Good news if you’re among the millions who suffer from anxiety: acupuncture can help. A of 20 randomized controlled trials showed that acupuncture can significantly decrease anxiety — no surprise, since it’s profoundly relaxing for the central nervous system. If you know someone who’s struggling, please encourage them to seek help.

Almost everyone I work with gets a breathing exercise (or several) because breathing is the fastest way to affect the nervous system. When someone is panicking and hyperventilating, the old breathing-into-a-paper-bag trick helps because the person is re-breathing the carbon dioxide-rich air that they’ve just exhaled.

Try this: inhale, and then breathe out all your air and hold your breath on empty. You’ll likely start to feel a little anxious, because the body knows it needs oxygen to breathe. But if we can get used to having higher levels of carbon dioxide circulating in our bodies, it’s easier to stay calm.

To increase your carbon dioxide tolerance –and thus your capacity for calm– try this practice: Inhale through the nose, filling up your low belly and chest. Breathe all the way out through your nose and hold empty as long as you can, up to 30 seconds. Repeat 8 times, once or twice a day. 

Conscious awareness is an amazing thing in that we can direct our perception towards literally anything we choose. The practice of directing our awareness towards something in particular– like an object, a deity, or a mantra —  is the essence of many focused styles of meditation.

Other forms of meditation, like mindfulness practice, invite us to witness whatever is arising, while not getting pulled into the thoughts, emotions, or sensations.

A third type of meditation know as “non-dual” seeks to dissolve the gap between the subject and object, the Observer and the Observed. In dissolving the illusion of separation, we recognize our connection to the field of fundamental consciousness.  You can give it a try yourself here — you might find it shifts your awareness, even if you’re experienced in another style of meditating.

I learned this embodied form of meditation in as part of Realization Process teacher training that I did a few years ago (with Judith Blackstone. I’ve always been fascinated by what consciousness is, and how it relates to these bodies we reside in. I recently talked with fellow Realization Meditation teacher and embodiment nerd Brooke Thomas about connecting with consciousness through our bodies for a recent episode of A Healthy Curiosity. Hope you enjoy it!