Meditation Combats Anxiety: Here Is How It Helps Symptoms of Anxiety


2017-01-27 15:31

Occasional anxiety is quite normal, but when it interferes with your daily life, you may want to consider meditation to help ease symptoms.

According to the National Institute of Mental health, anxiety disorders affect approximately 18% of the US adult population – or about 40 million of us. There are several different types of anxiety, with the typical treatment being psychotherapy, medication or a combination of both.

Another important intervention for anxiety is stress management techniques – which includes mediation, especially mindfulness meditation. Some research suggests that the ability to induce calm may enhance the effects of therapy.

Elizabeth A. Hoge MD with Georgetown University Medical Center says, "Mindfulness meditation training is a relatively inexpensive and low-stigma treatment approach, and … can improve resilience to stress.” Her team found that anxiety patients had sharply reduced stress-hormone and inflammatory responses during a stressful situation after participating in a mindfulness meditation course.

The study, which was published in Psychiatry Research, included 89 patients with generalized anxiety disorder. Those with GAD display excessive anxiety or worry for months and face anxiety-related symptoms such as being easily fatigued, irritability, muscle tension and difficulty with sleep. The participants were divided into two groups. One took an 8-week mindfulness based meditation class while the other took a “Stress Management Education” course on general tips for managing stress.

The team measured blood-based markers of stress response, including ACTH and inflammatory proteins IL-6 and TNF-a. Those taking the meditation course showed significant decreases in these numbers while those taking the stress management class actually had a worsening of their anxiety.

Mindful.org offers the following tips for starting your own mindfulness practice:

1. Start by setting aside some time and space for peace and quiet. Limit interruptions, such as a ringing cell phone or needy family members. Sit comfortably; straighten your upper body but don’t stiffen.

2. Actual meditation focuses on the breath because the physical sensation of breathing is always there and you can use it to anchor yourself to the present. Soften your gaze and feel your breath as it comes in and out.

3. Observe the present moment as it is – without judgement. If you notice judgements starting to arise, make a mental note of them and let them pass. Then gently bring your mind back to the present.

That’s it! You should notice an almost immediate calm – but it may take time and practice.

Reference: Georgetown University Medical Center. "Mindfulness meditation training lowers biomarkers of stress response in anxiety disorder: Hormonal, inflammatory reactions to stress were reduced after meditation training, in rigorous NIH-sponsored trial." ScienceDaily, 24 January 2017.

Photo Credit: By Sigurdas - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons