Meditation for Stress
Stress has become one of the most common health complaints in the US. Almost half of adults say stress has a negative impact on their well-being and behavior.
Everyday experiences can cause stress and unexpected stressors like pandemics that bring everything we take for granted to a halt.
Meditation for stress reduction is one of the most studied areas of meditation. In fact, one of the gold standard treatments for stress worldwide is the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program.
Learn about meditation for stress in this article and go deeper with our Stress Scripts and Guided Meditations.
What is Stress?
Stress is anything that puts a demand on your mind or body. It’s a short-term response to a perceived threat in your environment, like a near car crash. Your brain goes on alert and floods your body with chemicals so you can react. You’re able to swerve and avoid the collision.
You can be stressed by a positive event too, like your wedding or a big promotion at work.
Stress is a bit different from anxiety, even though it can have similar symptoms. Anxiety can come out of nowhere, without an identifiable threat or trigger. You have a feeling of dread or unease, but you don’t know why.
Just like anxiety, if your stress is not short-lived, your body’s nervous system stays on alert. Long-term stress can cause serious health issues, including immune system depletion, insomnia, digestive problems, chronic pain, headaches and feelings of overwhelm.
What is Meditation for Stress?
Stress affects you physically and mentally. When stressed, it shows up in your body in some obvious ways, like a clenched jaw or a tense stomach. It also shows up in ways you can’t see, like accelerating your heart rate and releasing action-oriented neurochemicals.
Mentally, it’s hard to think clearly or positively when your mind is awash in these stress chemicals. They are designed to help you react, not think.
The most effective remedies work on both aspects of stress–and meditation for stress fits the bill. It reduces the physiological effects of stress and helps your body return to baseline. And it teaches you how to cope with stressful thoughts to calm your mind.
There are many kinds of meditation practices that will help you reconnect with ease and well-being when you’re feeling stressed.
How Meditation for Stress Works
Managing stress, especially long-term stress, is crucial for physical and mental health. A consistent practice of stress reduction meditation changes the physical structures in your brain and how your brain handles stress.
Meditation for stress:
Just a few minutes of meditation each day helps to reverse the ways that stress stresses your body and mind.
Benefits of Meditation for Stress
Stress has a way of sapping the enjoyment out of life. And it makes it hard to deal with everyday challenges that you usually manage with ease. If feeling stressed is becoming “a habit,” your body and mind need to “remember” what being un-stressed feels like.
Meditation to reduce stress is a proven way to reconnect you with a sense of relaxation and well-being. You can reset and get back to enjoying life.
The healing physiological effects of a regular meditation practice include:
The many mental benefits include:
Meditation for Stress Techniques
Meditations for stress reduction fall into three main types. Choose one of the following practices that appeal to you most or try one of our guided meditation for stress scripts here.
Combining mindfulness with physical exercise is a great stress buster. Walking meditations give you all the benefits of breath and body meditations. Plus, they can give you a needed break from stressful thoughts.
Calming the breath calms the mind. Breath meditation is one of the most effective and simple ways to reduce stress.
Imagine your stress melting away like snow on a sunny day. Guided imagery or visualization can be a healing time-out for your stressed mind and body.
For many hundreds of years, mantras have been used to calm and focus the mind. Mantras for stress reduction can be traditional, like the universal mantra OM, or one that you choose specifically for stress, like “This too shall pass.”
Another common practice to relieve stressful thoughts is the body scan. These practices directly affect your nervous system to trigger a deep relaxation response. This is an especially great practice to use at bedtime.
Step by Step Meditation for Stress Management
Want to try a short stress-reducing meditation? Here is a step-by-step guide for a simple body scan. The most important part of the practice is kindness. Whatever you experience as you do the practice, notice it with curiosity and kindness.
Additional Tips to Relieve Stress
When you’re feeling stressed, there are practices and tools you can use in addition to meditation.
Have a regular active lifestyle
You don’t have to play tennis three days a week, but regular physical activity is one of the best ways to reduce physical and mental stress.
Where there’s stress, there’s probably negative thinking that is bringing down your mood and sense of self-worth. Consciously choosing positive thinking throughout your day can be a potent mood-changer.
Studies are showing just how important your diet is to stress and mental health. Foods have powerful and wide-ranging effects on your brain–for better and for worse.
Connect with people
When you’re stressed, do you reach out to friends and family more or less? Your connections with other people are a balm for stress. A caring ear and a shared laugh can help you feel better in the moment and build your resilience over time.
Laugh and smile
Have you heard of laughter yoga? It’s become a beloved practice for people who want to feel better in a joyful way. You can even improve your mood with a few minutes of smiling.
Sleep hygiene and CBT
Regular, restful sleep is a big piece of the puzzle of stress reduction. Follow good sleep hygiene to ensure you’re enjoying as much healing sleep as you can. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) has also gained popularity as an effective tool for insomnia.
Meditation for Stress FAQs
What type of meditation relieves stress?
The most effective meditations to relieve stress are breath meditations. They trigger a whole range of relaxation and healing effects in your mind and body. You can do them any time you have a few minutes–in a waiting room or on the bus.
How do I start meditating for stress?
You can start meditating for stress with a simple breathing exercise. Find one practice you enjoy and use it every day for a week. Notice your stress level before and after you meditate to see how your stress level changes.
Who Should Use Meditation for Stress?
People who feel their quality of life is being affected by stress can benefit from these practices. Learn one or two meditations that you can use at any time to help you feel better in the moment and over the long term.
What is Best for Stress: Yoga or Meditation?
Yoga and meditation are both powerful tools for reducing stress. The best tool is always the one you will use, so try both to see which you like and which relieves your stress the most.
A regular stress-reduction routine is a wonderful self-care strategy. Choose a few practices that approach stress in different ways that matter most to you– from reducing negative self-talk to improving sleep, to strengthening your overall physical health.
Meditations for stress are the simplest and most versatile tools out there. You can start here on Mindfulness Exercises with these Mindful Breathing Exercises for Stress.
The information contained in this article is not a substitute for any professional advice or treatment, including the advice and treatment of a licensed health care or mental health professional.
Ann Vrlak is a Certified Meditation Teacher for adults and children (the best job ever) and a meditation practitioner for over 25 years. She is also a freelance writer specializing in meditation and mindfulness, with a special love for creating guided scripts to share the practical and profound experience of meditation.