A Guided Meditation for Panic and Anxiety Disorders with Hypochondria

Meditation is often touted as a great solution for alleviating anxiety and stress. And it can be, but for those of us who have anxiety disorders, meditation and stillness runs counter-intuitive to our body’s natural desire to run and distract ourselves whenever we’re alone with our thoughts. I wanted to share something that has really helped me be able to use meditation and mindfulness as a tool for relaxation rather than a stimulus for panic.

One of the common threads throughout most meditative practices is the breath. We are to slow down our breathing and concentrate deeply on the in and out cycle. I don’t know about any of you, but as someone who struggles with some hypochondria and health anxiety in general, the last thing I want to do is pay attention to my breathing or heart beat. The hyper focusing on particular sensations in the body can immediately send me into panic mode.

My solution? To imagine breathing not as “breathing” but as air filling up an external object that has nothing to do with keeping you alive. I have found that a balloon is a great object that is easy to visualize. It can be relaxing in itself by evoking a playful memory of childhood. Everyone can remember the fun and wonder of seeing a balloon being filled up by helium. Probably best to think of it as air so you don’t visualize yourself breathing in helium and start imagining you’ve been poisoned, are light-headed, dizzy, and talking in a squeaky voice…Yep, our anxious thoughts can be that messed up. Here are the steps I take:

  1. Start in a comfortable position.
  2. Place your hand or hands on your belly close to your diaphragm.
  3. Begin visualizing your belly as a balloon…flat and void of air at the end of your breath out and being filled up with air and rounded as your stomach expands with each breath.
  4. It helps me to actually picture a helium tank in front of me and sliding an empty balloon on the nozzle and seeing the balloon get bigger as my lungs fill with air.
  5. Once I’ve filled my “balloon”, I pull it off the nozzle and see myself pinch the end of the balloon to make sure no air escapes and hold it there for a second or two (pausing my breath at the same time).
  6. Then, I start to slowly let air out of the balloon (and lungs) with my fingers still pinching slightly so all the air doesn’t come out at once. I even try to hear the sound of a deflating balloon as I’m breathing out to be completely in the moment.
  7. Once my balloon becomes completely empty I spend a second putting the balloon back on the nozzle of the tank (pausing my breath) and repeat the process.

Hopefully, this helps some people that struggle with the breathing portion of meditation or have been avoiding it because it feels like confronting fear rather than a relaxing activity. Your breath is important, but this exercise allows you to breathe correctly but still think about an external object to keep health anxiety at bay.

-Justin Farley

Hello, everyone! I have recently published my first chapbook of Christian poems titled “A Voice in the Wilderness – A Chapbook of Poems about God”. This has been developed and polished over the past six months or so. I am happy with the final product and hope you find encouragement in the poems but also a validation that the spiritual life is not all sunshine and rainbows. We all struggle. We all have periods of questions and/or doubt. But it is the yearning that keeps us coming back for more and allows us to experience joy.
You can purchase either on Amazon or on my own bookstore (it is cheaper and has free shipping on my store) and is available on the Kindle and in paperback.
Amazon: Kindle Paperback
Inkspiration Books (my bookstore): Paperback

Thank you for your support!

Losing Myself Poem About Mental Illness and Recovery

Losing Myself

I’m losing myself in pieces –
every year fragments of my soul
feel swept away by time.

My identity constantly decreases,
and I’m beginning to feel like a stranger
within the confines of my own mind.

Yes, I’m losing myself in pieces –
the jigsaw puzzle’s lovely image
has jumbled into an abstract mess.

But my search for meaning never ceases.
I continue holding the lantern,
calling out to myself in the darkness.

I’m searching for the lost pieces –
putting myself back together
one discovery at a time.

With faith, hope increases,
and despite being far from perfect,
I’m able to begin recovery’s climb.

-Poem Written by Justin Farley

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Poem about Depression, Anxiety, and Bipolar Disorder

Wavering Emotions

What pulls me out of bed in the morning?
What lies beyond the break of day?
Some days find me bouncing to work,
others a struggle to summon the energy to play.

How do I slay this elusive dragon
that renders me depressed and without drive?
My heart longs and desires to flourish,
but my mind is merely trying to survive.

There’s scenes of prosperity
but always followed by a pauper’s act.
My heart always seems to know where it’s going,
but my mind constantly derails me off the tracks.

How do I muzzle the black dog’s barking?
How do I train him to submit by my side?
Some days find me rejoicing at life’s invitation,
others a constant desire to lock my doors and hide.

-Poem Written by Justin Farley

Internal Fire – A Poem

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Smoke fills the lungs.
Warning signals run in desperation to alert the mind
in a race that’s become all too familiar.
Flames engulf my entrails
like dry twigs thrown on a campfire on an August night.
In frantic panic, eyes search for aid,
but people pass by as if nothing were amiss.
Surely someone must feel the heat…
Can’t anyone see the fire that burns bright in these eyes?
Doesn’t anyone know the smell of the human spirit
cooking in the oven of fear or hear it’s cry,
wailing when touched by the torch
like a colonial witch burned at the stake?

My mind is already alight,
pulsing in agony,
raging like a wounded animal hobbling through the forest,
flapping my wings like a madman trying to put out invisible flames.
I wait out the blaze until every drop of fuel
has been burnt up within me.
My mind is now only simmering instead of boiling.
My brain’s fire has had it’s excess oxygen removed and dwindles.
But the coals of Hell have taken their toll.
I have been branded,
internally marked as different from society –
part man, part beast,
forced to carry these hideous scars,
these burns that have been seared upon my soul,
feeling like a traveling circus on display for all to see.

The internal fire is felt,
but remains unseen.
Daily situations necessary for living in modern society
are tiny sparks that land upon the mind’s kindling,
never knowing when flames will roar up
and engulf my essence once again,
always burning with too much heat,
and I never have enough water.

-Poem Written by Justin Farley

Living With Fear – A Poem About Anxiety Disorder and Mental Illness

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Living With Fear – A Poem About Anxiety and Mental Illness

Close your eyes.
Keep yourself blind
To the hideous beast
That hides beneath this veil of security.

Pretend you can’t see me
For who I am –
A scared, frightened, shell of a man
Raging in the solitude of fear’s prison.

I can’t even stand the vision
That stares back at me in the mirror,
So how could I expect you to accept me?
How could I expect you not to judge me?

I only wish that for one day you could see
What it feels like to crawl within my skin,
What it feels like to loose it all –
Everything you’ve ever loved, ever dreamed to your own mind.

Finding myself racing around trying to make up lost time –
The minutes, hours, days cowered in the corner,
Just wishing the world would fade away
And this anxiety would leave me in peace.

The attacks may subside, but the restlessness doesn’t cease,
Always waiting to jump me unexpectedly
Like a mugger in a dark, deserted street,
Leaving me helpless and penniless, staring death in the face.

How do I mingle and mix with the human race
When I know my revelations will label me an outcast and crazy fool?
How do I look confidently into another’s eyes
When inside my soul shrieks and my heart beats through my chest?

Where can my soul find rest
In a world of strangers
Who would surely laugh and jest
At the man beneath the mask?

How do I keep from being labeled an outcast
And not notice the eyes jeering at me like I’m a psychotic loon,
Pretending to understand, but keeping their distance,
With no desire to get close enough to help me clean up my mess?

How do I bear being labeled lazy when I’m doing my best
Just to make it through the day, make it out the door,
To achieve some level of normalcy,
And not get crushed beneath the weight of my fears?

Will they ever understand when my mind rears
Its ugly head and leaves me panicking,
Breathing in short gasps pleading,
“Can we please leave now?”

Will they ever understand how
It feels to be locked in a prison of your own being,
Pacing the hours away, wishing somehow
You could find a way to escape invisible bars?

Will they ever not be horrified at the scars
That cover the face of my soul?
Can they ever comfort me at my worst
And not run from the beast before their eyes?

So do you blame me from hiding this storm inside?
Do you know the shame I sleep with,
Always feeling like a monster –
A freak drowning in a sea of normalcy?

But this is me.
And no amount of hiding can change who I am.
I am a scared, frightened, shell of a man
Terrified of the world finding out how weak I am.

-Poem Written by Justin Farley


*Painting “The Scream” by Edvard Munch