What does anxiety feel like?
Different for everyone I guess. For me it starts with a niggle, like an itch in my brain. I usually start double checking things, needlessly. Then triple checking. Then looking again and again. I say things out loud to people, ask them to reinforce it. I can’t concentrate on anything else. Then my heart starts to pound. In my chest and in my ears. Sometimes I feel sick and my throat tightens up to an almost painful level and when I speak I sound like I’m about to cry, because of that tightness, not becaus I am going to. The tears come later. When I can’t take any more or I’m so frustrated at this feeling that I can’t stop the tears. Sometimes they calm me down.
A little over a year ago in March 2015, I discovered meditation and mindfulness as a way to deal with my anxiety (which, if you wondered, seems to come in waves and might be absent for months at a time before something triggers it like pollen with hayfever) since then I’ve been to workshops, read books, taken a short meditation retreat and downloaded apps to help me meditate
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness helps us to quiet the chatter in our busy minds. It helps us to focus on the here and now and I’ve found it effective in helping to control anxiety and the stresses of life. You can meditate anywhere from a quiet room in your house to the car or even a toilet cubicle (which can be helpful when you need to take a quite moment to calm down quickly). Practicing meditation helps us to develop mindfulness.
Where can you start?
One of the biggest things I found difficult when I first started meditating and practicing mindfulness was that I felt like I might not be doing it right. For that reason I attended a morning workshop at a Buddhist Centre in Chorlton. There were 3 seperate meditations and the chance to chat with other people, some complete novices others with a little experience and it was invaluable. Since then, I’ve also attended classes, some I’ve enjoyed more than others. I’d recommend trying a number of different resources when you first start to find what you like.
There are tonnes of books on this subject (from mindfulness colouring books which are surprisingly relaxing) to indepth buddhist guides. I’ve found secular guides that give you step by step instructions to be most helpful. How to Live Well by Paying Attention by Ed Halliwell is excellent and provides you with exercises to do over a period of several weeks as well as testimonies from people who have tried his course.
The workshops I’ve mentioned above (often taking place at Buddhist Centres, but you don’t have to be Buddhist to attend) are really helpful too and if you have time a meditation weekend are often run for beginners and are a fantastic way of focussing. I’ve recently written about my time at a retreat stfor Diva Magazine which you can pick up now if you so wish.
Apps can also bve really helpful – most of us will always have our phone on hand and having an app with meditations is invaluable. My personal favourite is the Stop, Breath & Think app. I’ve already recommended this to so many people; you check in with how you’re feeling (physically and mentally) which in itself is helpful as we often don’t stop to think about that day to day, the app then recommends a meditation to try (ranging in length) and you play it through your phone speakers or headphones. Some of the meditations are bite sized and some are longer. There’s also a self-meditating timer if you’re not after anything guided, The app is free although there are optional purchases if you wish (you won’t need them for a while if at all) and I really suggest that anyone try it.
I’ve also recently been asked to join an online meditation course which commences on 4 May. I’ll be reviewing it on my blog in the coming weeks.
Does it have to be expensive?
Absolutely not! As I’ve mentioned there are many apps that are cheap or free and books can be picked up for a few pounds – I’ve seen plenty in charity shops which are really good to pick up for a couple of quid if you’re not sure you want to commit. Meditation sessions are often very affordable and some centres run on a ‘give what you can afford’ basis. Likewise, I have seen courses that are very pricey and paid for in an up front sum. Personally, I wouldn’t splash out so much until you know meditation and mindfulness is for you.
The other thing is, that you can practice absolutely anywhere once you know the basics and as such it can be free from that point!
By the way, this is by no means an exhaustive post. There is so much literature on this increasingly popular subject and I couldn’t possibly publish a post including everything. I also have no expertise, this is from my experience only.
Have you tried meditation or mindfulness, what did you think?