Stress! Are you a fan, LOL?
Stress, of course, can be a useful emotion to feel when it helps you get jobs done. But I’m thinking here more about the stress that tightens up your chest (or in my case, my back). The type that gives you headaches or irritable bowel. It feels like a very physical thing even though it’s your thoughts (conscious or subconscious) that are driving it.
In this blog, I’m looking underneath the ‘hood’ of meditation at the processes involved and how they help you reduce stress.
Meditation uses four skills which combine to reduce stress:
- The ability to stay relaxed and alert.
- Staying focused and calm.
- Retrieving your wandering mind.
- Letting everything else go.
Let’s look at the very first skill, relaxing
When you sit down for meditation, you’re committing to being still for a known period of time. Your body and mind recognise that you’re ‘taking a breather’, so they calm down from being very active to being more relaxed.
At first, you might find it hard to settle down to being more relaxed, especially if it’s not something you do very often. If being still is a new skill (or a very rusty one) that’s OK because there are meditation techniques that will help you chill out further. Techniques, like doing a body scan and then relaxing each part of your body in turn or using soothing breathing rhythms, are good ways of learning what relaxation feels like. By practicing them, you learn how to move into a more chilled out state of being.
Early experiences of meditation can include;
- Finding it hard to relax and calm the ‘busy-ness’ of your mind.
- Or you may experience the opposite, feeling sleepy, foggy, or dopey.
Either experience (usually you’ll get to have both) is absolutely fine and is part of the process of developing your ability to stay relaxed … but alert!
Even if you want to use meditation to help you sleep, being able to balance the dynamic of ‘relaxed-alertness’ is still an essential skill to master as it makes you aware of your thoughts. It enables you to ‘see’ whether they are pointless time and energy wasters that you can discard or they are over-emotional basket cases that could do with a calmer perspective!
Focused, calm & stop your wandering mind
In meditation, you’re training your mind to stay focused on a single subject.
Normally your mind follows trains of thoughts. Thoughts that come one after the other and demand attention, action, or just that you keep repeating the same thoughts over and over again in case you forget something. Tiring, even when your thoughts end up producing some useful outcomes 🙂
- Training your ability to stay focused on JUST ONE THING is the core of any meditation practice.
- When your mind does this, it automatically calms down and feels more relaxed.
‘Retrieving your wandering-mind’ is all about recognising and reducing the tendency to lose your focus and end up chasing thought, after thought, after thought. Within your meditation you will;
- Lose your focus over and over again.
- Keep having to retrieve your wandering mind.
These experiences are all normal and are all part of training your mind to be mindful and aware of what it’s thinking and feeling. With this skill at your fingertips, you’ll be better able to banish, reduce, or manage stress.
Letting everything else go
Being able to simply ‘let stuff go’, how fabulous!!!
It’s pretty easy to see how that will make you feel less stressed and boy, wouldn’t it be wonderful if it was simply that easy. In real life, it often isn’t that easy. No matter how hard you try, before you know it the stressed thoughts and feelings are back.
Meditation turns that around. It delivers the power to help you ‘let go’.
You just need to practice the art of relaxing, focusing, and retrieving your wandering mind. When you ‘see’ the thought arrive, it needs to be regarded thus:
- “sort it later” or
- “for the incinerator” 🙂
When you get into the habit of regular practice, your mind and body will learn to respond quickly to what you’re doing. When you’re meditating, you’re relaxing and letting go of tension, both mental and physical.
- Over time, any stress-related muscle tension will reduce or simply disappear.
- With less stiffness or tightness in your body, your body benefits from an increase mobility and improved circulation.
- You’ll have a digestive system that will be better able to digest! Your body can actually make use of all the lovely nutrients you are eating and that means you’ll have more energy.
The result is an improved sense of well being and everything seems easier!
Start reducing your stress today!
Stress eats energy. Stress dampens enthusiasm and creativeness. It makes your life harder. Meditation will reduce how stressed you feel and it will restore energy, enthusiasm, and creativeness. You can start changing your stress level today.
Find a quiet place and start with the short and simple Nine Breaths meditation. It’s a FREE video and an optional PDF download for you to use.
“I’ve found the 9 breaths very helpful. I generally do 3 sets of 9 which really leaves me with a great sense of calm. I had an incident at work where it became busy and my thoughts began to race. I took myself away and did the 9 steps twice. I was much calmer and able to think more clearly. It is helping me so much. Thank you”. – Caroline Harrington
If you’ve got any questions about stress and how meditation may help you, feel free to email me. I’d love to hear from you, and I will answer your question as soon as I can.