Health Anxiety and Meditation – A Different Approach

by | Feb 13, 2022 | Inner Work | 0 comments

Most meditations, including the ones I have led, tend to start with bringing your attention to your breath or your body.

Get centered in the body.
Out of the head and into your body.
Use the breath and the sensations to ground you.

That all sounds well and good, unless the body IS what you are most anxious about.

When dealing with health anxiety, many meditations may have the opposite effect of what you are looking for.

The heightened sensitivity of sitting in meditation makes you more aware of the subtle, and not-so-subtle sensations in the body.

Each one of those feelings can elicit a fear response, and the entire session turns into a trigger-fest rather than a calming escape. This can be especially true if you are dealing with multiple symptoms or conditions at once.

There is nothing wrong with you if this is the case.

You do NOT need to try to power through this.

You do not need to try to keep telling yourself to ‘relax’ as your mind continues to latch onto the different sensations and generate fearful thoughts and images.

You likely just need a different approach.

What we want to find is some way, any way, that you can begin to feel a little bit more safe than you do right now.

Right now, the sensations of the body may not feel safe to you.

It’s OK not to focus on them. It’s OK to put the focus somewhere else entirely.

The Need to Be Vigilant

If you begin to experiment with exercises like the video below, you may also find some resistance to putting attention off of the body.

While the body can appear to be the source of fear (ultimately I believe it is our mind making associations and triggering emotions about the body,) it can feel unsafe to stop focusing on it.

When there are health challenges going on, or a fear based on memory or anticipation, it can feel as though we need to keep a super close eye on everything.

A need to catch every sensation.
A need to try to understand what it is.
A need to know if we should be afraid of it, if it represents something getter worse.
A need to think about whether or not that is something we need to get examined.

There can be a very micro-managing energy that feels as though if it misses anything, there will be a consequence.

Of course, this hyper-vigilance can use a LOT of energy and contribute to stress in its own right, but it can often feel as though it is absolutely necessary for our survival.

One thing we want to practice is very gently allowing there to be a little bit of space.

Taking the attention gently away from part of the body, allowing it to do what it does, and noticing that it functions OK without us needing to track every moment.

You will likely get pulled back in and react to sensations and experiences. That is OK. The point is not to force anything, but to just practice giving this little bit of space.

Learning to trust, through experience rather than theory, that we can be a little less vigilant.

That we can give ourselves moments of space.
Moments, even a second, to not be worried about the sensations of the body.
To notice that when we give the body space to be, testing it through direct experience, that things may actually feel a bit better.

The Intelligence of the Body

I believe that fundamentally the body knows what it is doing, and is unfathomably complex and intelligent. In the process of healing there are many random, chaotic sensations and experiences. This can include things feeling worse before they get better.

That of course is easy to say. When you’re going through something, and you’ve already been through trauma and more, it’s not necessarily something that helps calm you down.

That’s OK.

Just be open to the idea that the body has an intelligence behind it, that whatever force is making trees grow, that allows nature to run in harmony, is also active within us. That we are part of it.

This may help give you additional permission to ‘leave’ the body, to not feel like you have to focus on it. That it can work just fine, possibly much better, without us being so ‘involved.’

An Exercise

Here is the first video exercise around this topic. There is already some discussion in the comments that may be relevant to you as well.

Let me know how this goes for you, and any other thoughts, challenges or insights, as we can expand more and work together on this.

EFT for Not Feeling Safe in the Body

Here is another relevant topic using emotional freedom technique tapping for the feeling of your own body not being safe.

I hope it helps and look forward to hearing from you.

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