Even though it is best to avoid stress whenever possible, stress is an unavoidable part of life. A moderate amount of stress is not necessarily harmful to our health. However, chronic or prolonged states of stress and the inability to recover from stress are leading causes of mental and physical health issues.
Stress is an inevitable part of our lives, however, meditation techniques are shown to help the body and mind recover from stressful events.
Simple 5-minute meditation practice can be beneficial in managing the body's stress response and regulating the nervous system.
The goal of meditation is to see things clearly and comprehend the nature of the mind, not to force thoughts to stop or empty the mind.
This article explores the mind/body experience of stress and how to manage your response, including a simple 5-minute meditation for stress relief. Although we can not always avoid stressful situations in our lives, we can learn how to manage our reactions to stress and develop coping mechanisms. Like Jon Kabat-Zinn proclaims, "You can't stop the waves, but you can learn to surf."
Why is meditation beneficial for stress and anxiety?
Jon Kabat-Zinn, who popularized mindfulness in the early 1980s, compares the mind to the waves of the ocean. While the ocean is in constant motion, we accept that this is its nature. Similarly, the nature of the mind is a continual fluctuation of thoughts, worries, and desires.
"The water's waves are churned up by winds, which come and go and vary in direction and intensity, just as do the winds of stress and change in our lives, which stir up waves in our mind."Jon Kabat-Zinn
Stopping these thoughts is not the goal of meditation. Rather, its purpose is to increase consciousness and awareness of the nature of the mind. As a result, we are able to distinguish more clearly between our internal and external experiences and welcome fresh insights into our way of looking at the world.
By learning to recognize and become familiar with our body's and mind's reactions to stress, we can learn to build greater resilience. Meditation is a helpful tool to achieve this.
The importance of stress recovery
It seems that the issue lies not so much in stress itself, but rather in the difficulties we encounter in recovering from stress. Gabor Mate argues that the effects of prolonged stress, such as highly stressful jobs, mean we can lose sense of how this stress affects our bodies and no longer recognize the physical and mental signals.
This demonstrates the significance of not only figuring out how to reduce stress but also how to avoid chronic stress by becoming aware of our bodies' signals and learning to listen to them. Developing a regular meditation practice can help to address stress and anxiety, but it can also prevent more severe stress from forming.
With the increasing reports of chronic stress in the workplace, more businesses are providing mindfulness and meditation programs for their staff. This approach has shown promising results in decreasing burnout and staff taking less time off for sickness.
5-minute meditation for stress relief
As you read through the steps below, you can practice them, taking a moment to feel each step. You will be able to perform the meditation on your own whenever you feel like it after using these prompts a few times:
- Start by focusing on your breathing. Recognize the depth or shallowness of your breath right now without attempting to alter it.
- Notice the subtle movements of your body as you breathe — the movements of your shoulders, chest, belly, and back.
- Slowly begin to build awareness of your body at this moment, you may already notice that the rhythm of your breath has started to change, perhaps a lengthening of your exhales.
- Keep breathing and notice any physical sensations in your arms, legs, hands, and feet as you allow the breath to gradually slow down.
- Look for any spots on your body that seem tight or uncomfortable. Remind yourself that you are purely acknowledging the sensations and gathering information about your body in this moment.
- Notice the feeling of your feet on the ground and the feeling of your hips and pelvis on the chair or floor. By allowing the ground to hold you, acknowledge the sensation of stillness.
- Feel your body's subtle movements and sensations, as you breathe. Allow any arising thoughts to come and go. Observe how this sense of stillness coexists with these thoughts and feelings at the same time.
- Let yourself extend compassion to any spots of physical strain or discomfort, as these feeling persist. There is no need to react to these sensations or any thoughts arising related to them, only to allow in your compassion.
- Allow compassion to arise for any thoughts that come to mind as well as for any bodily sensations you are drawn to throughout your body.
- As you focus on this sense of compassion and loving kindness, you may feel a sensation of softening and warmth in your body. Continue to focus on these feelings, allowing this sensation to circulate through your body and radiate outward.
When is the best time and place to use this meditation?
Meditation can help ground and regulate your nervous system, relieving the uncomfortable sensations of stress and anxiety. Although it is ideal to find a secluded space, this meditation can be practiced in some situations while you are amongst other people, e.g., while sitting on a train or in your office.
You can use the above simple 5-minute meditation technique whenever you feel stressed out or at any time of day. It can be practiced with the eyes open or closed, seated on a chair or floor, or lying down.
It is important to note that this meditation should not be used while driving or operating machinery.
By developing a regular meditation practice, you can counteract the effects of stress and increase your resilience to stress in the future. Although it is advantageous to maintain a regular practice at home, mindfulness meditation methods, like the one mentioned above, can be utilized anytime, anywhere to reduce stress.
Can I do this meditation while out or at work?
The beauty of this simple 5-minute meditation is that it can be done anywhere and anytime. The focus is not to still or empty the mind but to build awareness of your feelings, gently allowing any discomfort to dissolve.
What if I'm a complete beginner? How do I start?
Simply follow the steps listed for the meditation above, and allow yourself to take as long as you need on each stage when you first begin. As you become more experienced in meditation and mindfulness techniques, it will take less time to shift into a meditative state and become easier to stay there.
When will I feel the benefits of meditation for stress relief?
The results will vary from person to person. Many people will feel some instant relief when they first begin practicing meditation. But it can also take time and commitment. The more you practice, the easier it will become to regulate your nervous system and relieve stress.
- Annual Reviews. Recovery from Work: Advancing the field Toward the Future.