Meditation. Spirituality. Purpose. These concepts, when practiced or realized, make you feel calmer. They serve as stress-relievers, putting to rest even the most terrifying of anxiety attacks. Edmund J. Bourne, in his book The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook, helps you counteract the negative impact of anxiety and stress by showing you how to meditate, how to embrace spirituality, and how to discover your ultimate life’s purpose.
For a while, I meditated for an hour a day every day. Anxiety tortured me so much that I thought meditating for hours daily would lessen the severity of attacks. Whenever I felt anxiety stir, I would meditate. Yet, the meditation didn’t stop the attacks. My eyes fluttered madly as I meditated and my thoughts raced. I couldn’t escape the grip of panic.
Meditation helps me the most when I practice it during a good headspace. That way, when anxiety first creeps in, I can use my deep breathing skills to help prevent a full-blown episode. While meditating during an anxiety attack doesn’t work for me, meditating when I’m not panicked helps keep me grounded during the day, more resilient against the onset of anxiety.
I do single nostril breathing, which I recommend. You plug one nostril, breath in, then plug both and hold, then plug the other nostril, and, finally, breathe out. Then you repeat in reverse. It’s as simple as that.
Bourne gives advice on how to meditate to relieve anxiety. First, meditate without judging your thoughts. If you allow your thoughts to rise and then fall, returning your focus on your breath, then guilt, worry, shame, or anger won’t overwhelm you. Second, practice meditation regularly so that it can tweak your brain and make you a nicer, more relaxed, easy-going person. Third, sit cross legged, preferably on a meditation pillow, and breathe deeply for twenty to thirty minutes, seven days a week. If a thought or a feeling arises, say to yourself, “This is only a thought” or “This is only a feeling.” Let it pass. As my OCD book says: “You are not your thoughts.”
When I lacked faith in a higher power, I didn’t have a solid source of moral guidance. Without a clear sense of right and wrong, I would behave in ways I wouldn’t behave to this day. When my life hit a low point, a very special person entered my life, teaching me the value of spirituality. Since then, I’ve read much Buddhism, Christianity, Sikhism, and Hinduism, and learned a lot about rights and wrongs, good deeds and bad deeds?the values that transcend every culture, every religion.
Putting these values into practice meant refraining from gossip. It meant helping the needy. It meant seeking forgiveness for both your own actions and those of others. It meant loving one another, no matter how unlovely a person may seem.
Edmund J. Bourne talks about the values of living a spiritual life. Choose a higher power, whether it be God or sunrises or anything under the sun that takes your breath away. By developing your spirituality, you will discover greater self-confidence, more opportunities to give and receive unconditional love, and better guidance for decisions you make.
This world, Earth, is like a school. You learn lessons from mistakes, from opportunities, and you grow from them. The worst events of your life are learning opportunities. Embrace them.
Discovering Your Purpose
I recently had a panic attack every three days. The attacks would pounce out of nowhere, leaving me scribbling in my journal at a frenetic pace in an attempt to calm down. When even a slightly stressful thought occurred to me, the anxiety would attack. When panic struck, I could no longer concentrate. My thoughts were shrouded with fear.
When I started writing for several magazines, I came alive. I felt purpose driven. I always loved the media. I worked at a news station for a while and could hardly wait for each opportunity to hoist my video camera over my shoulder. I found a sense of purpose working in the media.
Also, day after day, I work toward my dream of one day getting a PhD. I read the dictionary nightly, write daily, study often. Again, I feel purpose-driven.
My increased sense of purpose has served as a buffer against anxiety. I went about three months without an anxiety attack at the time of editing this piece. All of the purposefulness I now feel has stopped the anxiety in its tracks.
Bourne tells it all on how to reduce anxiety through a purpose-filled life. Many people discover their purpose, however, in creative pursuits or in career changes. So, figure out whether your job leaves you refreshed, whether you want more education, whether your hobbies excite you or bore you. Also, make sure your goals align with your values. That’s a big one. Reward yourself after completing even small goals.
Bourne challenges you to take a final thought experiment: get out a sheet of paper and write down your ideal life. Write it up so that your chest swells and you feel giddy just thinking about it. This thought experiment will lead you closer to your calling. Go on. Take five minutes now and do this.