Anxiety, medication & meditation

May 25, 2011

Judging from the number of people I know who have prescriptions for Xanax, anxiety seems to be a constant today. I’m no stranger to it; several decades ago I had a bad case, myself.

It’s hard to say if we’re unhappy because we’re anxious, or we’re anxious because we’re unhappy. It takes time and hard work to unfold all the layers to expose what’s deep within. The root is important to know, though, because fixing it usually depends on what’s there.

If nerves are more than just the occasional jitters, it’s important see a physician. If s/he fails to find a physical cause, a good one will refer a patient for a psychological or even psychiatric workup. Sometimes, meds are necessary, maybe short term, maybe longer.

But, I do think they are overused.

We’d all like fixing what ails us to be as simple as taking a pill. Believe me, I have a few things that I’d like to cure with meds and trust, me, I’ve tried. {I admit I’ve broken into the dog’s stash of valium when I was desperate to sleep}

But I had to ask myself, “are meds an easy, temporary fix for something in my life that I can handle a different way? What are the long-term effects of taking pills that alter my brain chemistry, especially if there is no physical cause?”

Sometimes doctors and shrinks prescribe meds because they don’t know what else to do. When my mother died years ago, I had a hard time with grief. I saw a therapist who believed my grief had gone on too long. She sent me for anti-depressants.

I went along with it because I trusted her, but when side effects (made me jittery) kicked in, I quickly stopped. Grief takes as long as it takes, I learned, and meds weren’t going to change that. I turned to meditation, instead.

Sometimes we find that underpinning our unhappiness is an unsatisfying job or relationship, problems with our children or some other non-physical cause. Perhaps we’re lonely or bored. Meds aren’t going to change much in those cases. Just like each of these roses is just a little different, so are we. And sometimes the treatment is worse than the disease.

Meditation is something that isn’t gong to change a dysfunctional family situation. But it can make us feel better and best of all, it has no side effects.

Here’s the problem with meditation: we have to do it.

Yeah, I know. Easier said than done.

We have to set time aside every day — 15 minutes, more if we can– to meditate. The benefits are well-known. Meditating can help depression, insomnia, hypertension, chronic pain and a host of other ailments.

But it’s a discipline. Even though I love it, it’s a hard habit to keep. Like any other practice we try to establish: it takes a while.

Here’s a suprising form of meditation: hypnotherapy, which elicits the same relaxed state. Clinical hypnotherapists work on all sort of issues –childbirth, stress management, depression, motivation, smoking, weight loss. I know one who works with Olympic athletes. Hypnotherapy is something we can do ourselves, quickly and easily.

The results I had with the technique –which began immediately– surprised me.
So here’s what I’d say:

If you’re troubled, unhappy or anxious, or even all of these things, and you know it isn’t a physical problem, give meditation or even hypnotherapy a try. Some people can do this easily, without help. Some need more of a structure. There are many excellent audio files that can help. Since I find it hard to meditate without a guide, I still use the CDs I got from my meditation teacher all those years ago.

Anxiety’s part of our world today and so are the pills that treat it. But neither of them have to be.

Meditation CDs I use at
**Roses from the award-winning San Jose Municipal Rose Garden

One comment on “Anxiety, medication & meditation
  1. Paxil Lawsuit says:

    Overcoming anxiety can be a lot of work. It’s not that easy to get out of an anxious state. Though antidepressants would help, it is best if one undergoes psychotherapy and yes, meditation.

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