Anxiety is awful. If you suffer a prolonged period of intense anxiety, where you struggle to take control of your intrusive thoughts, it can go some way to scar you. Like, I never want to feel that way ever again. Then, when you feel the slightest onset of those same, uneasy feelings, you can jump straight into panic mode that it's all coming back again.
And so begins...the anxiety cycle. Getting anxious about feeling anxious. Suffering anxiety about the possible arrival of anxiety. It's ridiculous, really, when you think about it. But that doesn't make it any less real.
If you suffer from this kind of anxiety-inducing cycle, one thing that might make you feel better is to consider that this is actually quite a normal pattern of behavior for humans. Speaking to Cosmopolitan, founder of meditation app Headspace, Andy Puddicombe, explains: "It's a really well-established route and pattern, and it's not specific to anxiety. People will get irritable about feeling irritable, for example, or we might get sad about feeling sad.
"The reason I say that is because I think when we experience or suffer from a particular pattern like that, it's really easy to think that we are the only person that's having it. But actually, it's common to humankind and it always has been," reassures Andy.
So there's one thing: It's completely normal to feel anxious about being anxious, in the same way you might incite any negative emotion if you dwell on the thought of it too much.
But if that knowledge isn't enough to help break the cycle, then Andy Puddicombe believes meditation may do the trick. It's all about subtly encouraging your mind to calm down, and rewinding from the catastrophizing.
"Meditation creates a feeling of space and in that space the mind can start to calm down," Andy tells Cosmopolitan. "As we shift the attention into the body, then this begins to happen. In the absence of focusing on anxiety and simply placing our focus on a physical sensation, your heart rate starts to slow down, the production of chemicals starts to slow down and breathing starts to slow down. That sends signals to the body that there's no need to panic, to relax."
Taking the time to be mindful about your body through meditation will detach yourself from the chaos of your mind, and should have the consequence of reducing the physical symptoms of anxiety that make you feel uneasy.
The way the Headspace founder puts it actually makes complete sense:
"If we engage with our anxiety, it excites us in some way. I know that sounds strange but there is a certain level of excitement in it, or interest in it. Even if we don't like it, it's like we can't help ourselves."
Andy explains that we either tend to chase after an uncomfortable thought, or we resist it due to fear of what it might mean. But either way, he says, "We're creating tension. We are creating a lot of movement and a lot of activity and effort in the mind.
"With meditation, we can learn just to sit back instead and those thoughts will pass by. They will do their own thing and you don’t really have to worry about any of them."
When you think about it like that, maybe anxiety is manageable after all.
You can find out more about the Headspace app for iOS or Android here.
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This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com/uk. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.