5 Guided Meditations to Investigate Panic and Anxiety

The idea of reconnecting with the outside world right now can be stressful and overwhelming. Explore these five guided meditations for softening feelings of anxiousness and calming panic.

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Unprecedented, uncertain—these are terms we’ve heard used in excess over the past few months of living through a global pandemic. But no matter how tiring uncertainty may be, one thing remains true: We’ve all had to adapt to changing circumstances the best we can and as fast as we can.

Now, we’re facing yet another shift. Coronavirus restrictions are slowly easing and new stresses about going back to work, socializing while socially distanced, and what this all means are on the rise. If you’re finding yourself overwhelmed about reconnecting with the outside world, here are five guided meditations worth following to ease anxiety and calm panic

5 Guided Meditations to Investigate Panic and Anxiety

1. A Meditation for Investigating Panic Attacks

30-Minute Meditation to Calm Panic with Bob Stahl

  • 30:05
  1. First, congratulate yourself that you are dedicating some precious time for meditation.
  2. Become aware of your body and mind and whatever you are carrying within you. Perhaps there are feelings from the day’s events or whatever has been going on recently.
  3. May you simply allow and acknowledge whatever is within you and let it be, without any form of analysis.
  4. Gradually, shift the focus of awareness to the breath, breathing normally and naturally. As you breathe in, be aware of breathing in, and as you breathe out, be aware of breathing out.
  5. Awareness can be focused at either the tip of the nose or the abdomen, depending on your preference. If focusing at the tip of the nose, feel the touch of the air as you breathe in and out… If focusing on the abdomen, feel the belly expanding on an inhalation and contracting on an exhalation.
  6. Breathing in, breathing out, experiencing each breath appearing and disappearing. Just breathing. And now gently withdraw awareness from the breath and shift to mindful inquiry.
  7. Mindful inquiry is an investigation into emotions, thoughts, and physical sensations that are driving your panic, anxieties, and fears, often beneath the surface of your awareness. There is a special and unique way of doing this practice that can foster the potential for deep understanding and insight.
  8. When you practice mindful inquiry, gently direct your attention into the bodily feeling of panic or fear itself. Allow yourself to bring nonjudgmental awareness into the experience of it, acknowledging whatever it feels like in the body and mind and letting it be.
  9. To begin this exploration you need to first check in with yourself and determine whether it feels safe or not. If you don’t feel safe, perhaps it is better to wait and try another time, and just stay with your breathing for now.
  10. If you are feeling safe, then bring awareness into the body and mind and allow yourself to acknowledge any physical sensations, emotions, or thoughts. Then, just let them be…without trying to analyze or figure them out.
  11. You may discover that within these feelings there’s a multitude of thoughts, emotions, or old memories that are fueling your fears. When you begin to acknowledge what has not been acknowledged, the pathway of insight and understanding may arise. As you turn toward your emotions, they may show you what you are panicked, worried, mad, sad, or bewildered about.
  12. You may learn that the very resistance to unacknowledged emotions often causes more panic or fear and that learning to go with it, rather than fighting it, often diminishes them. When we say “go with it,” we mean that you allow and acknowledge whatever is within the mind and body. Just letting the waves of emotions, thoughts, and physical sensations go wherever they need to go just like the sky makes room for any weather.
  13. Now gently return to the breath, being mindful of breathing in and out…riding the waves of the breath.
  14. As you come to the end of this meditation, take a moment to congratulate yourself and take a moment to appreciate the safety and ease you may be feeling right now that you can bring into your day. By acknowledging your fears, you may open the possibility for deeper understanding, compassion, and peace. Before you get up, gently wiggle your fingers and toes and gradually open your eyes, being fully aware here and now.
  15. Send some loving-kindness your way. May I dwell in peace. May all beings dwell in peace.

2. A Meditation to Create Space Between You and Your Anxiety

16-Minute Meditation to Create Space with Jessica Morey

  • 16:30
  1. When you’re ready, come into a comfortable seated position. Let’s take some breaths here. Find your ground by feeling your feet on the floor beneath you. Feel your body touching the chair or cushion you’re on. Really allow yourself to settle into this: Feel gravity, and release your weight toward gravity. Let’s take a few deeper breaths now. If you are already feeling anxious, it can be helpful to really extend the exhale. Take a nice, long inhale, then very much emphasize the exhale.
  2. Explore how you’re feeling right now. If you’re feeling anxious right now, it’s a great opportunity to practice. But if not, bring to mind a time recently when you felt some kind of fear, anxiety, worry, or agitation. Recall the situation or conversation. Just remember that event, and as you do, you might start to notice anxious thoughts emerging in your mind. You might also start to notice some related sensations in your body.
  3. Open your attention wide. Before we turn toward the anxiety more fully, let’s first open our attention wide. Here’s where we can use A.W.E. (And What Else?) Just notice. You may be feeling anxiety right now, but let’s direct our attention away from that and actively explore our senses.
  4. Open your eyes and look around. If your eyes are closed, I invite you to open them to look around the space you’re in. Simply orient yourself. And now notice three things that you see in the space around you. They can be very neutral or even pleasant things—flowers, an image. Simply describe them to yourself in your mind: the colours, shapes, forms.
  5. Turn your attention to the sounds around you. Once you’ve noticed three things visually and described them to yourself, turn your attention to hearing. Allow your attention to settle on the sounds around you. Listen for three different sounds; they can be near or far. Emphasize pleasant or neutral sounds. And, again, describe them to yourself: notice the vibration, the tone, how they arise and then pass. 
  6. Now, let’s turn our attention to taste. This might be a little more challenging, but just notice: Can you detect any flavour in your mouth? Maybe something you ate before starting this practice? Toothpaste? Just notice what it’s like to taste.
  7. Now, turn your attention to your sense of smell. You might take in a deeper breath here. Just notice: Can you detect any scent in the space around you? Notice how they can shift and change with each breath.
  8. And finally, let’s move to the sense of touch. Beginning on the outer surface of our skin, feel the contact with the chair or the ground. If your hands are touching or resting against your body, just feel that sensation. It’s very simple: What do you notice when you turn your attention toward your hands touching? Feel the contact of your clothes with your body. Feel the temperature of the air on your skin. What can you notice?
  9. If you have the energy and some space now, turn your attention toward the felt sense of anxiety. If you feel the need for more space at any time, simply keep turning your attention outward: the sounds, the sights—wherever it feels calming and grounding for you to attend in your senses. When you do feel ready to explore, turn your attention to the felt sense: How do you notice anxiety? Where do you feel it in your body? Take a breath and notice where you feel it. Maybe it’s in your belly? See if you can notice the details, too: Is it throbbing or tingling? What’s the energy like? Within the sensation of anxiety, does it feel like there’s a lot of movement? Does it shift and change as you pay attention to it?
  10. Can you gently relax around the feeling of anxiety or fear? Think of the rest of your body holding this feeling with a lot of care. Pay close attention, explore, be curious: How does anxiety show up? How is it shifting? If at any point it becomes overwhelming or you get lost in thinking and find you’re unable to stay with the sensations, simply go to And What Else: Notice the sights around you. Notice the sounds. Feel the ground.
  11. If you are able to pay attention to this sense of anxiety, simply noticing it, let’s drop in a question. Staying with the felt sense of this fear, anxiety, worry, or agitation, just ask: What do you need? What do you want me to know? What are you trying to offer me? Just see what answers, images, words arise here. We’re asking ourselves here: What do I need?
  12. As we close out the meditation, see if you can commit to doing something to address that need you’ve identified. Alternatively, simply remember the information that has arisen for you during this practice. And now, if you’re ready, take a few deeper breaths. Soften your body slightly. Feel the seat under you, the ground under you.

3. A Meditation for Working with Anxiety

20-Minute Anxiety Practice with Hugh Byrne

  • 22:24
  1. To begin, sit in a way that is relaxed, and take a moment to adjust your posture on your seat to one that’s more comfortable. Feel your body in contact with the surface beneath you. 
  2. Allow yourself to experience whatever is present right now. Whatever bodily feelings, mood, emotions, mind states, and thoughts are present. You might take a few deeper breaths to invite the body and the mind to relax and settle. Take a nice full deep in-breath, relaxing, releasing, and letting go on the out-breath. Breathe in, and fill the chest and the lungs with the in-breath. Release and let go on the out-breath. 
  3. As you breathe in, you might invite in a quality of calm. You could repeat the word calm silently to yourself as you breathe in, and then again as you breathe out. Breathe in, calm the body, breathe out, calm the mind. 
  4. When you’re ready, let the breath settle into its natural rhythm, allowing it to be just as it is. Breathe in, breathe out. 
  5. You might invite a smile to the corners of your eyes and the corners of your mouth; a smile sends a message to our brain and to our nervous system that we’re safe and don’t have to be hyper-vigilant. Smiling invites us to relax, and be at ease.
  6. While sitting in a way that is relaxed and alert, you might bring to your mind a situation that is a source of anxiety or stress for you. It might be a work situation, family, health, finances, or it might be a combination of factors. Allow yourself to take in all the feelings, sensations, and emotions, and the overall sense of this situation, in the body and in the mind. Choose not to follow scenarios in your mind about what might happen or things that might go badly, and simply observe your thoughts and let them go. Be open to whatever bodily sensations are present with kindness and acceptance. There might be contraction, heat, tightness, tingling, or pulsing. Whatever is present, say yes to what you’re feeling. Be open to these feelings and let them come and go. Bring a kind awareness to whatever emotions are present, and allow yourself to feel them fully; they might be fear, worry, anxiety, or sadness, to name a few. Let these feelings be as big as they want to be, and say yes to all that you’re feeling. Let your awareness and kind attention hold whatever is pre