Meditation for anxiety: Why it works and 3 guided examples – Insider

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Nearly 20% of adults in the US have an anxiety disorder. While some anxiety is normal, people with anxiety disorders that trigger unease, fear, and dread can feel overwhelmed. 
While therapy and medication can help treat anxiety, there is a growing body of evidence suggesting meditation can be helpful as well, says Gary Soffer, MD, an integrative medicine specialist at Yale Medicine
Meditation is an ancient practice centered on focusing your attention and awareness on the present. It can help calm the stream of stressful thoughts flowing through your mind.
There are many types of meditation that can help with anxiety and the best one for you can vary depending on the symptoms you’re experiencing, says Aimee Daramus, PsyD, a clinical psychologist at Urban Balance.
For example, “mindfulness meditation can help manage thoughts, relaxation exercises can target tense muscles, and loving-kindness meditations can help with unpleasant emotions,” says Daramus.
According to Sabrina Romanoff, PsyD, a psychologist with a private practice, regularly practicing meditation eases anxiety by: 
Meditation can also offer other benefits for people with anxiety, says Romanoff. According to Romanoff, these include: 
In fact, a small 2014 study of individuals diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder found those who undertook an eight-week mindfulness -based stress reduction (MBSR) meditation program saw a reduction in anxiety symptoms, such as chronic worry, irritability, muscle tension, and poor sleep.
Warning: In rare cases, meditation can worsen anxiety, says Soffer. For instance, it can cause irrational or negative thoughts such as painful memories to come up. Therefore, Soffer recommends working with a well-trained teacher and your mental healthcare provider, to make sure you can cope if upsetting thoughts arise.
Romanoff recommends practicing the following exercises daily, preferably when you’re not in a heightened emotional state, to get the hang of them. She suggests making them a part of your morning routine and then using them during the day if you begin to feel anxious. 
Grounding exercises help you focus on the present if anxious thoughts start crowding your mind. Here are a few examples of this type of meditation: 
This meditation exercise releases physical and mental tension. It can help you achieve a deep state of relaxation, which can be particularly helpful if you’re trying to fall asleep. Here’s how to do it:
If you feel like you are about to have a panic or anxiety attack, the following exercise can help orient you with your surroundings and stop the spiral of thoughts:
Meditation can help put a stop to anxious thoughts, lower your stress levels, regulate your emotions, and reduce the physical symptoms of anxiety such as elevated heart rate and increased muscle tension.
If you’re new to meditation, there are simple mindfulness and relaxation meditation exercises you can start with, to help you feel less anxious and more present. “Many people get results within a few minutes on their first time,” says Daramus.

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