Did you know stress is the basic cause of 60 percent of all human illness and disease? Stress increases your risk of stroke by 50 percent, heart disease by 40 percent and heart attack by 25 percent. Three out of every four doctor’s appointments are for stress-related ailments. The impact of stress can also lead to overeating and loss of sleep.
Stress is different for each of us, and there is no one-size-fits-all solution for stress management. Some common (non-medication) tricks and tips for managing stress include aerobic exercise, prayer, yoga, deep breathing, massage therapy, acupuncture, listening to music, volunteer work, keeping a daily journal, laughter, shopping, spending time with family and hobbies.
Many people also find stress relief through meditation. Spending a few minutes each day meditating can restore your inner peace, and it won’t cost you a penny!
What is meditation? For thousands of years, people have practiced meditation—falling into a deep state of relaxation and a tranquil, clear mind. Meditation eliminates the mental clutter that may be causing your stress.
Benefits of meditation
There are many benefits of meditation, including:
- Gaining a new perspective on stressful situations
- Increasing self-awareness
- Focusing on the present
- Reducing negative emotions
- Decreasing pulse rate
- Lowering blood pressure
- Improving mood
How to meditate for stress relief
The relaxation response technique is one form of meditation many use to reduce stress. This technique tackles the “fight or flight” response to stress head-on. To practice the relaxation response, find a quiet, peaceful place free of distractions where you can sit quietly with your eyes closed for 10 to 20 minutes. Relax all the muscles in your body, starting with your feet and working up to your facial muscles. Breathe naturally through your nose. Choose a word or phrase you like, such as “peace,” or another word that holds a special meaning for you. Silently repeat that word or phrase to yourself during the course of your meditation. When you have finished, sit quietly with your eyes closed, gradually allowing your mind to return to the present.
Other forms of meditation you may want to try to reduce your stress include:
- Guided meditation or visualization, in which you form mental images of relaxing places or situations.
- Mindfulness meditation, in which you focus on slow, deep breathing, observing your thoughts and emotions but allowing them to pass without judgment.
- Tai Chi, a form of gentle Chinese martial arts.
- Yoga, a series of controlled breathing exercises and physical postures that require balance and concentration to promote a flexible body and calm mind.
- Prayer, both spoken and written.
- Reading and reflecting on scriptures, poems or texts that hold a special meaning for you.
No one form of meditation works for everyone. Find what works for you and work it into your daily life to reduce your stress level and improve your mental and physical health.