Soothing Anxiety with Cannabis-Infused Meditations & Practice

See the sights (2)Everyone experiences anxiety at one point or another, which can vary from persistent worrying to self-consciousness or fear. Anxiety can occur when the thoughts in your mind are not rooted in the present moment, but there are times when a little anxiety is useful. Feeling anxious can help us be aware of danger and as a result we make life saving choices, but most of the time anxiety is an irrational and all consuming emotion. The experience can be so immersive that you focus solely on the symptoms and lose sight of what the root cause of the anxiety might be.

Regular meditation can help practitioners attain another way of perceiving and relating to reality which is useful for people who suffer from anxiety. The physiological state brought about by meditation is the complete opposite of the state brought about by anxiety as it promotes deep relaxation, and decreases heart and respiratory rates which culminates to a less anxious mind state (as cited in LeShan, Lawrence L., How to Meditate: a Guide to Self-Discovery, 2017, p. 43). Meditation also activates the left prefrontal cortex which has been correlated with greater levels of happiness, more flexibility in outlook, and a temperament that is harder to anger or fluster.

Contrary to some beliefs that cannabis causes anxiety, many people feel relief as it cannabis can diminish chronic affect (fear, anxiety, anger) and replace it with a gentle attitude, an easy smile, and more optimistic outlook, so can be extremely complementary to your mindfulness practice and diminish anxiety.

With consistent practice, the tips and medicated meditations shared below will help you become aware and more sensitive of your internal processes. As soon as you sense anxiety creeping in, you might use a breathing technique, mantra, or specific cannabis strain to slow it down. Developing your awareness allows you to tap into emotions earlier, giving yourself a chance to analyze feelings of anxiety before getting swept away in thought.

Before you dig in, here are some things to remember…

  • Unless you are congested, always breathe through the nose during meditation. The nasal passages are narrower than the mouth and offer more resistance and control to the airflow which lengthens exhales and lowers your respiratory rate. Both of which have a calming affect on the mind.
  • If closing your eyes during meditation exacerbates your anxiety or increases mind chatter, keep your eyes open and find a soft gaze just beyond your nose.
  • Meditation is not about clearing your mind of thoughts. The idea is to acknowledge all thoughts (positive and negative) without judgement, to listen to your thoughts without becoming so attached that you identify as them, then to let those thoughts go. Meditation is about developing a better relationship with your mind fluctuations as opposed to denying or pushing them down.
  • Experiment. If one thing isn’t working for you, try something else.
  • If you notice that your attention has wavered, simply return your focus to the breath.

5 Medicated Meditations

I personally like to practice these kinds of meditations with an indica strain, which brings more stimulation to the body than the mind. Each strain shows up differently from person to person, so be sure to know how the plant affects you before combining with meditation as meditation increases the intensity of being high. Take a hit, wait 10 minutes and see how you feel. Check back in with yourself and stay with this, or keep adding more at this frequency. The mindful practice starts with listening to your body with this plant. 

  1. Diaphragmatic breathing

Slow breathing is calming to the nervous system, so if you change the way you breathe, you change the way you feel and the connection between mind and breath is never as apparent than with anxiety.

People with anxiety often have anxiety-cause muscle restriction so tend to have more shallow breathing and might feel like they can’t take a full breath. With this meditation focused on the breath (which is also good for quieting mental chatter) the focus is on diaphragmatic breathing.

  • Find a comfortable seated position.
  • Start to follow the movement of your breath, letting it flow naturally for a few cycles.
  • On your next inhale, start the breath from your belly, then draw further breath into your chest.
  • Pause when you are full.
  • Gently draw your stomach in as you exhale slowly, visualizing a wave of breath. from stomach to chest and out of your nose.
  • Notice the expansion of your belly and ribs on your inhale.
  • Pay attention to the fluid motion of your breath.
  • Tune in to the exact moment your inhale becomes an exhale.
  • Focus on the fine details of how the breath feels in your body.
  • Notice if the in breath and out breath are equally smooth and of similar length.

Stay with the practice for 2 to 5 minutes.

2. Sandbag Breathing

If slowing down your breath is frustrating or increases your anxiety, sandbag breathing is a great alternative and can train your abdominal muscles for deeper breathing and relief muscle tension.

  • Lay on your back in savasana, feel free to elevate your knees for low back relief and/or support you neck with a blanket.
  • Notice your natural breathing for a few cycles, without trying to alter it.
  • Place a 5lbs sandbag on your stomach (or use a bag of rice or something else of similar weight) and continue to lay in savasana.
  • Breathe deeply, bringing more focus to your exhales. The weight of the bag will make your exhales more rushed, so see if you can control the speed in which the bag falls by slowing your breath.
  • Relax your shoulders, jaw, and face and let the sensation of your exhales feel passive.

Stay with the practice for 5 to 10 minutes.

3. Crocodile Breathing

This meditation uses diaphragmatic breath while laying on the stomach to bring awareness to the contraction and expansion of your abdominal muscles as breathe. This is a great alternative if the weight of a sandbag is uncomfortable.

  • Lay on your stomach with your forearms crossed. Place your forehead down onto your arms, using them like a pillow. Bring a slight pressure to the space between your eyebrows.
  • Let your feet be apart from each other, taking up space with the inner edges on the floor.
  • Start your diaphragmatic belly-chest-pause breathing
  • Your inhales fill and nourish, and your exhales release and empty.
  • Bring your focus to the slight arch in your back with each out breath. Soften your back muscles and allow the breath to flow without resistance.
  • Draw your senses to the back of your lungs expanding with each in breath.
  • Soften the space around your navel.
  • Notice your inhales gently expand your abdomen and exhales gently contract it.
  • Be the witness to your own breath.

Stay with the practice for 5 to 10 minutes.

4. 1:2 Breathing

Extended exhales calm the parasympathetic nervous system and are very relaxing.

  • Find a comfortable seated position or lay down with one hand on your stomach and the other on your chest.
  • Notice the natural flow of your breath for a few cycles so it can settle into a pattern
  • Start to count the length of your inhales and exhales, ideally they should be the same length at this point.
  • Take note of how many counts you take to complete a full inhale.
  • If you usually inhale for 4 counts, increase your exhale by 1 count. Keep increasing the length of your exhale by 1 until you are inhaling for 4 counts and exhaling for 8. Do this with a slow, smooth breath and only if you’re not short of breath while doing so.

Stay with the practice for 2 to 5 minutes.

5. Mantra Meditation

Repeating a mantra can be more grounding than focusing on the breath. One mantra I like to repeat during times of anxiety is “Everything is temporary.” It’s grounding, accurate, and brings me into the present moment. Ultimately, a mantra is most powerful when it is a phrase that speaks to you, so choose what works for you.

  • Find a comfortable seat and start to notice your breath flow.
  • Gently repeat your mantra in your mind with each inhale and exhale.
  • Let the mantra fill your being on your inhale, and come into existence on your exhale.
  • If you notice that your attention has wavered, simply return your focus to the breath.

Stay with the practice for 5 to 10 minutes.

5 Alternative Methods to Soothe Anxiety

  1. Look honestly at what is. Understand whether you are contributing to your anxiety with habitual thought patterns, behavior, or have any unresolved conflicts. This facilitates detaching from thoughts and beginning to see them more clearly, and creates a new relationship to the way you’re identifying with negative thoughts.
  2. Practice “ishvara pranidhana”, surrendering to the universe. Give up the illusion of control. With anxiety there is a moment where you can let go and all of that fear becomes exhilaration.
  3. Know your subjective therapeutic window when using cannabis for anxiety. Everybody is different so what may relieve anxiety for some may exacerbate anxiety in others, so it’s important to know what works for you. Your subjective therapeutic window is the optimal amount and type of cannabis you need to relieve symptoms. Using below your therapeutic threshold is ineffective and using too much may worsen the very symptoms you are trying to alleviate. The best way to discover your window is to start with low doses and go slow.
  4. Try inverted and heart-opening yoga poses. Shapes like legs-up-the-wall pose, supported bridge, and supported fish pose are easy to do at home and can be very calming when approached with deep breath and a balanced mind state.
  5. Be curious. You may not be able to control what is causing your anxiety, but you do have control over how you respond to it. Instead of anxious, choose to be curious instead. What can be learned from this situation? What does anxiety tell you about yourself, about others, or the values you hold dear? What underlying thoughts or events keep popping back into your subconscious and causing anxiety?

With any or all of these mindful exercises the sense of ease created can grow over time as you continue to practice, because just as anxious thoughts can dig deep grooves, a steady practice and the change in attitude that accompany it can also deepen with repetition.

Stay tuned into my YouTube channel next Friday for a medicated meditation and gentle yoga session to let go of anxiety, especially if you have more mental symptoms of anxiety that movement may be more beneficial for than a seated meditation. This was an in-depth post so a week to set an intention of letting go of old thought patterns and put some of these exercises in practice may be a nice way to gain understanding of the practice to get the most out of an online class.

I hope you find this article useful!

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