Calming the Anxiety: Part 1
When I was a sophomore in high school, I was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder (depression as well, but for the purposes of this post, I’m focusing on the anxiety). I was 15 and had no idea what anxiety was, but I knew something was wrong. How did I know this?
- I couldn’t sleep and was averaging around two hours of fitful sleep every night.
- I didn’t want to get out of bed in the morning. Or ever.
- The thought of seeing more than a few people scared me.
- The idea of school made me sweat, dry-heave, and cry.
After being made to go to school, I’d sit in class and literally shake until the end of each period. I couldn’t handle being called on. I couldn’t handle the groups of 15+ every period. Having to walk down jammed hallways and sit in a full cafeteria was complete hell. The fact that I made it through each day was something to celebrate, albeit a small something.
I wasn’t given a prescription then. Instead, I was directed to meditation, which I hadn’t heard much about. My parents were given brochures, which I read through. (They assumed everything was a phase, and weren’t overly worried.) At home that night, I gave meditation a try.
I’m 32 now, and I’ve been meditating daily for 17 years. Meditation isn’t easy, and even after all these years, it’s sometimes hard to know if I’m “doing it right.” I’ve learned to understand that for many, “doing it right” isn’t something to worry about. Meditation is a journey of sorts, and you learn as you go. It’s a wonderful thing and has been one of the very few constants in my life as of late.
My general “schedule” (for lack of a better term) is pretty basic. As soon as I wake in the morning, I sit up and I meditate for at least fifteen minutes (yes, I set my alarm for an earlier time to accommodate this). At noon, regardless of where I am, I meditate again for at least ten minutes (if possible). Then, at night before bed, I meditate another time for at least a half hour. If I find the day to be especially stressful, I’ll fit in shorter “emergency meditations” as often as I feel I need to. This schedule may seem cumbersome or interrupting to some, but to be quite honest, I wouldn’t be able to survive a day without it. These moments of mindfulness help stop my mind from racing, help me avoid negative/dangerous thoughts, and force me to realize that anxiety, while sometimes downright frightening, can be temporary and can be controlled.
Because meditation is such a mainstream practice now, there are plenty of apps, videos and the like to assist in meditation practices. I use an app called Calm (which you can learn more about here. The free tier allows for a number of meditations (guided and not), and if you’d like to experience things further, there’s a subscription. Through this app (as well as the subscription), you’ll find meditations that focus on emergency anxiety relief, sleep, muscle relaxation, self-confidence, and many other things. I’ve tried a handful of other apps, and while all of them are fantastic, this one has been my favorite and has done the most good for me on a daily basis.
There are plenty of people in the world who dismiss meditation as “hippie garbage” or a thousand other colorful phrases. That’s fine; we all have our opinions on things. However, I believe meditation can save a life. It’s saved mine a number of times. I’ve been asked over the years if meditation really works, and my answer has been “yes” every time. I like sharing my story, and have done so a couple of times (this is an abbreviated version, of course; I could talk about meditation for days). I think it’s important for skeptics to hear stories like mine. While it may not sway them, I think it still plants the seed that maybe, just maybe meditation does help.