Mindful Meditation for Social Anxiety
If you have Social Anxiety Disorder, you know how overwhelming those symptoms of fear, guilt, even panic can be. And there can seem to be a vast amount of advice out there that can quickly become another list of ‘shoulds’ that increase your guilt and stress levels.
You’ve probably heard that mindfulness meditation can help with anxiety. It works by creating a space where you can learn to identify your thought patterns and emotions and gradually detach from them. In time you develop greater control over your mood and your thoughts. But in the beginning, even that can feel overwhelming and out of reach.
Here are some tips to help make mindfulness meditation part of your toolbox for managing anxiety.
1. Take it slowly
Meditation doesn’t have to be done for hours, sitting uncomfortably or in a temple. To start with, set a goal of just sitting quietly for 10 or 15 minutes in a quiet room where you won’t be interrupted. Don’t worry about mantras or whether you’re doing it right. Turn off your phone and close the door. Just sit and focus on your breath. Breathe in for the count of four, hold for a second or two, then breathe out for a count of four. If thoughts or worries bubble up, accept that this is normal and imagine them floating away. Remind yourself that you are having some quiet time and return your attention to your breathing.
2. Use an app
If you find silent meditation difficult, there are plenty of recorded meditations online, both free and for purchase. There are also many apps you can use on your tablet or smartphone where you can listen to a guided meditation or visualization and build your mindfulness muscles!
3. Take mini-meditation breaks
You don’t have to stick to ‘official’ meditation times to incorporate mindfulness into your regular day. If you notice that you’re feeling anxious, take a mini mindfulness break and take a minute to focus on your breathing, stay in the present and observe what is happening around you. These breaks help you to step away from your anxiety state and break the stress spiral.
4. Connect with what calms you
Mindfulness can also happen when you choose to do something soothing. Think of a time and place or an activity that made you feel good, whether it’s hiking in the mountains, painting or sketching, or being at the beach. Often being in nature can have an instant calming effect, even if you go and sit in a park in your lunch break. As you develop familiarity with mindfulness techniques, you can use visualization to help overcome an anxiety attack at any time.