By Emily Abbate
We've all been there: Everything's happening at once. Towers of paperwork are piled on your desk. You can't seem to find the time to clean your apartment or do your hair, much less make plans for the upcoming weekend. You feel overwhelmed, and as a result, anxious. Anxiety is a serious thing and comes in many forms—from social anxiety to sleep anxiety—and, at times, it can become unbearable or unmanageable. (And it is certainly not the same thing as healthy stress.)
"Through meditation, we train the mind to stay in the present moment, to notice an anxious thought as it arises, see it, and let it go," says Megan Jones Bell, Psy.D., chief science officer for Headspace. "What changes here from the typical response to anxiety is that we aren't holding onto these thoughts or reacting to them. We step back from these anxious thoughts and see the bigger picture. This can help us feel more calm, clear, and grounded."
Just 30 minutes of meditation improves symptoms of depression, according to one Johns Hopkins University study. It can also help you get more out of your workout and relieve headaches. But before you sit down to practice, make sure you see a doctor and ask whether it would be best for you to try a guided meditation for anxiety. (You can also ask about these essential oils that help relieve anxiety and stress.)
Once you have the all-clear, know there are specific meditation tactics that are geared toward easing anxiety. Noting is one of them. Like it sounds, this is the practice of simply "noting," or naming (like a mental whisper), what we are feeling or experiencing, then returning to the breath. "Noting helps us to beat the tug-of-war of anxious thoughts," says Jones Bell. "You're changing your relationship with them by getting a bit of distance from them and seeing them as mental events rather than truths. It helps you have a busy mind and still find peacefulness within it."
Another great tool found within guided meditations for anxiety? Zero-ing in on body awareness, says Jones Bell. Breathe in deep as you focus on the feeling of your feet on the floor or your sit bones on a comfortable pillow. This tactic should help you to feel more centered and truly grounded. "Having this safe space to return to is important for those with anxiety," she says. "It lets you have a concrete experience that you can re-access whenever you need it."
These techniques are woven into the guided meditation below, which was created by Headspace's co-founder and meditation expert Andy Puddicombe exclusively for Shape.