They say stress is a killer, and they’re not wrong. Chronic stress is linked to myriad physical and mental health conditions. It’s true that we all experience stressful times in life, and some types of stress can even be a good thing. However, when stress goes unmanaged for too long, it can literally kill us. There are ways you can better-manage stress in a healthy manner, though.
So, what are the ways to calm down when stressed? One way is through meditation — learning how to meditate for stress is an excellent first step.
How Does Meditation Reduce Stress?
Life is hectic. Most people get used to feeling anxious and stressed all the time. Yet as we learn more about the role stress plays in our mental and physical health, it becomes abundantly clear that chronic stress is not sustainable. Thus, it’s essential we learn to properly manage our stress. The risk of not doing so is just too high. Enter meditation.
Meditation has taught people to deal with stress for thousands of years. Today, mindfulness meditation is commonly practiced by people in all corners of the world to reduce stress and encourage calmness and relaxation.
“Meditation is able to pull us out of baggage from the past and angst about the future, so we can use all of our energy to focus on what’s directly in front of us, requiring our time and attention.”
Talkspace therapist Meaghan Rice, PsyD, LPC
If you consistently feel tense, worried, or anxious, consider the many benefits of meditation. Meditating even just a few minutes a day can help restore inner peace, a sense of calmness, and overall well-being. It works, in part, by countering the effects of stress hormones like cortisol and reducing systemic inflammation.
Meditation is for everybody. It’s easy to learn, free, and doesn’t require any type of equipment, cost, or resources. All you need is time (and not a lot of it). You can meditate in the middle of an open field by a trickling stream, on the New York City subway, or even sitting at your desk during the busiest part of your workday.
Meditation allows you to remove blockages from your past and deeply focus your energies on finding the source of stress you’re experiencing in the present. It’s a focused attention on reality — and the things that matter most right now. Meditation is a vehicle to manifest your true desires and optimize performance in any area of your life.
Key principles of meditation for stress
Learning how to meditate for stress isn’t as difficult or mysterious as you might think. It doesn’t require a huge time investment. It’s simple, pure, and can result in noticeable effects very quickly.
Though there are several types of meditation, there are some key principles all forms are based upon. Meditative practices all include the ideas that:
- Stress isn’t always bad (learn more about good stress vs. bad stress)
- People feel and manage stress in different ways
- We can determine what type of psychological stress is healthy vs. unhealthy
Meditation is considered an alternative therapy that integrates a mind-body connection. Via various possible techniques, it produces deep states of tranquility and relaxation. When we meditate, our attention remains focused, and we can eliminate distorted thinking that’s common during times of extreme stress.
The goal of meditation for stress reduction is not to completely eliminate all sources of stress. Rather, it’s to help us understand, cope with, and overcome daily stressors. Then, we can become focused and ready to face the day with renewed, energized, vigor.
Benefits of Meditation for Stress Relief
Regular meditation helps to clear the mind and has both physical and emotional benefits, including:
- Maintaining a positive outlook during stressful situations
- Developing coping skills to better-manage stress
- Becoming more self-aware
- Minimizing negative emotions
- Living in the present moment
Other benefits of meditation are typical too, such as:
Meditation has been found in studies to regulate neurotransmitters that play a role in mood regulation. For example, it’s been shown to increase serotonin levels (serotonin deficiencies have been linked to depression) and decrease norepinephrine (NE) levels (high levels of norepinephrine have been linked to anxiety).
Lower heart rate and blood pressure
There’s a link between meditation and a lower resting heart rate and stable blood pressure.
Enhance several areas of life
Meditation enhances creativity and imagination, improves tolerance and patience, and helps you sleep better.
Practicing meditation routinely can carry you through your days with more calmness and tranquility. It can also help you avoid numerous medical conditions that are exacerbated by stress. According to researchers from the University of Iowa, excessive or prolonged stress is linked to serious mental and physical health conditions such as:
- Autoimmune disease
- Cardiovascular disease
- Insomnia and other sleeping disorders
- Systemic inflammation
- Decreased cognitive function
- A variety of other adverse health conditions
Types of Meditation for Stress Relief
Meditation is an umbrella term used to describe various techniques that can help you feel tranquil and calm. Regardless of your approach, virtually all methods of meditation practice share a goal of improving inner peace.
“Boxed breathing techniques, inhaling to a count of 4, holding for a count of 4, and releasing to a count of 4, help refocus our attention on the present moment. Also, pairing our body tension with an inhale and our body release with an exhale challenges our brain to reroute time and attention towards the present moment.”
Talkspace therapist Meaghan Rice, PsyD, LPC
Some of the most well-known forms of meditation used to combat stress include:
Transcendental meditation is one of the most widely used methods and popular forms of meditation. Sitting with eyes closed, it involves repeating a mantra silently for a set time. Many people see great benefits from using transcendental meditation for just 15 – 20 minutes each day.
Mindfulness meditation helps you focus on becoming acutely aware of what you’re feeling and sensing, in the moment, without trying to interpret or judge it. The practice of mindfulness uses guided imagery, breathing exercises, and various other meditative techniques aimed at relaxing the body and mind to reduce stress.
According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), “Current scientific evidence suggests that mindfulness meditation — a practice that cultivates abilities to maintain focused and clear attention and develop increased awareness of the present — may help reduce symptoms of stress, including anxiety and depression, and may help improve sleep.”
In mantra meditation, a word or phrase is repeated silently and used as a focus point to cultivate an intense awareness. This helps slow down the mind and thoughts, however, the goal of mantra meditation is not to prevent all thoughts from entering the mind.
Guided meditation, as the name suggests, is done with the use of a guide. They can help you develop specific mental imagery during a meditative practice. They can also lead you through breathing exercises or mantras to help you meditate.
Qi Gong, Tai Chi, and Yoga are other effective ways to reduce stress, and they offer the added benefit of improving physical health.
Tips for Using Meditation for Stress Reduction
Different forms of meditation use distinct features to help you relax and find a sense of grounding. Some of the most common elements of meditation include:
- Learning to focus your attention
- Relaxing your posture
- Slowing your breathing
- Softening your muscles
- Increasing oxygen intake
- Letting thoughts pass without judging them
“Find time and space reserved for meditation so it’s uninterrupted and prioritized. Develop a rhythm that’s been proven to work for you, uniquely. Pay attention to the breath, the body, smells, sensations, audible sounds, taste, and touch — everything that makes us feel grounded.”
Talkspace therapist Meaghan Rice, PsyD, LPC
As you become more adept at meditation sessions, you might find you’re eventually able to perform it anywhere. Some people even meditate during high-stress situations like traffic jams, work meetings, during an argument with a spouse, or when waiting in excessively long lines.
Finding Peace for Your Life
Learning how to meditate for stress is a straightforward, quick, and beneficial process that offers both mental and physical advantages, even in the very beginning stages. It can end up being a life-long skill that you can use in many aspects of life. As your skills continue to develop, you’ll naturally meditate more. Seeing (and feeling) the benefits is all you need to be motivated enough to continue the practice.
Learning stress management can be overwhelming and at times feel impossible. You should know that there are many techniques available to help you. Beyond self care methods like meditation, talk therapy is another amazing tool you can use to learn coping techniques to control stress.
Therapy, like the convenient, accessible, and affordable online therapy Talkspace offers, is an effective option. You’ll learn and practice how to manage stress in sessions, so you can create habits that make you a pro at dealing with any stress life throws at you. Find out how Talkspace can help you navigate stress in a productive, healthy, effective way.
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