If your morning starts off with the news, like mine does, a barrage of negative headlines can inch
your body toward panic without your even being aware of it. The weather reports a storm heading
your way, someone was murdered, and somewhere a war has broken out. Chronic bad news can
have profound effects on your body—your neck and shoulders tighten, your stomach churns, and
your whole being goes on heightened alert.
You don’t have to give up your daily dose of morning news, but we recommend that you start each morning with the following version of the S.T.O.P. practice, in order that you might have more balance and ease in your body as your day begins.
1. Upon waking, with your eyes open, take this moment to stop and pause. You can be lying in your
bed, sitting up, or standing. In the pause, just let your body relax and be still. Give yourself
permission to just be here, floating adrift for a minute or two, before you rush into your hectic
day of endless to-dos.
2. If you’re experiencing panic at this time, take a breath. Tune in to your breathing. If you’re
holding your breath, take this time to gradually let the air flow freely in and out of your belly.
Notice the air in your nose, in your chest, and in your abdomen. When your mind starts to drift,
return to your breath again, and be mindful of each inhalation and exhalation—the rhythm, flow,
sound, and sensation in your body.
3. Observe your body and whatever feelings or sensations are stirring in it. Where are you feeling
tension or tightness? Where are you feeling relaxed and at ease? Where are you feeling panic?
Take this time to acknowledge what you notice. Whatever your body is feeling—tension,
stiffness, dry mouth, shortness of breath—let it just be. Pay attention to your body’s experience.
4. Discover what you may need right now to take better care of your body and connect more fully
with your life. You may need a drink of water. You may need a morning of music or silence
instead of grim news. You may need a longer shower than usual. Think of how you can gain a
sense of inner balance and anchor yourself in this balance throughout the rest of your day.
5. Proceed with your morning and be present. Remember to reflect on what came up for you during
this application of mindfulness and what you learned about your body.
Feel free to repeat daily or at any time to help you maintain balance and ease in your body.
Give yourself the gift of formally practicing this meditation every day, even for a
short period. It might be helpful to start off practicing mindful breathing for five minutes
once a day and build it up from there. Maybe you’ll find that you can add a second or
even a third five-minute session, practicing mindful breathing at different times of your
day. You can get additional benefit if you gradually extend your mindful breathing to
ten, fifteen, twenty, or even thirty minutes at least once a day.
Let this be a part of your practice of mindfulness that you look forward to doing, a special time for you to center
yourself and “return home” to your being. Feel free to use an alarm clock or timer; you
can download free meditation timers from the Insight Meditation Center
(http://www.insightmeditationcenter.org/meditation-timers/) that feature a pleasant sound.
Like other meditations offered in this book, mindful breathing can be incorporated
into your daily activities too. As far as where to practice informally, just about anywhere
works. Take a few minutes at home, at work, at the doctor’s office, at the bus stop, or
even while waiting in line to bring a little mindful breathing into your life. You can also
make it a habit to take a few mindful breaths right after you wake up, when you take a
morning break, at lunchtime, in the afternoon, at night, or right before you go to sleep.
Once you’ve practiced mindful breathing at these times, you can experiment with using it
when you’re feeling some angst, to help you calm the rush of panic in your body.
As mentioned, mindfulness is a way of life that’s practiced in two interrelated ways:
through formal and informal practice. To truly integrate mindfulness into your life, it’s
important that you do both types of practice. Each complements the other. Use them
every day to reduce panic and live with more ease in your body and mind.
The cultivation of a formal practice of mindfulness begins with setting an intention
and deciding on a time to do it.
Try to prioritize this time for your own self-care.You deserve this, and it’s truly a gift to yourself that no one else can give you. Find a place that’s quiet and comfortable, at a time during the day when you won’t be interrupted.
Turn off your phone and any other devices, and let your family know you’re going to be
quiet and meditate for a while; ask that you not be disturbed.
The best time to formally practice mindfulness is whenever you can do it. Some
people like to practice before they get out of bed. Others like to practice after their
morning stretches. Others practice during their lunch hour or in the afternoon. Many
have found it helpful to practice after coming home from work or after dinner. Some
even practice before they go to sleep. Find a time that works for you and let your practice
Once you find a time that works, try to practice daily, even if you don’t really feel
like it. We suggest thirty minutes for many of the meditations, although you can practice
them for shorter periods of time if need be. Even five minutes of practice is better than
none at all. If your formal practice of mindfulness is spotty, don’t beat yourself up or
give up on it. Remember to treat yourself with kindness and compassion, and encourage
yourself as you would a friend.
In this book you’ll learn the formal mindful practices of mindful breathing, the body
scan, mindful inquiry meditation, sitting meditation, loving-kindness meditation, and the
“web of life” meditation as meaningful and direct ways to deal with panic.
As stated, research has demonstrated that mindfulness-based stress reduction can be
extremely beneficial in decreasing panic. We’re sure that you too can use these mindful
practices to live better with panic and decrease the challenges you face.
Before you get started, you should know that although most cases of panic stem
from the psyche, there are some cases in which it derives from physiological sources.
Although mindfulness training may help you regardless of the cause of your panic, you
may also need to consult a health care professional to investigate whether there’s any
biological reason you feel panicky. In addition, if your panic attacks are frequent or
severe, it’s best if you take steps to address your panic under the guidance and
supervision of a health care professional.
Sometimes a very active thyroid (hyperthyroidism), low blood sugar
(hypoglycemia), heart arrhythmia, or other physiological conditions can lead you to
panic. Some medications and herbs may have side effects that make you susceptible to
panic. You may also want to look at diet as a contributing factor, especially if you
consume lots of caffeine or highly refined carbs and sugary foods.