The classic Buddhist instruction for restlessness and worry includes noticing what triggered it. This includes looking back over what might have been the cause and condition. By understanding an ongoing cause, we may be able to remove the cause. We can wisely avoid activities that bring restlessness or regret.
Frustrated desire and pent-up aversion are common causes of agitation. Fear and resentment are others. Dissatisfaction is a cause that can keep the mind restless with searching. Trying too hard in meditation can also stir up the mind. When any of these are primary, it can be more useful to be mindful of them than the restlessness. Ignoring the causes can keep us skimming the surface; being mindful of the underlying causes can help with the settling.
Once we have a better understanding of restlessness and worry, it is important to learn how to prevent them from arising and how to let go of them when they are occurring. For instance, it is important to have enough exercise, sleep, and good nutrition because their lack can cause restlessness. It is also important to live one’s life ethically, so that our behavior and speech do not give us cause to be agitated. This is using our intelligence to become skilled in working through these challenges. Developing confidence in such skill can weaken the power of restlessness.
Learning to breathe through restlessness is a great skill. Breathing consciously with the whole body, or focusing on the ongoing rhythm of breathing in and out, can calm the body. The more attention given to breathing, the less is available to fuel the restlessness or worry. Paying attention that we aren’t holding or constricting the breathing can be helpful.