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Interrupting the Cycle of Gripping Anxiety: 5 Meditations to Shift Towards More Ease

By Sarah Purcell April 02, 2020 Health and Fitness

I am not a mental health professional. I’m an ex-investment banker who experienced a great deal of stress on the job. Because of my interest in exercise and finding effective ways to cope with that stress, I became a Pilates and yoga teacher.

It was being a mother of a soldier in the 86th Airborne that taught me how to cope with vicious anxiety. When my youngest son deployed to Afghanistan, I became paralyzed by visions of what might happen. (Good news: He has been home for years and is a well-adjusted, loving, responsible young man.)

I would like to share with you some of my tried and true techniques for finding calm in turbulent times. I will also share one that did not work very well for me but has worked wonders for others. Keep trying different methods until you find the ones that put your mind at ease!

5-5-5 Grounding Through the Senses

In this meditation you will take a journey through the senses. You’ll notice what you see and hear, and then take stock of your inner sensations or feelings.

We’ll start with sight, and practice noticing various aspects of objects in your environment. If you find yourself having any judgment on what you see, let it go and come back to simple descriptions. 

It’s important that you don’t move too quickly to the next sense of hearing. We’re taking the time to really take in what we see.

For hearing, you’ll open yourself up to all the sounds around you. You will notice qualities of the sound and choose a total of five sounds to work with.

The audio will gently ask you to move your mind to what you can feel in your body. I like to close my eyes or softly bring them to half-mast. Again, the meditation will guide you through the sensations you notice. You will observe five sensations in total.

To end the exercise, you can take a few deep breaths and open your eyes. Do you feel calmer than you did before you began the exercise? I usually do. If you do not, you could try a second round or move on to one of the following ideas.

Guided Chakra Meditation

Find yourself in a seated position. Take care to make your position comfortable and pain-free. This audio-guided meditation will ask you to focus on your energy and chakras. The goal is to feel your energy flowing through your body, leaving you feeling healthy and alive.

The guided meditation in the linked audio will bring you through the observation of light traveling through your body. The meditation will ask you to imagine the colors, emotions, and feelings associated with each chakra.

Your breath and energy will be gently guided on this exploration.

As you follow the guided journey through your physical body, there is a parallel being drawn to your energy body. The energy is not something you need to look for; it’s something that’s already within you. The goal is to allow your energy to flow and take care of you, body and soul.

Part of the process is imagining all the colors glowing and your chakras getting balanced, healed, and aligned.

Breathing into Positive Thoughts

This meditation brings your focus to your breath, body, and thoughts. You will be guided to use your breath to ease into relaxation. As thoughts find their way into your meditation (as they always do), you will be guided to find ease with techniques to let them go. 

The goal is to free you from the grip of anxious thoughts, if only for the duration of the meditation. 

A Quick Reset with Alternate Nostril Breathing

Sit with your back straight and gently seal your lips. Rest your left hand on your left thigh, palm facing upward. Take your right hand in front of you with your palm facing you.

Put your index finger and middle finger together and take these fingers to your eyebrow center. Take some gentle normal breaths in this position. Relax your shoulders.

Start by closing your left nostril with your ring or little finger. Inhale through your right nostril and exhale through your right nostril. Repeat five times.

Then release your left nostril and close your right nostril with your right thumb. Inhale and exhale gently, five times. Don’t force your breath. If you need to take a break and breathe through both nostrils, then do so. This exercise should feel refreshing and balancing – not like hard work.

The next step is alternating the breath between nostrils.

  • Close your right nostril with your right thumb and inhale through your left nostril. 
  • Close your left nostril with your ring or little finger. 
  • Lift your thumb and exhale through your right nostril. Then inhale through the same nostril. 
  • Close your right nostril with your thumb and lift your finger to exhale through your left nostril. 

This is one round. Repeat 3–5 rounds. You can add more rounds when you have practiced this exercise and become confident.

When you have completed your rounds, rest with your hands on your thighs, palms upward, taking normal, natural breaths through both nostrils and being mindful of any subtle changes in your energy, mind, or equilibrium.

RAIN Guided Meditations

Tara Brach has many free meditations available on her website. She uses the concept of RAIN – Recognize, Allow, Investigate, Nurture – to guide the individual through common emotional states such as fear, anxiousness, difficulty, and so on.

Although this technique did not work for me in super difficult times, I do find it to be a lovely exploration. Consider trying one of her meditations. Her voice is very soothing.

Make Meditation a Habit

I have found over the years that a mindfulness meditation may not show immediate benefits in the short run, but a regular practice can make subtle changes to one’s ability to pass through anxious times with more ease. It helps create a resilience that you may not even realize you have.

Sometimes a 10-minute meditation is still too big of a change when you are trying to establish a new routine. In that case, a 5-minute meditation may be the best way to start. There are several free apps that can offer you 3 to 5 minute meditations. Insight Timer and Simple Habit are two of my favorites.

I hope you have found some new ideas in this article or maybe you are thinking about getting back to a practice you previously had. Either way, there is often relief in the smallest things. If you have a favorite meditation that you believe will help others, please share it in the comments. Feel better and Stay Safe.

What is your most common emotion these days? How do you fight it? What has helped you manage your emotions in difficult times? Please share with our community. 

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The Author

Sarah Purcell is a mother, wife, yogi, Pilates teacher, business woman, and lifelong learner. Sarah's journey through menopause has guided her to support women across the globe with healthy and empowered aging.

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