ANXIETY is now the most common form of mental illness in Australia and the United States.
Statistics show that 10 per cent of Australians suffer from anxiety disorder at any given time, and over 25 per cent will suffer from the disorder at some time in their lives.
Anxiety is a normal response to stressful situations.
It becomes a disorder when it persists for no apparent rational reason.
It can show up in different forms, such as social anxiety, generalised anxiety, panic disorder, PTSD, phobias, and OCD.
It affects people both mentally and physically, including symptoms such as rapid heartbeat, dizziness, nausea, shortness of breath, tension and more.
The most common ways of treating anxiety disorder are with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and medication.
Another way of dealing with anxiety effectively is through mindfulness based meditation.
The mindfulness approach is all about learning to accept the feeling, without trying to ignore it, deny it or get rid of it.
One simply attends to the feeling as and when it arises, and learns to befriend it.
This sounds simple, but it can be easier said than done.
When an uncomfortable feeling arises in us, our initial reaction is often to try to change it, or talk ourselves out of it.
Mostly we just wish it would go away.
The last thing we want to do is accept it and embrace it.
Yet when we are able to simply be with the feeling, it becomes more manageable.
It becomes less threatening, and we are less likely to be overwhelmed by it.
The act of acceptance provides a safe container for the fear, and softens it into a more manageable state.
Through mindfulness meditation, we learn to observe and hold our feelings—especially uncomfortable feelings such as fear and anxiety.
We learn to accept and greet them with ‘unconditional friendliness’.
In this way we get over the ‘fear of fear itself’, and become more calm and centred with all of our feelings.
In meditation, and also in healing work, we often experience that acceptance is a more powerful healing force than willpower.
Feelings have a life of their own, and will often arise in ways that are beyond the control of the rational mind.
Learning to accept them is the first step in dealing with them effectively.
This approach to anxiety is most effective when it is practiced within the safe container of a support group.
On our own it can be difficult to change old habits.
A useful directory for local support groups can be found at connectgroups.org.au
by FRANK VILAASA
Anahata Wellness Centre