How to meditate for anxiety: A step-by-step guide [+ benefits]

If you have ever experienced a panic attack or bouts of anxiety, you will know that they can be incredibly distressing.

These feelings often come out of nowhere and leave us feeling worried about when they might strike again.

There are many things that can cause anxiety, from personal problems to everyday stressors.

The good news? There are many ways to manage your anxiety and reduce its impact on your life.

One of the best methods for calming your nerves is meditation.

Today, I will show you exactly how you can meditate if you are suffering from anxiety, and I’ll even get into the numerous benefits of this amazing practice!

How to meditate for anxiety

If you have ever tried to meditate, you may have found the experience frustrating, especially when you are already feeling anxious.

After all, meditation confronts you with your thoughts, and when your thoughts are what’s causing you distress, that can be difficult!

Thankfully, though, there are many different ways to meditate, so you can find one that works best for you.

No matter what type of meditation you prefer, the benefits of this practice are similar across the board: reduced anxiety, better sleep, increased focus, and so much more!

The thing is, some people with anxiety go about it the wrong way.

What many gurus and influencers won’t tell you is that when you are completely new to meditation and are having an actual anxiety attack, sitting completely still without knowing what you are doing can be the opposite of beneficial.

I’ve been there myself: when you aren’t sure how to meditate properly, your anxiety can make your 10-minute meditation session into an opportunity to spiral yourself even deeper into despair.

The reason for my hesitation? Meditation can seem like such an impossible feat when you are suffering from anxiety!

Sitting still can be difficult, and what’s worse is that your thoughts just can’t seem to stop or slow down.

But the truth is that meditation does not have to be difficult at all—it’s simply about putting yourself in a position to feel better, whatever that might look like for you.

And the good news?

There are meditation techniques that will be perfect for you, even with anxiety!

Now: while some of these techniques might help you in the middle of an actual anxiety attack, I do recommend that you do this practice every day, whether you are feeling anxious or not.

That is the only way to truly reap all the benefits of meditation and reduce your anxiety over time.

So, with that in mind, let’s go through how to meditate for anxiety.

First, make sure that you have a place where you know you will not be disturbed for the time of your meditation.

This could be on a chair, in bed, on the floor – whatever you prefer.

The thing is, you need to find a position that works for you. Some people like sitting up during their practice, but if you prefer laying down flat, that is completely fine.

The goal is to find a position that feels comfortable to you and focus on that.

If you are somewhere in public, try meditating at home first (or vice versa), so as to not make yourself more anxious with the idea of being seen.

What can really help to make your meditation practice more successful is to make the space you meditate in feel more intentional.

By that, I mean setting the mood to meditate.

This could mean drawing the curtains, lighting a candle or some incense, diffusing some essential oils, putting on some music – anything that will put you in a mindset conducive to achieving your goals.

If that sounds like too much work, don’t worry, none of this is mandatory – it just helps some people get into their meditation quicker, but you can simply lay down right where you are and start.

Now, start every meditation by breathing deeply and slowly.

Slowly inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth.

This will help you relax your body and calm your mind . . .

Now, let’s take a look at some of the most useful ways to meditate for anxiety.

6 meditations for anxiety

1) Guided meditation

I wanted to start this list off with guided meditations because, in my experience, they help the most when you are suffering from an acute bout of anxiety.

This is one of the most common meditation types, and it is also one of the best.

Guided meditation is when you listen to a recording that leads you through the process.

These recordings are usually guided by an experienced meditator who can help you achieve a state of deep relaxation in just a few minutes.

Why is this so great?

Well, I don’t know about you, but when I am anxious, my thoughts are running wild and it’s difficult for me to control them.

Through guided meditation, I can achieve a state of deep relaxation and focus on my breathing.

There is a voice telling you what to do, and so it eliminates all thoughts of “Am I doing this correctly?” or “Is this working?”.

When you simply let yourself be guided, it’s a lot easier to let go of all your attachments and stress.

There are many guided meditation apps out there, and you can try almost every one of them for free for a week or so before having to commit to any payments, but to be honest, there is a ton of free resources out there.

I usually look on Spotify or Youtube to find a meditation that fits my needs that day.

Whether it is a 5-minute session or a longer one, there are many different guided meditation techniques that you can use to help reduce your anxiety.

And the best part?

With guided meditation, you can look for meditations that are directed at reducing anxiety or calming you down in stressful times.

It is by far my favorite way to handle anxiety as it allows me to hand over control to someone else for a while and simply relax.

If you are not a fan of guided meditations, however, this next meditation might be better for you:

2) Mindfulness meditation

The truth is that meditation can simply mean sitting down and focusing on one thing for a little while.

In this case, the one thing can be your breath!

This will help you focus on your body and calm your nerves by taking you out of the craziness of your thought patterns (which we’ll get into below).

This type of meditation is a great starting point for beginners.

All you have to do is focus on your breath, without effort.

As you inhale, try to feel the sensation of your lungs filling with breath, and as you exhale, focus on your breath leaving your body.

This is a very simple meditation, but it can have a powerful impact on your stress levels.

But mindfulness meditation doesn’t have to focus on your breath, you can also try focusing on a particular body part and just seeing how it feels.

What might also be nice is using some element, like a hot water bottle or a cold pack and simply focusing on the sensations you get from touching that.

How the warmth radiates through your body or how cold it feels against your skin could be a great way to help you relax.

Mindfulness meditation, through releasing the mind from thought patterns and getting the body to relax, can help mitigate many types of anxiety.

If mindfulness meditation sounds like too much for you or not relaxing enough for what you are looking for, you could try a body scan.

3) Body scan

A body scan is pretty much exactly what it sounds like – you scan your entire body and go through every single body part, putting your attention on it and then intentionally relaxing it before you move on.

Body scans are popular in many guided meditations, as well, so you might come across them.

What makes them so great for calming down anxiety is that it gives you something to do and focus on – you go from your feet to your knees to your thighs and so on – always relaxing those muscles as you go.

You could focus on your hands for instance and just letting go of any tension that you might feel in them or notice them tightening up.

You could try focusing on your back or shoulders, just noticing how they are feeling as you relax each muscle group as you go along.

First off, physically relaxing that tension you might be holding can help you let go of a lot of anxiety already.

Sometimes, we hold a lot of our tension in our actual body, and so it’s important to lose that tension every once in a while.

And you might be surprised – when you focus on your body more, you begin to notice things about it that you hadn’t noticed before – like tight muscles or sore joints.

And second of all, focusing on your body helps put the focus away from your thoughts for a bit which can help alleviate some stress and anxiety.

By helping you relax physically, this body scan can help with any anxiety you might have as well.

But don’t worry, there are other meditation techniques that might be more intriguing to you:

4) Visualization meditation

This type of meditation will give you an opportunity to practice positive thinking.

Visualization meditation involves forming a picture in your mind with focus and intensity.

When you practice visualization meditation, you create a specific picture in your mind that you want to happen in your life.

This technique is often used during manifestation, but it can help to calm down your anxiety by redirecting your focus.

Instead of thinking about the worst possible outcomes, you get to visualize what your ideal outcome would be.

Visualization meditation is great because it enables you to think positively, which makes it extremely helpful for people who tend to be anxious.

And the best part?

You can get really creative with this!

5) Mantra meditation

This is a very simple yet powerful way to meditate. A mantra is simply a word or phrase that you repeat over and over again in your mind.

This can be anything from a simple vowel to a special word or phrase that has special meaning for you.

Mantra meditations are incredibly powerful for people who suffer from anxiety as they help you to actually shift your focus on something very particular and be present with that for a while.

By focusing your mind on just a few words for a little while, you are able to disconnect from your thoughts.

This type of meditation is especially good for beginners and anybody who finds it hard to focus or quiet their minds.

There are tons of mantras online that you could look up, but when I’m feeling incredibly anxious, phrases like “I choose to let go” are really beneficial for me, personally.

And if you need something more active:

6) Meditation while walking

This is a great way to combine exercise with meditation, and it is particularly useful if you have trouble sitting still.

Simply all you need to do is go on a walk and try to be completely undistracted while doing so.

Now: while you are walking, focus on the sensation of your muscles taking steps, your feet hitting the ground.

Focus on what you can see around you, the sounds, how it feels to be outside of your home.

Just be aware of all the different sensations and physically feel them as you walk.

By focusing on what you are feeling, you are less likely to think about things that make you anxious.

This is an amazing way to calm down your anxiety because walking helps your body to transmute some of that nervous energy.

Sometimes, it feels better to move your body when you are feeling a bit anxious, so that is a great way to do that!

Now: you can also use different breathing techniques to help with anxiety:

2 breathing exercises for anxiety

Your breath is incredibly important when it comes to your mental health and stress levels.

We often don’t realize it, but our breath and our anxiety levels are interlinked.

Whenever you start to feel anxious, there is a good chance that your breathing has been getting shorter and shallower.

This signals to your body that you are in danger, and that you need that quick oxygen to act against said danger.

Of course, if you are anxious about next week’s exam or losing your job, there is no actual danger you can do anything against.

Your breath is linked with your vagus nerve, which is a nerve that runs from your brain to your stomach.

When you breathe shallowly, this keeps that nerve stimulated, which makes you feel anxious.

And when you are breathing properly, your stress levels go down and so does your anxiety.

I know that when you are suffering from anxiety, it can feel as though you physically can’t take a deep breath, and you might feel a lot of tension or pressure in your chest.

But I promise you, by practicing some of these breathing exercises, you will be able to feel a lot better.

The Box Breathing exercise

This one is super simple, choose a number of seconds, maybe starting with 3 or 4 (you can always go higher the more experienced you are).

Inhale for 4 seconds, hold your breath for 4 seconds, exhale for 4 seconds and then hold you breath out for 4 seconds.

Repeat this as many times as you need until your breath calms down.

It’s called Box Breathing because you can imagine drawing a square box with your breath – each side takes 4 seconds (or more).

Do this for 3-5 minutes or until you feel your anxiety dissipating.

Diaphragmatic breathing

I mentioned your diaphragm earlier. Your diaphragm is one of the most important organs in your body because it is what moves air into your lungs.

You can think of it as a dome-shaped muscle that helps to expand and compress your lungs, which is much like how you move the chest up and down with each breath.

When you have anxiety this muscle is often not fully engaged, which means you aren’t taking deep belly breaths.

Your breaths will be shallow and only in your chest, which can make anxiety even worse!

So, what can you do about that?

Well, diaphragmatic breathing can help.

For that, it’s good to lay down on your back with your feet standing so that your knees face the ceiling.

This helps to relax your tummy muscles.

Put one hand on your belly and one on your chest.

While inhaling, focus on only moving the hand on your belly, the hand on your chest should stay stable.

Keep breathing like this for 5-10 minutes. You can incorporate this breathing into your mediation, which will make it even more effective.

Trust me, when you breathe deeply into your diaphragm for 5 minutes, you will immediately feel better, it works like magic!

Does meditation help with anxiety?

Yes, meditation is one of the best ways to calm anxiety. When you are in a state of meditation, you are focusing all of your attention on the present moment.

This means that you are not worrying about what has happened in the past or what might happen in the future – you are only focusing on the here and now!

Many people find that when they meditate regularly, they are much better equipped to deal with the ups and downs of life.

Not only will meditation reduce your anxiety, but it will also help you to improve your sleep, increase your creativity, and boost your productivity.

This has been proven in multiple studies and people have attested to the positive effects of meditation in their everyday lives.

Plus, if you practice meditation regularly you will gain more self-control, which means that when you feel anxious, you can relax and let go of the situation instead of reacting to your anxiety.

Now: the question is not really whether or not mediation helps with anxiety – it has been proven to work.

The question is more about whether or not you can stay consistent with your practice so that you see the benefits.

And that will depend on you.

Most people try to meditate for a few days and then stop.

In order to stay more consistent, it might help to understand how meditation truly helps with anxiety:

Here’s how meditation reduces anxiety

There are a number of possible explanations for how meditation helps to alleviate anxiety.

Meditation increases your self-awareness, which can lead to better self-management and reduced stress.

Meditation also leads to a reduction in the production of cortisol, the hormone released in response to stress.

Finally, meditation has a positive effect on your nervous system and your brain function in general. It has been shown to improve attention and reduce anxiety.

You see, when you are anxious, you are not in the present moment anymore. Your thoughts run amok and you are unable to concentrate.

This means that you are no longer experiencing reality as it is, but rather as you imagine it to be, which can be very distressing for people suffering from anxiety.

If you meditate, you will be less stressed and more able to control your anxiety, which is why meditation is considered to be one of the best ways to reduce anxiety.

Mediation also brings you back into the present moment, which is often precisely what is needed when you feel anxious.

In addition, meditation gives you a sense of peace and makes it easier to let go of negative thoughts and emotions.

You will become more present in your life and many people who practice meditation find that they are happier and more productive all around.

But when will you see the results?

How long do you need to meditate for anxiety?

There is no “magic number” for how long you should meditate for.

The duration of your meditation session depends on your goals and your personal preferences.

If you want to reduce your anxiety, you should meditate at least once a day.

If you want to practice meditation regularly, you should find a schedule that works best for you.

As with any exercise, consistency is key!

Now, because consistency is the most important factor here, it is totally okay to start off with only mediating for 3 minutes a day!

Yes, you heard me right, 3-5 minutes can already be enough to see amazing results!

And you don’t have to push yourself too hard because it is important to maintain a regular meditation practice.

On the other hand, if you feel like you benefit from it more, it’s okay to start off with longer sessions of 5-15 minutes.

Once you are comfortable with your setup and routine, you can increase the length of your meditation sessions.

However, it always helped me to know that it’s okay to only meditate for 3 minutes if I have a busy day or simply don’t feel motivated.

More often than not, I’ll reach the 3-minute mark and want to keep going.

And the best part of meditation?

You can start to feel the results after a single session already!

What’s the best meditation for anxiety?

There is no “best” meditation for anxiety. The best meditation is the one that works best for you!

While there are many different meditation types, they all essentially have the same goal: to make you more aware of the present moment and make you less anxious.

The truth is that there is no correct form of meditation. It is about finding a practice that works for you.

If you struggle with anxiety, it is important to find a meditation practice that you can stick with.

You should meditate whether you feel like it or not. You should make it a priority and a habit. If you do, you will reap the benefits of regular meditation in no time!

What’s important to know is that no meditation technique is better or worse than another one.

Guided meditations are not for beginners and they aren’t worse than meditating in silence.

They are all different and offer different tools to reach the same goal: inner peace.

Instead of attaching any kind of value to your meditations, try to find what is the easiest for you to stick to!

How do you start meditation for anxiety?

Starting out your habit of meditation can be a bit tricky at first, just like any new habit.

When you are just starting to meditate, the last thing you want to do is sit down for a long session without really knowing what to do or what to think about!

Start off with a short meditation practice or a guided meditation.

As you become more familiar with the practice, you can increase the duration of your sessions.

For best results, try to meditate at the same time each day.

You can also try to find a special spot where you can practice your meditation with ease.

You can also try combining meditation with another activity. For example, you can try to meditate while walking.

What’s important is that you don’t force yourself to sit still for 20 minutes if you feel like you can’t really focus.

Instead, maybe start out with guided meditations so that you get an idea of what you could be focusing on!

Meditation can seem really daunting at first, but it’s really not as difficult as it seems.

You will start to see the benefits of your new habit very quickly and you’ll soon see that meditation is not as hard as it seemed at first.

What are the benefits of meditation?

Meditation is more than just a way to calm anxiety. It is also a great way to improve your overall health and well-being.

Here are some of the many benefits of meditating regularly:

Increased focus and productivity

One of the major benefits of mediating regularly is that your focus and productivity will improve.

This means that you will be able to focus on your goals and tasks with less stress and anxiety.

You will get much more done, which can really positively affect your overall quality of life.

Let’s face it: our day-to-day life is stressful and complicated, which can make us anxious.

When we meditate, we simply stop fighting that stress and let go of all thinking about the future or past.

Nowadays, we are bombarded with stimuli from all sides – the world, our phones and laptops – it never seems to end.

This is why meditation can really help you – it rewires your brain and also improves your attention span – something that has been proven to be deteriorating in our modern age.

No longer will you forget your shopping list when you go to the supermarket or lose yourself in your thoughts!

Many people who practice meditation also report that they are much more productive once they started meditating.

They say that they get a lot more done, but also stop procrastinating.

This is because your mental focus and clarity are at a new high – you finally do what needs to be done!

Reduced stress and anxiety

Obviously, given this entire article, meditation is great for reducing stress.

The simple fact that you are no longer thinking about your to-do list or the million things that need to be done will already take a huge amount of stress off your shoulders.

Mental clarity and focus will also go a long way in reducing stress.

You will be able to see what needs to be done and you won’t forget anything anymore, allowing you to focus on the tasks at hand!

Better sleep

Another benefit of mediation is that your sleep quality will improve tremendously.

This is because practicing meditation is a great way to clear your mind.

When your mind is clear and stress-free, you are much more likely to fall asleep without a problem and get a good night’s rest.

You will also wake up more refreshed and energized than in the past!

That also means that you will be less tired in the morning and won’t feel like you need an extra cup of coffee to get going.

All in all, better sleep will have effects on your entire life! Your anxiety will benefit from it and you will have more energy to do the things you love!

Improved relationships

Another great thing about meditation is that it can actually improve your relationships.

How, you may ask?

Well, when you meditate, you are doing lots of introspection. You are looking at your own thoughts, feelings and emotions.

When you quiet your mind for a moment and allow yourself to relax, it becomes easier to gain insight into these areas.

You will start to become more aware of why you think certain feelings or have certain reactions.

You can learn from that and analyze your reactions to certain situations – especially when it comes to interactions with the people you love!

Over time, this will allow you to become a lot more self-aware and emotionally mature.

Every single relationship in your life will benefit from that, believe me!

When I started meditating, that’s actually when I stumbled across the fact that I had attachment issues and wasn’t always being very healthy in my relationships.

Without realizing it, meditation helped me to become more self-aware and I became much more understanding of why I have certain reactions and relationship issues.

I started to understand that some relationship patterns were actually my own fault and that I needed to work on my reactions to things in order to improve.

This is an amazing benefit that I really didn’t think was possible!

Now: if you still want to know more about fighting your anxiety, this next point might help:

What else might help with your anxiety?

While meditation is a great way to reduce your anxiety, you may have to try different techniques and strategies to find the best way to cope with your anxiety.

It is important to remember that everyone is different, and what works for one person may not work for another.

That being said, other techniques and strategies that can help with anxiety include:

  • Regular exercise
  • Yoga
  • Healthy eating
  • Journaling
  • Talking to a friend or loved one
  • Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
  • Mindfulness
  • Social support networks

These techniques and strategies can all help you to reduce your anxiety and cope with your feelings.

They can also help you to develop skills that you can use for the rest of your life.

Anxiety is a very nuanced thing and every person experiences it in a different way.

If you are trying to figure out how to best manage your anxiety, please don’t feel discouraged.

There is a lot of research that has been done on the topic and all you have to do is try out different techniques to see what helps you the most.

Maybe it’s a combination of things, or maybe the same technique doesn’t help you every single day.

Be patient with yourself, and I promise you will figure out exactly what works best for you!

Final thoughts

You’ve learned a lot about meditation in this article. From quick mediations to help with your restlessness to longer practices, meditation is an incredible way to cope with stress and anxiety.

Meditation does not have to be this intimidating thing that you don’t know how to go about.

I hope that after reading all of this you have a better idea of where to start and how to actually meditate for anxiety.

Remember, it’s all about you and what feels best for you, don’t let this stress you out even more!

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