The world is a hectic place. A lot of the time, we feel like everything is spinning out of control, and there is nothing we can do. It leaves us feeling powerless. Apart from being extremely unpleasant, stress can also leave long-term adverse effects on our health. That is why more and more people are turning to meditation for stress and anxiety. Today we will learn how to meditate for stress relief.
The ABCs of Meditation
There’s not a single, correct way on how to do meditation for stress relief, but through trial and error, you will find what works for you. It’s important to allocate time for it every day – ideally from 10 to 30 minutes.
Time and place
At least in the beginning, this should be a time when you are free from distractions – perhaps before bedtime, on your lunch break, or early in the morning when you are alone.
The position depends on your preference – you can sit or lie down – whichever is more comfortable. Close your eyes and focus on breathing slowly and deeply, holding your breath for a few seconds.
What to focus on
Observe and acknowledge the thoughts that are stressing you out, but don’t give into them. Believe that these things don’t control or define you. Visualize these ideas physically clearing out of you with every inhale and exhale. Your mind will wander at first, but all you need to do is steer the focus back to breathing.
Once you feel calm and relaxed, you are ready to go on with your day. In time, you will perfect your very own meditation for stress technique.
The Benefits of Meditation
Although you’ve heard many people turn to meditation for stress, you might still be feeling skeptical. Meditation has a very real and scientifically proven mechanism of stress relief. So how exactly does meditation for stress and anxiety work?
Our brain consists of many different centers, each with its own set of duties. Meditation shifts our focus of activity from the stress-prone right frontal cortex to the calmer left, while also calming the amygdala. This translates to a feeling of balance and calm. We feel our tension slowly ebbing away by clearing away the jumbled mess of thoughts that trouble us.
Meditation can help prepare us for the rest of the day or calm us in an already stressful situation. Over time, it helps us focus, lowers our overall stress levels and benefits both our physical and mental health.
How Does Stress Affect Us?
Our frontal cortex is in charge of our cognitive functions. This is the part of the brain that indulges in obsessive stressful thoughts. These thoughts alarm the amygdala – a non-conscious part of our brain which triggers the fight, flight or freezes response. It prepares the body to react in a myriad of ways: our heart beats faster, blood pressure and blood sugar levels rise, we feel a surge of nervous energy. Our lungs work hard to take in more oxygen, which can manifest as hyperventilating. We sweat more to cool down. Our muscles tense in preparation for action. Finally, the adrenal glands release adrenalin which gives us the energy to fuel us. While useful in the moment, if this state continues for a longer period or reoccurs frequently, it can cause, exasperate or be a contributing factor in some illnesses such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, asthma, IBS, and others. Read more here: 22 Startling Ways Stress Affects our Mind and Body.
By deciding to ignore stress and only trying to power through it, we are doing more harm than good. Practicing mindfulness and meditating even for just a few minutes every day can completely change our lives and provide us with the tools we need to deal with any hardship that comes our way.
If you are feeling stressed or anxious on a regular basis, its time that you start looking at ways to control this for the sake of your own health. There are many things that can help, and meditation is a great option. If you are interested in trying it out, have a look at our Practical Meditation Course for Busy People in the Modern World, and let us know how you are progressing!