Find the Quiet Space Inside When Anxiety Gets Too Loud
Finding a quiet space inside of you is important because anxiety is loud. It screams incessantly, warning us against threats seen and unseen, imminent and anticipatory, real and imagined. Our thoughts race noisily through our mind, and when they rev up to become obsessions and ruminations, they can turn our mind into a place more earsplitting than a Nascar track. No wonder anxiety causes symptoms like headaches, trembling, irritability, and, for me, the urge to curl into a ball with my hands over my ears screaming, "Shut up!" Believe it or not, you can turn off the race cars (slow and quiet your anxious, negative thoughts), and enjoy much-needed quiet in your mind. When anxiety is loud, find and cultivate the quiet space within you.
"Although we can't impose quiet on our mind, through meditation we can find the quiet that already exists in the space between our thoughts."--Deepak Chopra1
Expand Your Quiet Space to Hush Anxiety
Anxiety involves your whole self--thoughts, emotions, and your physical body. It is a complete experience within us, mind and body, that is a reaction to things around us. It is because anxiety is all-encompassing that it can be overwhelming. It's overstimulating. Anxiety is unquiet, and we suffer because of it.
When you're feeling overpowered by anxiety and its noise, turning inward can be calming. Yes, the anxious noise is there inside of us, but there, waiting patiently to be discovered and enjoyed, is silence.
If you have tried to make your anxious thoughts stop and emotions still, you may already know that forcing calm and quiet doesn't work. Struggling with anxiety only makes mental chatter even louder and feelings stronger. The key is not to try to make quiet space within you, but, instead, to find the quiet space that is already there.
Seek and Find the Quiet Inside
Reducing anxiety involves being still despite the thoughts, feelings, physical sensations, and situations outside of us. These things crowd us, pressing in and shouting to dominate our attention. While we always have some choices and a degree of control over how we respond to circumstances, we can't fully control everything. Some things make us anxious but we either can't or decide not to (often for good reason) do anything about them. Even then, we have the power to choose how we respond for our own wellbeing.
We can turn our attention away from stressors and onto other things such as our values, vision, purpose, and passions. To transition from being anxious to thriving, turn to the silent space within you.
Two sources of inner space that we all have are:
- Within our breath, between every inhale and exhale
- Between our thoughts
Deep breathing is powerful, with numerous benefits for our whole mind-body health. Breathing slowly and deeply positively impacts the brain and can significantly reduce anxiety. There's more to the breath than just the inhale and exhale, however. There's the space between them.
Right now, place your hands on your belly and breathe in slowly. Breathe so that your hands are pushed out. (Your inhale should cause your belly to expand rather than your shoulders to lift.) Breathe out slowly. Inhale once again, but this time notice the pause that occurs before you exhale. In that pause, there is quiet space.
The same goes for your thoughts. Despite the fact that it seems like they never stop, they do, even if only for the briefest of moments. Between one thought and the next, there is a small pause to switch direction. In that pause, there is quiet space.
Mindfulness Meditation in Your Inner Quiet Spaces
These spaces may be small, but that's perfectly fine. Cultivating awareness that they exist gives you something new to focus on instead of worries and fears. When you catch yourself thinking anxious thoughts or feeling anxious feelings, you can shift into that quiet space. Sitting in quiet meditation or practicing mindfulness either while meditating or while doing your current task at hand will allow you to shift into the quiet spaces between thoughts and breaths.
A few ways to do this:
- Pay attention to your breathing, especially the pauses between inhale and exhale.
- Go for a walk, inhale fresh air, and notice how it makes you expand.
- Look for space around you, such as the space between leaves on a tree or the space between your pots on the stove when you cook (or the spaces between the bubbles in the pot), and let it constantly remind you to find your own quiet space inside you.
Focus on the quiet rather than creating more noise by fighting with your thoughts. Your thoughts exist, but if you don't pay attention to them, they can't keep you agitated and anxious.
Shifting your focus away from anxious thoughts and sensations to the quiet spaces you already have inside you will help you become quiet, calm, and at peace.
- Chopra, D., "Seven Myths of Meditation." Deepak Chopra, August 10, 2016.
Peterson, T. (2020, January 15). Find the Quiet Space Inside When Anxiety Gets Too Loud, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2020, September 27 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/anxiety-schmanxiety/2020/1/find-the-quiet-space-inside-when-anxiety-gets-too-loud