Written by Paula King, PhD
April 18, 2014
Dr. Paula King is a licensed psychologist practicing at Healing Horizons Integrated Health Solutions. Healing Horizons practitioners will be providing monthly meditation experiences beginning April 30th. Call 970-256-8449 for more information.
Do you worry about being anxious? Are you stressed, freaked-out, burned-out, panicked, fearful, or dreading things? You are not alone; in fact, everyone has these feelings from time to time. Fear and anxiety are common and actually helpful in many situations because they alert you to a perceived threat and ask you to have a plan to stay safe.
You might then ask; when is it important to worry about how much you are worrying? When anxiety begins to interfere with your daily functioning it is time to do something intentional about it. When the feelings of anxiety do not go away after a situation has ended and/or you are stressed for no apparent reason, it’s time to take a closer look. Sometimes panic is the more fitting description for your experience and is requesting more immediate help.
And there is help available.
Medications are often prescribed to help alleviate the symptoms of acute or chronic anxiety and can be helpful. Psychologists and other therapists employ other techniques like cognitive behavioral interventions that research has shown to be effective in treating anxiety and panic. Relaxation and deep breathing help to reduce or stop the agitation and rapid shallow breathing that often accompanies fear and panic. Cognitive therapy helps you to understand how thoughts create feelings. It teaches you to increase self-awareness and it enhances your ability to choose helpful thoughts.
Maohav Goyal, M.D., M.P.H., an assistant professor in the Division of General Internal Medicine at the John Hopkins University School of Medicine and leader of a study published online January 6, 2014, in JAMA Internal Medicine, said “In our study meditation appeared to provide as much relief from some anxiety and depression as what other studies have found from antidepressants.” The John Hopkins research suggests that 30 minutes of daily meditation is significantly effective in reducing anxiety.
The “body scan” is one meditation practice that invites mindfulness, presence, awareness, calmness and peace. It is easy to practice and brings wonderful benefits. Simply sit in a comfortable position, close your eyes, focus inward and invite your awareness to move gently around your body from head to toe (or vice versa). Notice the sensations in your body. Notice things like; how your hair feels, your tongue’s position and texture, tension or ease in your forehead, breath as it moves in and out, heart beats, tension or ease in your legs, feet, arms, fingers, scalp, eyes, etc., etc., etc. Stay focused on your body for up to 15 minutes and when distracting thoughts come to mind gently release them and return your attention to your body.
Worry is not helpful, but planning and taking some of the actions mentioned here will help release you from unnecessary anxiety.