Don’t Panic! How Mindfulness Meditation Addresses Anxiety Disorders
We’ve all been anxious in a stressful situation, but people who have experienced severe anxiety can attest that there’s a big different between being worried, and being panicked.
Severe anxiety and panic disorders, (or panic attacks), can impact all kinds of people in a variety of unique, triggering situations.
Perhaps you’ve been abnormally sweaty and speechless before a job interview or could feel your heart racing before making a public speech.
For other people, an inherent fear – like a fear of snakes, needles or other common phobias – can quicken the pulse and make it difficult to breathe, increasing our stress levels and signaling a “fight or flight” response.
Each who has experienced severe anxiety or a panic attack is different and can be affected by different causes. But one element that ties everyone together is that their anxiety may be helped with mindfulness meditation.
Mindful Meditation Alters Our Response to Anxiety
A recent study published in Psychiatry Research estimated that more than 10 million people will experience a generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) within any given year, while 20 million will experience it at some point in their lifetime.
Using these statistics as a base, the study then went on to see how mindfulness based stress reduction techniques could alter the responses of people undergoing extreme anxiety or stress.
The results were certainly noteworthy. The team drew blood from the roughly 90 subjects in the study to measure the levels of stress hormones and inflammatory markers that indicate severe stress.
After an eight week meditation program, those who participated had dramatically reduced levels of stress hormones, which included cortisol, adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) and inflammatory proteins.
Though based in medical research, these results aren’t that surprising if you consider the mechanics of mindfulness meditation.
Mindful Meditation Reduces Our Stress Levels
Mindfulness meditation naturally reduces our stress levels across the board, while slowing our breath and thought processes in the moment. And this is the polar opposite of how we react when we’re under severe stress.
When we’re panicked, our heart rate goes up, our breathing becomes more frantic, our minds are racing with distracting thoughts, and physically we are unable to relax.
With mindfulness meditation, however, we learn how to control these knee-jerk responses intrinsically, and can have a better handle on our fears.
So if you have a panic-inducing situation on the horizon, (like a public speech, a meeting with the boss, or a doctor’s visit), try a few meditation tricks to keep the panic at bay.
Take a moment to breathe deeply, focusing on each breath. Make note of the existence of your fears, without judgement or a rush to change them.
And pay attention to what your body is doing in response – are your muscles tightening or relaxed? Can you feel your fingers and toes?
By enlisting the little tricks that you naturally pick up with mindfulness meditation practice, you can conquer any anxiety ridden situation.
From our phobias to our nagging fears, meditation does a world of good when it comes to being able to navigate any potentially stressful situation.