meditation for stress anxiety

How to Meditate (and Why) for Stress & Anxiety

Global employees' daily stress reached a new high in 2021, according to a Gallup 'State of the Global Workplace 2022 Report.' [1] Specifically, 44% of workers in 140+ countries surveyed said they were stressed out every day. Their stress was caused not exclusively by work, but also by issues outside of the office — such as the Covid-19 pandemic and personal problems. Employees in the U.S. reported the highest levels of daily stress globally, at 57%, with more women (47%) than men (42%) feeling the burden of stress. These statistics are concerning because stress affects your psychological, emotional, physical and behavioral well-being. If it's not managed, stress can lead to anxiety, being angry all the time, high blood pressure, frequent infections, weight changes, drug and alcohol addiction, and much more. Exercise, spending time with loved ones, getting enough sleep, and meditation are some effective stress-reduction strategies. I'd like to take a look at meditation for stress & anxiety in this article. Let's dive in!

What is Meditation?

Mediation is a set of physical and mental techniques that help clear or focus your mind. Focused attention, deep breathing, sitting still quietly, and performing body postures are common features of meditation, which can promote happiness, increase calmness, boost immunity, reduce stress [2], and alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety. People have been practicing meditation techniques for thousands of years and there are hundreds of different types of meditation, but the most popular are:
  • Mindfulness Meditation

This Buddhist-based meditation method is the most researched and practiced form of meditation in the United States. It entails paying attention to your current thoughts and feelings without judging or getting caught up emotionally in them. Doing this can assist you in becoming aware of and managing negative thoughts and emotions that may be causing you stress and anxiety. You can practice mindfulness meditation anywhere, at any time; focusing on your breath or an object may make it easier to acknowledge the thoughts passing through your mind. One study [3] found practicing this type of meditation can significantly reduce anxiety.
  • Mantra Meditation

This form of meditation involves chanting a calming phrase, word, or sound in your head or out loud repeatedly to relax the mind. "I'm happy" is an example of a phrase you could chant — or "om" is a common sound made by people who practice mantra meditation. According to research, mantra meditation improves brain health [4], which can improve your mood, reduce stress, and make you feel less tired.
  • Focused Meditation

Here, you use any of your five senses to focus intently on something in order to be in the present moment and quiet racing thoughts. You could, for example, concentrate on your breathing, stare at the moon, or listen to a gong. This type of meditation can also aid in the reduction of stress and anxiety by reversing brain patterns that contribute to worry [5]. When you first begin practicing focused meditation, you may find it difficult to maintain concentration for more than a few minutes. Refocus if you find your mind wandering.
  • Movement Meditation

As the name implies, this meditation involves using motion to manage anxiety, stress, and even pain disorders. Yoga (see link for Belly Brain's top home yoga programs), gardening, tai chi, and walking are all examples of movement meditation. Other popular meditation practices include:
  • Spiritual meditation is a technique used by almost all religions to connect people with a spiritual force or higher power.
  • Transcendental meditation. Many studies [6] have been conducted on this meditation style that calms you and gives you a sense of peace.
  • Progressive relaxation involves tightening and relaxing various body muscles to release tension.
  • Visualization meditation entails envisioning yourself succeeding in all aspects of your life, which can improve your mood and promote inner peace.

How to Begin Meditating for Stress & Anxiety Relief

It is unlikely that you can completely eliminate stress from your life, but you can manage it better with meditation before it causes havoc around you. The good thing is that you can start practicing meditation for stress and anxiety right away, because it is simple and does not require any special equipment. Here's how.
  • Create Time

Many people prefer to meditate in the early morning, but if another time of day works best for you, that's fine. Research shows meditating for as little as 10 minutes per day can provide many health benefits [7]. When you first start meditating, you may find it difficult to focus for 10+ minutes, but it's OK to do shorter periods until you get used to the practice. Also, it's recommended that you meditate at the same time every day.
  • Find a Good Space

Aside from scheduling a time to meditate, you also need to pick a spot for your practice. The place you chose should be distraction-free, comfortable, and doesn’t have to be a large or elaborately decorated area; it could be a corner of your living room or bedroom. With the above two decisions made, you're ready to begin the meditation process.
  • Assume a Comfortable Position

Sitting vertically upright on the floor with your legs crossed and your hands stretched out and resting on your knees with palms down or up is the most common meditation position. However, you can choose to stretch your legs, lie on your back, sit upright on a chair, or any other position that feels comfortable to you. The position should not be too comfortable that you can fall asleep or uncomfortable that it distracts you from your meditation. If you get muscle cramps or feel uncomfortable, you can change positions at any time.
  • Practice Meditation

Close your eyes and begin inhaling and exhaling, chanting a mantra, quietly listening to your inner thoughts, or whatever type of meditation you choose at this point to bring yourself to the present moment. When you begin meditation for stress and anxiety, it is common for your mind to wander and to question if you're doing the right thing. If this happens, instead of suppressing these thoughts, acknowledge them and continue with your mediation actions until they pass. If you're not sure how to meditate, there are plenty of meditation apps that can help you get started.
  • Finish the Meditation

Once you've reached your desired meditation time, gradually come out of it. As you get up, do some stretches and ask yourself if you feel energized. Reflecting on your recent actions allows you to track your progress. If you practice meditation consistently and improve at it, you'll notice that your anxiety symptoms and stress levels will decrease within a few days. Here's a YouTube video that can help you with meditation.

Sources:

  1. https://www.gallup.com/workplace/349484/state-of-the-global-workplace.aspx
  2. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/fullarticle/1809754
  3. https://journals.healio.com/doi/10.3928/01484834-20150814-07
  4. https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/full/10.1089/acm.2011.0051
  5. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23643368/
  6. https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/abs/10.1089/acm.2013.0204
  7. https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/breath-meditation-a-great-way-to-relieve-stress

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