How to Use Meditation for Stress Relief
Stress is something that we all experience, its a natural occurrence that comes in useful when we are actually threatened by psychological or physical stresses, it’s a human survival instinct. The problem, however, is that when left unchecked, stress can be hugely detrimental to our wellbeing and cause all sorts of problems. We can even become addicted to stress hormones, meaning that we get so used to feeling stressed out that we unconsciously recreate that feeling again and again, even when the immediate danger has long passed.
If you are actually in some kind of danger you want the fight-or-flight response to kick in, but if you’re not actually in a specific stressful situation, but rather living an overall stressful lifestyle, over time your body will be subjected to the negative physical changes that come along with constantly applied stress. Continual stress can ultimately lead to heart disease, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and all sorts of other illnesses and diseases. In fact, medical research has estimated that as much as 90% of all illness and disease is related to stress.
Think of all the ways in which stress can manifest itself in your physical functioning, from stomach ulcers to acne, to panic attacks and headaches, stress is all too often the culprit.
Understanding how to bring stress relief into your life is therefore extremely important to your physical, mental, and emotional health. We all need to learn to slow down and go about our lives without the constant presence of anxiety and stress.
Like I said before, some stress in life is totally natural and normal, you can’t avoid it entirely. What you can do, however, is learn to tap into a sense of inner peace more often, so that you live your life from a place of calm, present moment awareness as much as possible.
Our minds and bodies simply require downtime and relaxation in order to operate at their optimum and keep us feeling happy, healthy, and energized for life.
Stress management can be incorporated into your life in many different ways, through relaxation techniques, breathing meditation, deep breathing, mindfulness meditation, and other mindfulness practices and different forms of meditation.
Meditation practice is truly a wonderful way to find day to day stress relief. It’s been proven to bring positive results to anyone experiencing chronic anxiety, stress, anger, depression, low self-esteem, and any other negative and stressful emotions.
How do meditation, breathing exercises, and mindfulness exercises bring stress relief?
You can integrate any of the above meditation techniques and relaxation exercises into your daily life to tackle the effects of stress. They all work in similar ways to help bring your body back to a state of calm and relaxation.
1. The Relaxation Response – This is your body’s natural response to deep breathing, mindful awareness of the present moment, and bringing simple, kind awareness to any stressful or anxious thoughts or feelings you may be having. A body scan meditation involving progressive muscle relaxation is ideal for reducing tension and stress in your physical being. Your body will slowly soften and let go of tension as your breath deepens. Deep breathing is an antidote to the stress response which usually has you shallow breathing instead. You can achieve this response with meditation, breathing exercises, and guided imagery scripts.
2. Bringing Inner Peace
The more often you take time to meditate and/ or consciously relax with deep breathing and mindfulness, the more you shift your overall perspective in other moments of life.
Dropping in to connect with your higher self in the present moment, helps you to manage stressors when they come up during your daily life. You learn to feel peaceful more often and the memory of knowing you can access that kind of inner calm will help you in stressful situations or any kind.
3. Different Signals in your Brain
Meditation and mindfulness can actually change the neural networks in your brain so that over time they begin to wire differently and create new, more positive patterns of thinking and responding. Consistent meditation practice over time can completely shift your reality. With specific guided meditation scripts, you can actually learn to change the way you normally process and respond to stressful situations simply through present moment awareness and mindful awareness of the way you usually react. When you make a conscious choice to change your usual way of being, i.e stressed, you will teach your brain to make these new connections based on a new way of responding to life’s stressors.
Simple Ways To Practice Stress Management
1. Check-in With your Breath
Stop what you are doing and check-in with the quality of your breath. Take a long, deep inhalation and then exhale. You can be audible with your out-breath and release any held-in tension and anxiety. Do this several times during the day and before meditation.
2. Calm yourself with Music
Music is a wonderful way to calm your mood and inspire a state of relaxation. It’s excellent for a quick and easy mind shift, and can also serve as a precursor to your meditation practice to get you in the right frame of mind and feeling peaceful.
4. Find your Favorite Guided Meditation Script or Mindfulness Meditation
With so many different meditations out there to choose from, you can easily find one that resonates for you. There are guided imagery scripts that will calm you by having you visualize a beautiful, tranquil place, or you can experience stress relief with a body scan meditation that concentrates on relaxing your whole body, muscle by muscle.
Here is a quick relaxation meditation for stress relief that you can use whenever you feel tension arising.
Guided Meditation Relaxation Script:
Make sure you are in a comfortable place, where you will not be disturbed, and let yourself relax your shoulders. Shut your eyes.
Take a deep breath in, and now exhale.
Take another deep breath and exhale again.
Continue to take some more strong, deep breaths in and out.
Try to imagine that your out-breaths are a release of tension, and your in-breaths are inhaling tranquility.
Don’t worry about how you are breathing, allow your breaths to come and go at their own natural pace in a way that feels right to you. Deep breathing, in and out. In and out.
As thoughts, ideas and memories enter your mind, let them float away without following them.
Imagine these thoughts as falling leaves or snowflakes, acknowledging their existence without feeling the need to be with them.
Become aware of your mind and how it wants to worry, plan, scheme, and fret. Don’t get caught up in your mind, just observe from a distance how the patterns exist in there.
Be aware of your tendency to focus on the past or the future.
Be aware of any thoughts that seem to distract you. Don’t get angry about them, simply let them be. You know they are there but you don’t need to follow them right now.
Allow yourself to let any thinking go. You can note when something is a thought, just be aware that you are thinking and then move on from the thought, bringing yourself back to the present moment.
Returning your focus to your deep breathing and give yourself permission to just be in the moment.
Take a few moments to do a mindful body scan, checking in with your physical self, starting at the top of your head, and gently scanning down in your mind all the way to your toes. Observe any sensations, tightness, or tension whether that be emotional, physical, or both.
Simply acknowledge what you feel and allow it to be there.
Relax every part of your body.
Relax your head, neck, and shoulders.
Relax your arms and hands, even your fingers.
Relax your chest, stomach, and lower back. Relax your legs, ankles, your toes and feet.
Feel your entire body so relaxed now.
Hear and feel the quiet stillness of your mind relaxing and your body relaxing.
You are centered, calm, and fully relaxed.
Your breathing is easy, deep, and steady. Enjoy the sensation of simply being in this space.
When you feel that you would like to leave this state of relaxation and return to your waking life, begin to bring yourself back into your body. Wiggle your hands and feet.
And slowly, come back to your waking self with your eyes open.
You can always return to this calm, peaceful place whenever you desire to.