We all feel stress at one time or another; it’s a normal part of living in the 21st century. Some may feel anxious, have panic attacks or feel that their thoughts are spiraling out of control. Others may feel overwhelmed and have difficulty thinking clearly. Still others may ruminate on everything that has happened yesterday or even an hour ago. When I work with clients who are feeling stressed out, anxious, or have experienced a trauma, I almost always discuss the importance of finding ways to relax and I most often recommend meditation and mindfulness.
What are these techniques? Like many of my clients, I once thought that meditation was something that yogis or monks did, sitting and having no thoughts. However, mindfulness is simply defined as “a mental state focusing one’s awareness on the present moment.” The definition of meditate is “to focus one’s mind for a period of time, in silence or with the aid of chanting….as a method of relaxation.” Sounds good, doesn’t it?
Meditation can improve both mental and physical health. It can provide a sense of calm, as well as positive effects on the nervous system. These physiological improvements can be measured: slower, deeper breathing, lower blood pressure and decreased heart rate. Meditation has been shown to increase mental focus, reduce stress and improve sleep.
I know it is often hard to remember to stop and be still when life is so demanding and hectic. Many people find it challenging to be alone with their thoughts for a variety of reasons. Therefore, I teach these techniques to my clients; we do them together. I emphasize that it is essential to practice them every day and make them part of a daily routine, like teeth brushing. Mindfulness and meditation are skills that require practice like any other skill. The more you practice, the better you become.
There are lots of free guided meditations on YouTube and apps for your phone such as HeadSpace, CALM, SmilingMind, InsightTimer and Mindfulness.com.
By pressing pause on your life and slowing down, you can help create a sense of calm. From a place of calm, you will be more effective at managing stress and anxiety. This, in turn, will help you become a more self-aware, relaxed person.