Once anxiety takes hold, our nervous system escalates and it can feel like being trapped in a tidal wave. Becoming more aware of the thoughts and emotions that can lead to nervous system escalation is a key step in anxiety management.
One tool that can help you to experiment with gaining awareness of your nervous system is meditation. Now I know that word can set off reactions in people so I’ll clarify what I mean by it. I like Jon Kabat-Zinn’s definition of mindfulness meditation: “paying attention in a particular way on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.”
Easier said than done you might think, and for most of us the non-judgmentally part is especially challenging. It can be tricky to simply observe ourselves without evaluating or judging. There is no ‘right’ way to do this, only figuring out what the experience is like for you.
The aim is just to gather data about your experience, not necessarily to be relaxed. The 3 Minute Meditation experiment is a way to help you get more familiar with your interior space which is part of the journey towards figuring out how to manage your nervous system escalation.
Here are the steps:
- Get something to write on: journal, notes in iPhone, download our meditation tracking form
- Set aside 3 minutes at the same time each day for 5 days
- Find a timer you can set for 3 minutes (there is a free Meditation Timer App available)
- Sit on the floor or on a chair
- Close your eyes and just notice the breath moving in and out of your nose, or notice the sounds around you.
- Not to worry when your thoughts wonder, just gently come back to the breath or the sounds around you.
- After you sit for 3 minutes take a moment to write down what you noticed
- What thoughts did you notice? E.g. ‘Is this ever going to end’, ‘I find this relaxing’, ‘I think this is stupid’, whatever you notice
- Did you notice any feelings? E.g. ‘a part of me is angry’, a part of me is impatient’, ‘a part of me is happy’
- Where there any sensations in your body? E.g. tingling, tension, relaxation, temperature, itchiness, etc
Feel free to ask questions or to post about your experience with the experiment.