by Ashley Graber
From a very young age I remember being anxious. It didn’t matter what was happening, good or bad, I always felt anxious. It was always there like a fly that wouldn’t go away. When I would look around at my friends, they didn’t seem to feel the same way. They played and laughed and ran on the playground without even thinking about it. Not me. I felt paralyzed and confused by how to even join in on the swings. My quest to understand and help my anxiety led me to therapy, meditation and mindfulness, and eventually to becoming a psychotherapist and teaching meditation and mindfulness practices.
40 million adults in the United States live with an anxiety disorder. That’s roughly 18 percent of the population. Anxiety disorders are actually the most common mental illness in the U.S. Even if you don’t suffer from clinical anxiety, it is hard to limit the exposure to the avalanche of information and stimulus coming at us every single day, whether it’s the 24 hour stream of news or the latest disturbing show our teens are watching. When my 6 year old patients come to me with anxiety, burdened by the weight of the world on their shoulders, I wonder how feeling anxious has become the new normal in our society.
By definition, anxiety is a feeling of unease, worry or nervousness about something with an uncertain outcome or an imminent event and involves both psychological and physical symptoms. These symptoms differ significantly from one person to another according to the type and degree of the seeming threat. But not all anxiety is bad. Anxiety is also a protective mechanism that prevents us from getting into precarious situations and can help us escape should we find ourselves in one. Anxiety can also increase our performance and endurance in a positive way..
Meditation and mindfulness practice can help us find ways to calm our nervous system and notice when our minds are wandering to an unhelpful place. the most common reason for feelings of anxiety. Mindfulness practice also gives us the ability to recognize the something anxiety provoking is happening to us. With that awareness, we can make a choice in the moment in how we respond– versus letting the anxiety run away with us.
Meditation has been used for thousands of years to calm the mind, but it’s not always easy to apply these contemplative practices to daily life when you are off the meditation cushion. A regular meditation and mindfulness practice can help to build your resiliency to adapt to stress.
In my Anxiety series on Evenflow, I take you on a journey of getting to know your version of anxiety and give you the tools to know when it is coming on and how to stay steady in the midst of it. The series will also help you discover how to make more conscious choices in response to yours problems and stressors. We don’t have to feel powerless in the face of anxiety and overwhelm. It doesn’t have to become the “new normal.” With self compassion and awareness, we can learn to not only take care of our own anxiety but how to create more containment for our children as well.
To learn more download our app Evenflow.