Meditation Techniques for Stress
Are you curious about meditation techniques for managing stress? It is something that is important to acknowledge and understand to help you face stressful situations and be prepared for uncertainty. Stress is certainly a part of life and life is filled with ups and downs that you have to deal with as they are presented. But if you feel like you are more stressed-out than the average person, you are not alone.
The American Psychological Association (APA) reported 75% of American adults are experiencing moderate to high levels of stress in the past month, and almost half of them say their stress has increased in the past year.
Mediation has now gone mainstream, why? Because it can help— our lives are full of stimulus and thus stress, it’s something we cannot avoid but rather something we have to deal with on a day to day basis. Meditation can help you avoid stress and keep it from ruling your life.
What Makes Us So Stressed?
We each have very personal reasons for our day to day stress and they can vary in severity, duration, and how it makes us interact with others. Have you ever wondered what makes us so stressed? In an annual survey by The APA, called "Stress in America" it identified work and money to be at the top of the stressor list. Do you ever feel like work is often too much and affects your home life while money is constant stress because you don't have enough of it? Well, most of America feels the same way according to the APA.
Lately, the most common reasons people stress in America have changed a bit. The number one stressor for Americans right now is the uncertainty in the safety of Americans because of the pandemic, COVID-19, which is followed by the future of the country and the tensions within our states. The current financial stress the economy and jobless rates are also very high on the stressor list. Although we can't entirely avoid the stressors we encounter every day we can learn to control how we react to them and control our stress response. Here at Sweet Nectar, we advocate meditation as one of the best ways to decrease anxiety, invoke relaxation, and reduce stress. With just 5 minutes of meditation, a day can you will see a reduction of stress, decreased anxiety, and find a sense of mindful relaxation. Meditation can be impactful in your life and also beneficial for your family life. We truly believe everyone should know how to practice this stress-reducing behavior and find out how far meditation can guide you to The Sweet Life.
How Can Meditation Relieve Stress?
Meditation to relieve stress
Stress isn't a force beyond your control. That is important to understand prior to starting your meditation journey. Stress can certainly feel overwhelming at times and can create infinite feelings of anxiety but it can be overcome because all it is is an internal response to an external stimulus or perceived stimulus that hasn't yet happened.
The state of our nation, your bank account balance, the conflict your relationships isn't your stress but rather, it's your internal dialogue about each of those personal situations to cause the sinking feeling of anxiety and crippling stress. By recognizing and understanding this concept, you can more easily manage your stress and change your thoughts towards those stressors. Once you change your reactions to stress you can honestly change your life.
Stress is a part of life and it certainly isn't going anywhere for anyone. Stressors make life exciting, messy, and complicated all at the same time but how you perceive these events is entirely up to you. Here at Sweet Nectar, we believe that mindful meditation is a great way to switch how you perceive the world and the stressors that affect us all.
3 Ways Meditation Helps Relieve Stress
1. Meditation Decreases the Body’s Stress Response
When we perceive a threat, whether real or imagined, the body goes through a very real physiological response. Stress hormones are released, our hearts start pounding, muscles tense up and we experience what is known as the “fight-or-flight” response. It’s a normal survival mechanism that has evolved over time to help us rapidly react to life or death situations. It can kick into gear when we’re facing stress that isn’t life-threatening, like when we face a looming deadline or get stuck in traffic. A fight with a friend or family member can also cause this kind of response.
Meditation may help to decrease the body’s natural stress response by helping us move into a state of increased relaxation and calm. A regular meditation practice can help reduce heart rate, reduce the production of stress hormones, regulate blood pressure, and allow the mind to remain in a relaxed state regardless of what’s happening around you.
You don’t even have to be an advanced meditator to feel these profound effects. A 2014 study conducted at the Chopra Center discovered that new meditators who engaged in a six-day meditation retreat experienced substantial reductions in their stress levels that lasted for 10 months after the retreat.
2. Meditation Helps Change Brain Structure
Neuroplasticity, or the ability of the brain to change continuously throughout an individual’s life, is now a well-accepted concept. While it was once assumed our brains stayed fixed throughout our entire lives, we now know the brain is constantly changing.
According to Dr. Celeste Campbell, a neuropsychologist at the Washington DC Veterans Administration Medical Center, neuroplasticity “refers to the physiological changes in the brain that happen as the result of our interactions with our environment. From the time the brain begins to develop in utero until the day we die, the connections among the cells in our brains reorganize in response to our changing needs. This dynamic process allows us to learn from and adapt to different experiences.”
Meditation is one of the most powerful ways to help positively influence change in brain structure. Research shows that meditation can modify brain structure in a way that helps reduce persistent stress patterns while promoting a deeper sense of calm. A 2011 Harvard University Study found that just eight weeks of meditation caused growth in the insula, hippocampus and prefrontal cortex, all areas of the brain associated with stress regulation.
3. Meditation Releases “Feel Good” Neurotransmitters
Another effect meditation has on the brain is its ability to release neurotransmitters that promote feelings of calm and well-being. When a person engages in meditation, some of the chemicals released in the brain include dopamine, serotonin, and GABA.
Dopamine is associated with our ability to experience pleasure and also regulates mood and sleep patterns. Serotonin helps to relieve tension and has an overall calming effect on the body and mind. GABA is responsible for controlling fear and anxiety and preventing the activity of nerve cells. Too little GABA, for example, and you’re bound to experience those racing thoughts that are a huge part of the experience of stress.
Meditation Techniques for Stress
Knowing how meditation helps ease stress can make it a lot more enticing to engage in meditation techniques that are used to help with stress relief. The best thing is that you don’t even need to know how to meditate or consider yourself a meditator to reap the benefits meditation offers.
Following are some of our favorite meditation techniques to reduce stress and engage an inner sense of calm and well-being, no matter what else might be going on in our lives.
Breath Focus Meditation
One of the simplest meditation techniques for stress is known as “breath focus.” All that’s required of you is to concentrate on taking long, deep, slow breaths while doing your best to silence the incessant thoughts in your mind.
One of the best ways to engage in this meditation technique is perhaps explained best by renowned Vietnamese monk and global spiritual leader Thich Nhat Hanh. On your inhalation, say to yourself, “Breathing in, I am breathing in.” On your exhalation, say to yourself, “Breathing out, I am breathing out.” This allows you to engage with your breath rather than the thoughts that consume you.
Another way to use the breath focus meditation technique is to count each inhalation and exhalation. Inhale for a count of four, counting in your mind, “One, two, three, four,” then exhale for a count of eight, counting in your mind, “One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight.” Repeating this breathing pattern for just ten rounds can have a profound effect on the stress you’re experiencing.
Guided Stress Relief Meditation
If you’re new to meditation, you might be surprised at how many resources there are to help you experience the sense of calm you desire. Not only are there several meditation apps that have made their way into our mainstream culture, but there are countless videos online designed to guide you into a state of serenity.
When it comes to guided stress meditations, it’s all about finding one that resonates with you and helps invoke that coveted feeling of calm and relaxation. When you find the right one, you might be surprised just how well it can help relieve any stress or tension you might be feeling. There are plenty of guided meditations available on YouTube, as well as a plethora of free apps that can help you more easily take the first steps toward your guided meditation journey.
Mindfulness has become somewhat of a buzzword in our fast-paced, stress-fueled modern lifestyles. Described by Jon Kabat Zinn, founder of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), “mindfulness is an awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally.”
Research suggests that mindfulness meditation can ease feelings of stress, including anxiety, depression, and pain. According to Dr. Elizabeth Hoge, a psychiatrist at the Center for Anxiety and Traumatic Stress Disorders at Massachusetts General Hospital and Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, mindfulness meditation “makes sense” for those who tend to experience anxiety.
She says through mindfulness you can train the mind to experience your thoughts in a different way. “If you have unproductive worries,” says Hoge, “you might think ‘I’m late, I might lose my job if I don’t get there on time, and it will be a disaster!’ Mindfulness teaches you to recognize, ‘Oh, there’s that thought again. I’ve been here before. But it’s just that, a thought, and not a part of my core self.'”
Mindfulness meditation doesn’t even require you to sit for “formal” meditation practice. Remember, it all comes down to paying attention, on purpose, to the present moment. You can engage by taking a mindful approach to eat. Doing the dishes. Taking a shower. Walking the dog. Driving to work. The key is to focus on what you’re doing rather than the thoughts in your head. We promise, with practice, it gets easier and easier and is awesome for taming stress.
Meditating Your Way to The Sweet Life
Stress is a part of the complex, chaotically beautiful thing we call life, and it’s always going to be there. How you react to the stressors in your life, however, is up to you.
Time and time again, meditation has shown to help reduce stress and bring increased feelings of calm and well-being. Meditating for just 5 to 10 minutes a day can have life-changing benefits and completely alter your response to stress.
If you’re interested in living a less stressful life (and seriously, who isn’t?), the simple meditation techniques we just covered are a perfect place to start. Meditating your way to less stress is real. Give it just a little time each day and watch your stress begin to melt away.