Meditation helps reduce stress

Although there are varying degrees of stress and anxiety, we can all agree that we don’t like it and it is not good for us. But, most of us deal with stress at some point of our day if not for most of it. Meditation can help because it brings a state of relaxation to the body and a calm mind.

When we are caught up in a stressful situation from work, family, relationships or life in general, it can be incredibly difficult to ‘just relax’ ‘chill out’ or ‘let it go’. This is where meditation can come in to help out. By focusing your mind on an object like your breath, a visual or repeating a phrase, you can effectively drop your stress level. This is why Mandy and I started Rest & Be, to be here to help, guide and support meditators both beginners and more experienced alike. I find life easier when I allow in a little support and don’t feel that I have to do it all by myself. 

Meditation helps with stress as it brings relaxation to our body and mind. The relaxation response [from meditation] helps decrease metabolism, lowers blood pressure, and improves heart rate, breathing, and brain waves,".[1]

You may have heard that it is called a meditation practice – that’s because it’s something we are just practicing and not striving to perfect as there will be days when it comes easily and days when the mind doesn’t want to stop the chatter.  In addition, we have to practice it regularly to maintain the benefits it offers. 

Types of stress in life

For me it comes down to two types of stress in life:  

First - You are having a crisis moment of stress where you want to relieve or reduce it straight away. Spending even a few minutes meditating can restore your calm and inner peace. These are my preferred techniques when I need quick help: 

  • Short meditation – I close my eyes (if this is available at the time) and focus on the breath. I follow the inhale in mentally and then the exhale. I like to draw the breath down deep on the inhale so the belly rises and slowly exhale from the belly towards the upper chest. After a few breaths like this I take a 2 second pause after the exhale and then inhale. After a couple of minutes, I open my eyes and deal with what needs dealing with. This type of breath work calms the central nervous system and reduces the fight, flight or freeze response. 
  • Quick body sensing – I find this easier to do with eyes closed. Let your focus go inward and sense the top of your head, eyes, cheeks, mouth, inside the mouth, ears, move your awareness to your neck and throat, down to your shoulder, one arm at a time, elbow, wrist hand and fingers. You may start to feel a tingle or a vibration in the palms of your hands. Continue with the second arm, down to your chest, rib cage, belly and then hips. Bring your focus down one leg, thigh, knee, lower leg and foot. Bottom of the foot and toes and repeat with the second leg. Spend a couple of long deep breaths sensing your whole body. Open your eyes and carry on. 
  • Focus on your hearing (your mind cannot think elsewhere at the same time which reduces the stress). With eyes open or shut just focus on the sounds around you, the noises close by and then expand your awareness to the sounds farther away. Spend a couple of minutes solely focusing on what you hear.
  • Breathe and become aware of the sensations in your mouth, jaw, gums, tongue then the back of tongue near the top of the throat. Focus your breath as if the exhale is ending in these places. I know we don’t actually exhale from the jaw, gums or tongue but bring the sensation there when you exhale and you will notice relaxation occurs. This is my go-to – relaxing the tongue. I can do this with my eyes open or closed.  I learnt this technique from Mandy’s True Rest meditations and have used it ever since. Our tongue keeps working with micro movements with our mental chatter, as if we are talking, even when we are unaware of the mental chatter. That keeps our tongue working an awful lot! This technique stops the stress in its tracks. 

Second - The long-term built up stress that is always present and that we may have become so accustomed to that we may not recognize it. It is still there and still damaging to us.

  • This is where the discipline comes in. Make it daily. A few minutes is enough or better still 10-20 minutes. 
  • Guided meditations can really help with being consistent and make it enjoyable too! A guided meditation brings the added benefit of connecting on a human level to the guide even when you only hear their voice.
  • Pick the time of day that makes sense and will be possible to maintain.
  • The practice of meditation is typically simple, but not necessarily easy to do. Commitment is key. 
  • Don’t judge yourself ‘how good of a meditator am I’. Some days it will be difficult.
  • Give yourself space and time to work out which style you like. Some people prefer the same style and meditation every day and others prefer to mix it up and try different meditations.  

Meditation has numerous of benefits that help to relax your body, mind, feel calmer and increases several beneficial chemicals and decreases the ones we don’t want too many of in our systems. [2]

With gratitude, Theresa

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