Here’s how mindful meditation can rescue you from anxiety

If anxiety is the devil on your back, then this is how clinical psychologist Sonali Gupta suggests you can deal with it with mindful meditation.
Healthy ways to release stress
Meditation is a better way to release stress than to watch porn! Image courtesy: Shutterstock
Sonali Gupta Updated: 3 May 2020, 13:53 pm IST
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The way I see it, the opposite of anxiety is mindfulness. If you learn to live in the present and savour it, you are already dealing with your anxiety. Mindfulness is not a bundle of techniques; instead, it’s an attitude, a conscious shift in becoming more present.

The idea is that we must embody mindfulness in our daily living, whether it’s in the act of listening, eating our food or the attentive presence we give to our loved ones and the activities that we do.

The idea of mindfulness and the science around it has been popularized by Jon Kabat-Zinn, an American professor and founding father of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR). A type of meditation therapy, MBSR has been shown to help alleviate symptoms associated with chronic illness, anxiety, pain, burnout, cancer and other stress-related conditions.

mindful meditation
Mindfulness and meditation go hand in hand, and together they can help you take on anxiety and stress. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

All meditation practices have mindfulness built into them, whether it’s about focussing one’s attention on a specific idea or the act of mindfully just observing one’s breath, actions and thoughts.

I’m often asked about how long one should meditate; clients tell me they find it difficult to sit still for even five minutes. If that sounds like you, begin by setting a timer on your phone and meditate for as little as one minute, and gradually increase the time.

Some tips if you are just beginning:

  • Use a meditation app. The directions and soothing music will help you relax and focus. (Try: Guided meditation with 7 Days of Nirvana, right now!)
  • If you are uncomfortable using an app, begin by sitting in a comfortable position with your eyes closed. Relax your back and shoulders. You can sit on a chair or a yoga mat, whatever is comfortable for you. Place your hands over your legs and begin with a deep breath.
  • When you breathe in, your stomach expands like a balloon and when you exhale, your abdomen muscles move inward. Just become aware of your breath. Based on your readiness you can do it for a couple of minutes to begin with.

People struggling with anxiety often find themselves caught in a space where they begin to feel uncomfortable with their thoughts, feelings and even bodily sensations. Mindfulness-based visualization can be very calming at such times.
Visualize what seems like a safe space for you and choose to allow yourself to stay in that space. This is very comforting and stabilizing for a lot of individuals.

benefits of meditation
If you get uncomfortable with your thoughts while trying to mediate, try to visualise a safe space for yourself. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

On some days, when the task of writing the book seemed extremely overwhelming, I would turn to a practice recommended by writer Allison Aubrey in her NPR article. She writes, “If you’ve got a nagging thought that won’t go away, just picture a cloud. Visualize that nagging thought being attached to the cloud. Now watch it float away.” I found it quite effective.

Pause rituals in my daily life
Over the last few years, instead of taking long breaks, I have built daily pause rituals in my life. Almost all of them have scheduled time attached to them:

  • Exercise twice or thrice a week
  • Evening or night-time mindful walks without music or podcast playing
  • Meditation ritual at least ten to fifteen minutes (and minimum thrice a week)
  • Schedule less work on one day of the week; take a day off to build a sense of pause
  • Scheduled free time to do nothing (I just watch thoughts come and go. I have learnt that a few minutes of nothingness is where mindfulness begins for me. It’s also a healthy technique for me to deal with my productivity guilt).


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Anxiety by Sonali Gupta


Excerpted from Anxiety: Overcome It and Live Without Fear by Sonali Gupta, published by Harper Collins

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About the Author

Mumbai-based clinical psychologist Sonali Gupta has sixteen years of experience in the field of mental health. She currently runs a private practice in Khar and South Bombay and is the author of the book Anxiety: Overcome It and Live Without Fear. ...Read More

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