence it alone. Along with guided meditation, the art of focus can be applied to other known meditation options such as:

Meditation is a way to take a brain break. It allows for a moment to connect to yourself and the highest and best version of what you see in the world. It helps to ease the stresses and anxieties of my life, as well as helps to make day-to-day life more bearable. Since beginning a consistent meditation practice, I have felt more connected to myself and the world around me.  Distanced are the days where I seek out solace in a bottle of pills, and instead reach towards myself.

The art of meditation takes time. But with dedicated and regular practice, it can completely transform your way of thinking and feeling.

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