Anxiety is no joke. It’s nasty. It’s a liar. And it can be crippling.
There is a difference between some nerves, or some butterflies in our tummies, and true, full-on anxiety. A little bit of stress and nervousness can be a good thing! It can help us prepare better for a speech, wake up just a bit earlier on our way to a new job or commitment, or get us to hit the books before a big test.
But anxiety is a whole different animal.
It can strike unexpectedly, and it is often irrational and quite scary. Sometimes it may show up as a specific fear, sometimes as a worry that you cannot shake, maybe a persistent thought. Sometimes it is just a sense of general uneasiness or pit of dread. It is not something that we can always control.
We cannot always “Just calm down” or “relax.”
In the land of rainbows, unicorns and yoga pants that can sometimes make up the “wellness” world, it is easy to feel like if we have anxiety, there is something wrong with us. Isn’t there an essential oil for that? What did I forget to put in my smoothie? Maybe it is my fault for not “being positive.”
There is a variety of ways for treating anxiety, all of which should be personal choices made with the help of trusted professionals. Talk therapy, medication, yoga, diet and herbs can all be helpful—and all of these options should be available without judgement.
When we name our anxiety, feel into it and face it head on, we can begin to get our power back.
There can be shame and stigma around mental illness, but the more we embrace, honor and treat our issues, the freer we can feel. And the freer those around us, who may be suffering quietly, can feel as well.
This meditation helps me when I am feeling the grips of anxiety. It is simple, short and can be done anywhere. It is by no means meant to replace therapy or medication, but instead I hope that it can be a healing tool for when you may feel anxiety coming on.
1) Scan the Body.
Before we can still the anxious mind, we often have to slow the body down. Our bodies are gifts, and they do so much for us. We must care for them lovingly when we are facing anxiety. Notice the physical body first in this meditation. Release tension and anxiety from the places we can often hold it without being aware.
Start at the crown of your head, and work your way down slowly. Notice the space between your eyes, and try to soften it. Let the eyelids be heavy. Release the tongue from the roof of your mouth, and make space between your molars. Breathe length into your neck. Notice your shoulders, and imagine a light pressure on them, pushing them gently away from your ears.
Continue to notice in your own body where there is tightness hiding, and try to release it with your breath. If you can’t release it right away, thats fine. Instead, just breathe into it. Acknowledge it. Maybe you even say, “Yes, I hear you” to a part of your body that might be asking for a little more attention.
Anxiety can make us feel detached from our physical bodies. When we feel anxiety, it is often because we are dwelling in the past and worrying about things we cannot control, or projecting onto the future. We are not present, and therefore, it is easy to feel like we are not “in” our bodies. Use this first step to get back in.
2) Root Down.
At the base of our spines is our root chakra. Chakras are like energy wheels, or energy centers, in the subtle body. The root chakra deals with our most primal energy, and makes sure our most basic needs are met. When our root chakra feels out of balance, for fears of scarcity, not enough money, worries about physical safety, we are thrown into “fight or flight” mode.
Make a strong connection to the floor (chair, bed, pillow or wherever you are choosing to sit) with your sitting bones. Feel your seat press into the floor, and the pressure of the floor underneath you. Know you are safe.
3) Breathe in White Light.
With eyes closed, imagine yourself bathed in white light. Watch this white light flow into your nose, as you imagine a sense of calm. You might want to try a very simple mantra here, such as, “Inhale, Exhale,” or, “Inhale light, exhale calm.” You might imagine that, as you exhale, those fears and anxieties are getting absorbed by that white light. If you are a hippie-dippie yoga mama like me, you might even ask your spirit guides or angels to carry those fears and anxieties away. Either way, try to keep the imagery of the white light as simple as possible. Feel it surrounding your body, warming you up, and calming you down. Don’t overthink it. Just let it surround you as you breathe. This white light can be soothing, healing, and a source of protection.
You can stay in this meditation for as long as you like.
Of course, we have so many tools available to us to help with anxiety. A yoga practice can be helpful. Mala beads with healing stones. Good friends and hot coffee or tea.
My hope is that this meditation can be one item in your healing tool kit, for when anxiety may strike.
Author: Logan Kinney
Editor: Toby Israel
Image: Dingzeyu Li/Unsplash