With the past two years being filled with uncertainty and overwhelm, it’s only natural that your stress levels are currently at an all-time high. Well, life can be stressful. And while stress can have major consequences on our health and wellbeing, taking a moment to press pause and give your mind a much-needed break can do wonders.
Several studies and comprehensive research have shown that meditation is one of the most effective ways of relieving stress. This age-old ritual is a rather easy habit to adopt and maintain if practiced consistently over time. By putting a conscious effort to learn the art of meditation, you can change your perspective and experience of stress.
In fact, it’s been scientifically proven that meditation can reduce stress after the consistent practice of just eight weeks. This happens because we train our minds to be more open and less reactive to the stressors of life, may it be school, work, family, relationships, or even the stress of daily travel. Meditation teaches us to observe our emotions and reactions with a broader mindset and in turn be less affected by them.
Why do we feel stressed?
Stress is a natural feeling we experience when a situation or event seems out of our hands. It can be a motivator and can also be essential for survival. Our body’s fight-or-flight instinct helps us respond to danger appropriately.
However, to understand what causes our body to feel stress, we must understand the amygdala, a cluster of almond-shaped cells present at the base of our brain. We all have one group of these cells on either side of our brain. These amygdalae help define and regulate our emotions. It also triggers our fight-or-flight response, remaining calm if we don’t sense a threat or making us reactive and overwhelmed when we perceive a threat.
Consequently, our exposure to higher levels of stress reprograms the ability of our brain to form and reorganise synaptic connections. This means the brain reshapes the process of neuroplasticity in connection to experiences it is continually exposed to.
But don’t stress, our minds can be trained to manage stress in a healthier manner. Regular practice of meditation can shrink the amygdala and help us respond instead of reacting to stressful events. Meditating can be a form of self-regulating the amygdala, making us respond to stress and fear more rationally.
How do you know if you’re under stress?
Stress not only affects us physically but also affects our mind, our emotional health and our bodily functions. And while there are some in-your-face repercussions that you can catch immediately like spiked blood pressure, tension, sweating and high alertness, there are a few hidden signs that you may not be aware of such as:
2. Increased irritability
3. Weakened immune system
4. Losing sleep
5. Being in a constant state of worry
6. Feeling tired and fatigued all the time
7. Experiencing more headaches or muscle tension
8. Changes in eating or sleeping habits
What type of meditation can help manage stress?
Always remember that meditation can’t help you eliminate stress but it will arm you with a powerful tool to manage it skillfully. The following are some of the most effective meditations for stress relief.
We recommend you try most or all and see which one suits your needs best. There’s no hard and fast rule for meditation. By experimenting with various types, you can understand your mind and body better and build a well-informed practice that transforms your life.
- Mindfulness Meditation
Mindfulness meditation means training your mind to be highly aware of the present moment. This technique involves staying fully present and being non-judgementally rooted in the ‘now.’
You focus on what you’re experiencing such as your breath, your thoughts and emotions and let them pass without judgement. One of the easiest forms of meditation, this technique can be learned quickly and easily and can help you release stress and relax.
Start with this relaxing deep meditation music video to cope with stress.
- Guided Meditation
If you’re new to the art of meditation, this can be a highly effective technique for you. Being guided through the form of imagery and visualisation can help you form mental images of places, situations or experiences that you find relaxing.
You can visualise in silence or use the help of listening aids such as soothing music, the sound of ocean waves or the song of birds chirping. In guided meditation, your senses are heightened and you use smells, sights, sounds or textures to ground you.
If you’re a meditation beginner, take a look at this video on affirmations for stress.
- Body Scan Meditation
One of the most common ways we carry stress in our bodies it through tension. We often feel it so consistently that it’s hard to distinguish whether it’s stress or a physical reaction to our daily routines. Body scan meditation focuses your attention on different parts of the body.
You start with your feet and work your way upwards but instead of focusing on tensing or relaxing your muscles, you pay attention to the sensations you’re feeling and imagine each breath flowing through that particular part of your body. Body scan meditation can help you realise the physical tensions in your body while simultaneously releasing them.
- Rhythmic Movement & Exercise
While the idea of exercising doesn’t fit into the jurisdiction of meditation, rhythmic exercise can help create a sense of flow that can be meditative. Repetitive movement can help your body produce a relaxing response.
Exercises such as running, walking, swimming, dancing, rowing or climbing are wonderful examples. But it doesn’t end there. Adding a mindfulness element to these exercises can help you be present in the moment. Pay attention to the sensations in your body rather than your daily worries, how your breath works, how your limbs feel, what sensations run through your body.
- Yoga & Tai Chi
Following a series of movement and stationary poses combined with relaxing breathing, yoga acts as a mindful way of improving flexibility, strength, balance and focus.
Practicing yoga that focuses on slow, steady movement, breath regulation, and gentle stretching serve best for stress relief. Similarly, tai chi is a self-paced series of body movements that emphasise flow and stability. By training your mind to focus on the movements and your breath, you stay grounded to the present moment and in return clear your mind and relax your body.
Want to learn about the positive connection between yoga and stress? View our webinar with Nishtha Bijlani below.
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