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Use This Meditation to Relax During Anxious Thoughts

August 5, 2018 George Abitante

A meditation to relax through your anxious thoughts comes in handy when CBT techniques fail. Try this non-judgment meditation to relax when you're anxious.

I use meditation to relax and help me cope with anxious thoughts. I often use cognitive behavioral techniques to challenge my anxious thoughts, and while they are very helpful, sometimes challenging my anxious thoughts cognitively is not enough. When this happens, I like to turn to non-judgmental meditation to relax through my anxiety. Unlike cognitive techniques, non-judgment meditation isn't used to directly challenge the validity of anxious thoughts. Instead, it allows you to acknowledge that your anxious thoughts are no different than other, less stressful thoughts, and consequently that they are not true and can be let go of. Here are the steps I use for meditation to relax through anxious thoughts. 

How to Use Non-Judgment Meditation to Relax

  1. Breathe into your anxiety -- This first step of a meditation to relax is really helpful to utilize when you first notice your anxious thoughts. Begin by focusing on your breathing, allowing it to deepen and slow. This creates distance between you and your anxiety and allows you to take a moment to notice your thoughts. In this step you breathe into your anxiety because focusing on the breath is not meant as an escape from the sensations you're experiencing -- it is used to open yourself up to the experience of anxiety. This may seem unintuitive, but giving yourself permission to feel anxious liberates you from feeling like you are being attacked by anxiety and allows you to instead observe it. 
  2. Allow anxious thoughts to arise without challenge -- Once again, this step will likely feel like the opposite of what you should be doing, but by letting your anxious thoughts come up without fighting against them, you actually reduce the power they have over you. For example, let's say I have the anxious thought "My heart is beating too fast, it must be a heart attack". I can challenge this thought, perhaps by remembering that my heart has felt this way many times before and I've never had a heart attack. While this is a reasonable method to use, creating an argument against an anxious thought actually validates it -- it suggests that if I didn't have a good reason to disbelieve, then the thought would have been true. With non-judgment meditation, I say instead, "this is a thought I am having" and that's it. By acknowledging that your anxious thoughts are still just thoughts, no matter how real and frightening they seem, you take away their power over you. 
  3. Let go of your anxious thoughts --  After permitting your anxious thoughts to arise, it is still important to allow them to end as well. Sometimes when I try non-judgment meditation to relax, I make it through the second step, but then I become so engrossed in an anxious thought that I can't move past it and ultimately start engaging in negative thinking or feel more anxious. Letting go of the anxious thought requires you to not only notice that it is just a thought you are having, but also to recognize that you don't need to keep thinking about it for you to be safe. When faced with a threat, our instinct is often to keep our focus on that threat until it goes away, but in the case of anxious thoughts, it's only when we stop focusing on the thought that it goes away.

I've found these steps really helpful when I have a lot of anxious thoughts that I don't have the time or energy to challenge individually. What other meditations to relax do you use when experiencing anxious thoughts?  

APA Reference
Abitante, G. (2018, August 5). Use This Meditation to Relax During Anxious Thoughts, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, June 20 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/treatinganxiety/2018/8/use-this-meditation-to-relax-during-anxious-thoughts



Author: George Abitante

George is a Master's Student in Clinical Psychology at Northwestern University and is focused on improving the efficacy and accessibility of treatments for depression and anxiety. Find him on Facebook or follow him on Twitter @AbitanteGeorge.

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