There's A Reason You May Get Antsy During Meditation — A Psychologist Explains
Jamie Schneider is the Beauty & Wellness Editor at mindbodygreen, covering beauty and wellness. She has a B.A. in Organizational Studies and English from the University of Michigan, and her work has appeared in Coveteur, The Chill Times, and Wyld Skincare.
Ever feel impatient, anxious, or even angry during meditation? You're certainly not alone: Even if you wholeheartedly believe in the powerful practice, sometimes (or, let's be real, most times) you just can't seem to sit still. You may even berate yourself for the inability to clear your mind, or you may think meditation just doesn't click with your head space.
It's a scenario psychologist and certified yoga teacher Gail Parker, Ph.D., C-IAYT, E-RYT 500, sees all the time: "You may feel antsy at first, like you really don't want to be doing this and want to jump out of your skin," she shares on the mindbodygreen podcast. Although, this very reaction is exactly why you shouldn't give it up! In fact, there's an important reason you feel jittery during meditation, and it's a crucial step toward true bliss.
Why you may feel antsy during meditation.
"People often say: 'Well, I don't like to meditate because it makes me nervous,' or 'I don't like to be still because it makes me nervous.' No, what you're discovering is how nervous you are, how jittery you are." Meaning, the practice itself isn't what's making you feel antsy—you were already feeling jittery to begin with, and meditation is propelling those feelings up to the surface.
Plus, according to Parker, feeling like you can't sit still is a likely sign you need that meditation practice. As she tells us, releasing stress and tension oftentimes isn't too pretty. Sure, you may feel a sense of relief afterward (sometimes a very tangible physical release, as she explains here). But while you're actually in the throes of that inner work? It's uncomfortable—and that's a good sign! It means you're finally freeing your body from all those negative emotions. "The work is to learn to tolerate the discomfort of healing," she notes. Only then will you be able to truly relax.
So, if meditation seemingly makes you more anxious, she recommends embracing that discomfort. Sit still with it, even if it's for a mere five minutes: "If five minutes is all you can tolerate, that's fine," she says. "Then you can extend the time. If you can sit in stillness long enough, you will begin to increase your tolerance for stillness until you can reach a point of coming into deep relaxation."
If you feel impatient or irritated during meditation, don't write it off and declare the practice isn't for you—according to Parker, that discomfort is a sign you probably really need it. Try to tap into those emotions and work through them; it might feel unpleasant in the moment, but that's what releasing stress is all about, no?
Jamie Schneider is the Beauty & Wellness Editor at mindbodygreen. She has a B.A. in Organizational Studies and English from the University of Michigan, and her work has appeared in Coveteur, The Chill Times, and Wyld Skincare. In her role at mbg, she reports on everything from the top beauty industry trends, to the gut-skin connection and the microbiome, to the latest expert makeup hacks. She currently lives in New York City.