Too Anxious To Meditate? Remember These 4 Tips

Photo: Courtesy of Emily Fletcher

May is both National Mental Health Month and National Meditation Month, and it has me thinking a lot about how the two are related. As a meditation teacher based in New York City, I meet a lot of people who struggle with mental health in some capacity and who are looking for something to help them find peace and balance in their lives. In fact, many of my students first come to meditation because their stress and anxiety are getting in the way of their lives. And, while there are many tools available for achieving better mental health, my favorite is meditation.

Health and happiness are an inside-out job; you have to first create the foundations of wellness in your own head before they show up in your life. Because the bottom line is, it is impossible to live a rom-com of a life when you have a horror flick playing inside your mind. This is where the meditation comes in. Meditation is the fastest tool I know for creating a more peaceful mind. And peaceful does not necessarily mean quiet: The technique we use at Ziva, my studio in Manhattan, has nothing to do with “quieting the mind." (So if you have ever tried meditation and felt like a failure because you couldn't empty your head, then you may dig the style we teach.) If you can’t make it to a Ziva Intro Talk in New York or Los Angeles, you can learn to meditate online with zivaMIND. Here are a few tips for meditating if you’re struggling with anxiety, spinning thoughts, or a stressed-filled head space.

1. Thoughts are not the enemy of meditation. Effort is.

Telling your mind to stop thinking is like telling your heart to stop beating. You will have thoughts while you meditate, and that is OK. What you don’t want to do is try to effortfully push the thoughts away. Instead, let the thoughts float by like clouds, neither cursing them for existing nor trying to grab ahold of them. Simply acknowledge them and then go back to doing your own thing.

2. Gently guide yourself back to the present moment.

Some people end up trying to problem-solve while they’re meditating. Others get caught up thinking about their to-do list. Others still find their heads spinning and fall down a cognitive rabbit hole. If you have anxiety or stressful thoughts, this can be very frustrating. The key here is, when you find yourself off on a trail of thinking, gently guiding yourself back. Don’t flagellate yourself; just acknowledge, “Oh, that’s right, I’m meditating. I’m gonna get back to that.” Once you get in the habit of doing this, the thoughts don’t seem nearly as powerful or intrusive to your meditation.

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3. There is no such thing as a good or bad meditation.

Don’t judge yourself if you feel like you’re “doing it wrong.” We don’t meditate to get good at meditating; we meditate to get good at life. So, you’re having a thought-filled meditation? Yep, that’ll happen sometimes. You think you’re falling asleep while you’re meditating? Cool, let yourself be a sleepy, sloppy meditator. There’s no need for perfectionism in meditation (and in fact, there’s no such thing as perfect anyway).

4. Keep with it!

Your brain is a muscle, and when you meditate you’re taking the brain to the gym. But like any muscle, your brain needs consistent exercise to get stronger. So don’t give up if you don’t see results right away or if you get frustrated at the number of thoughts that you’re having while you’re meditating. It takes practice to build a new habit, and meditation is no exception. But if you stick with it, you’ll end up with a much happier brain.

When you give your body the rest it needs, it knows how to heal itself. Your body functions start to work better, and you find more space in your head. I had a student who likened it to never realizing you need reading glasses. Once you put them on, life comes into sharp focus. So keep taking your brain to the gym, and know that you’re making a valuable investment in your mental health.

Emily Fletcher

Founder of Ziva Meditation
Emily Fletcher is the founder of Ziva Meditation, the world's first online meditation training. Ziva's mission is to make meditation attractive and accessible to modern people who are ready to up-level their performance and their life. Recently featured in the New York Times and regarded as one of the leading experts in Vedic meditation, Emily has been invited by companies like Google, Barclays Bank, Viacom, Chanel, Coca-Cola, and sweetgreen to help up-level company performance through meditation.Emily has had the honor of speaking at Summit Series, Awesomeness Fest, and the Omega Center. She began her nine years of training in Rishikesh, India, and was inspired to teach after experiencing the profound physical and mental benefits meditation provided her during her 10-year career on Broadway, which included roles in Chicago, The Producers, and A Chorus Line. With her high-performance background and intensive meditation training, Emily is perfectly suited to teach busy people how to incorporate meditation and visualization into their life, and she's an mbg course instructor! You can learn with her by joining her course, Guided Visualizations: How to Overcome Your Fears, Excel at Work, and Have Mind-Blowing Sex. She has also created a powerful guided visualization called zivaDETOX. It's a simple, downloadable audio that is designed to help you release thoughts and stress that are not serving you and to get you on the right path to leaving the stress behind. If Ziva sounds charming to you or you want to deepen your daily practice, you can join a global community of meditators and uplift your life from the comfort of your own home.
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Emily Fletcher

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