**Meditation FAQs is a column answering common questions around meditation. If you have a question of your own, please share in the comments, and I will address it in a future post.
The simple answer to this question is: yes. Meditation can help you deal with your anxiety better, and it can gradually lead to reduced levels of anxiety.
The slightly less simple answer is: it depends!
There are no guarantees with this practice. Everyone has a different experience with meditation, because we all have different and unique life experiences—and associated traumas to release and heal.
But, improvements in regards to anxiety is one of the many documented benefits of meditation, and there is a simple reason for this: during meditation, our body undergoes changes that are the direct opposite of the changes that occur during the fight-or-flight response.
>> When stressed and anxious, our breath becomes shallow and rapid.
>> During meditation, our breath becomes slower and deeper.
>> When stressed and anxious, our heart rate speeds up.
>> During meditation, our heart rate slows down.
>> When stressed and anxious, our bodies become ready to either fight or run for our lives.
>> During meditation, our bodies relax—allowing them to slowly begin the process of releasing a lifetime of suppressed emotions and pent-up hurts.
With daily practice, even for just short periods of time, meditation offers our bodies and minds some self-healing. In time, they start to become accustomed to being the opposite of stressed and anxious.
The associated increase of self-awareness—one of the other, many, documented meditation benefits—helps us to notice what triggers the fight-or-flight response in us. With awareness, we can avoid going deeper down into the rabbit hole. We can catch ourselves mid-response, choose to take some deep breaths, and pull ourselves back to a more centered place.
With regular practice, this can lead to a significant reduction in our levels of stress and anxiety.
As stated earlier, there are no guarantees—but the most common experience is an improvement.
Advice for those who are experiencing severe levels of anxiety:
>> It is best to start with shorter periods of practice—5 to 10 minutes once a day. This is to avoid overwhelm and practice releasing suppressed emotions in a slow and gradual manner.
>> Do not stop taking medications because you’ve decided to take up meditation. (This is super important!)
>> Consult your doctor before you begin and when you want to start increasing your periods of practice.
>> Many therapists now incorporate meditation into their practices, and it can be useful to look out for this if looking for a therapist to support you.
Don’t be concerned that a few minutes a day won’t be effective. Baby steps to developing new habits can be more effective than trying to take big leaps. With meditation, frequency matters. A few minutes every day will be more beneficial to us in the long run, more so than long but irregular sessions.
A little bit, day by day, is a safe way to release our mental and emotional stresses.
Author: Hilda Carroll
Image: Flickr/lion heart vintage
Editor: Yoli Ramazzina
Copy Editor: Danielle Beutell
Social Editor: Travis May