Feelings Come and Go

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Sonia Evers of The Not Vanilla has written a great piece about a specific form of anxiety-targeted mindfulness meditation for Refinery29. The whole piece is really worth reading, but here are some of the key takeaways that make the piece stand out.

According to Harvard psychotherapist Ronald D. Siegel, PsyD, trying to get rid of anxiety is exactly where I, and many others suffering from it, go wrong. In his mindfulness meditation practice, Stepping into Fear, Dr. Siegel encourages his students to turn their attention toward, and even befriend, their anxiety, rather than resist it and try to make it go away...[It] begins like any other meditation, focusing on the breath and quieting the mind. But it quickly takes a turn when Dr. Siegel asks you, the listener, to think of something that makes them anxious. Once you have a clear idea of what that is, he asks you to increase your anxiety by thinking of a scenario that’s even worse. After that, a scenario even worse. This goes on for about 20 minutes, until he brings the focus back to the breath and the body. The theory behind it is that the more comfortable we get with the sensations that come with anxiety — panic, fear, and accelerated heartbeat — the more we will discover that the emotions associated with these sensations come and go, like everything else.  

This is definitely in keeping with Barry McDonagh's DARE approach, and it's something I ascribe to as well. Getting our bodies accustomed to the physical sensations of anxiety--the cortisol and adrenaline pumping through our systems--while allowing our minds to understand that the wave will pass is core to recovery.

Feel the surge. Use the surge.

I loved that Sonia said: 

Over the course of the 20-minute meditation, which brought forth everything from increased heart rate to full blown tears, I discovered that my mind actually started to wander away from the things that I’m constantly anxious or worried about. And unlike in other meditations, where a distracted mind is something to combat, this mental meandering was a breath of relief that not only informed me that anxiety passes, but that whatever I am afraid of or avoiding is only as big a deal as I make it. It’s here now, but it’s just as likely to be gone in a moment.

This is understanding the wave. Once you see that the wave will pass, the next time it hits, you are more likely to be able to move with it.

Sonia's final words are powerful, and so, so true:

Breathe into  it.  it'll make you feel better.

Breathe into  it.  it'll make you feel better.