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Last Updated on September 16, 2019

How to Practice Meditation for Anxiety and Stress Relief

How to Practice Meditation for Anxiety and Stress Relief

Anxiety and stress are often difficult to simply ignore. Maybe you think you’ve tried everything to alleviate them, and nothing has worked. Maybe you have underlying issues connected with anxiety and stress, and it is hard to both treat the symptoms and the cause.

Have you tried, really tried, meditating for some relief?

You don’t have to be some guru in order to meditate. You don’t have to always do it perfectly. You don’t even have to do it the same way each time.

The most important thing is that you meet yourself where you are at. You must show self-compassion. You must lead the meditation with that intent. You are giving to yourself so that you may be able to give better. You will notice a change in your awareness of self if you start with this in mind.

Can Meditation Reduce Anxiety?

Meditation CAN reduce anxiety, but how long does it take for it to be effective? The answer is as simple as it is complex:

You must lose yourself in order to find yourself.

When you lose yourself in the meditation, the anxiety and stress will be relieved. You will be completely present. You will be completely aware of what is happening right now rather than what you are stressing over.

What Is Meditation for Anxiety?

Meditation is about mindfulness NOT mind-FULL-ness. See image by The Happiness Project:

    Starting in mindfulness or conscious awareness of something, you can begin by focusing on something specific. You can focus on what is around you, a preferred topic or thought or a mantra. The important part is that you stay present or aware of yourself in the moment.

    Meditation is a lifestyle, not just a momentary and fleeting escape from what worries you. It’s self care at its finest.

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    Meditation is where you bring your imperfection and your mess and you sit down and admit, “I don’t know what I’m doing.” It is not for perfection. It is not for having it all together. It is for being human, in all your vulnerability. It’s admitting you don’t have all the answers. It’s admitting you aren’t always living your truth.

    It’s being welcomed into the stillness, into the moment or present state of being that you start to listen to answers. That anxiety or that stress is trying to pull you apart. The mindfulness and meditation you practice is about putting yourself together again, piece by piece.

    In the not knowing, you wait for the Knowing to show up.

    In the not being whatever you want to be, you wait for the Being to present itself.

    In the losses, you wait for the Lessons.

    Underneath the anxiety and stress is a lack of stillness. You can argue for any mental health diagnosis and all would still fit the bill for a lack of stillness. It’s not negating what doctors may be telling you to do, it’s simply another way that you can destress.

    It starts with breathing.

    Breathe

    Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. One hand should be on your chest and the other on your belly. When you breathe in, your belly should get bigger. And vice versa.[1]

    Breathe in the positive. Breathe out the negative.

    Breathe in the meditative state you wish to be in. Breathe out the state you are.

    Breathe in the mantra you’d like to say to yourself. Breathe out its opposite.

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    Breathe in the relaxation. Breathe out the tension (for tension relief, a body scan meditation can be utilized where you release tension using breath for each part of the body doing a full body scan until relaxed.)

    It’s about centering yourself. Grounding yourself.

    You can do it with eyes open or closed. That part doesn’t matter. You choose.

    Anxiety and stress will start to subside the more you lose yourself in the meaning of the moment. No longer are you about what you are doing. You are about who you are being. Chose positive terms for that being:

    I am light. I am empowerment. I am prosperity. I am love.

    Breathe that in too.

    This is a safe space. Meditation is a safe space where you can admit your flaws and ask the universe for help overcoming them. You come with a question, you get an answer.

    This helps settle yourself down because anxiety and stress often lead us to impulsivity or rash decision making skills. It helps to relieve the stress so you can deal with the stressors. It helps subside the anxiety so you can get to the root cause.

    In the silence, things come up. That’s what makes meditation scary for many people. It’s much harder to approach than it looks. It asks for a willingness to take the mask off; some never do.

    The Mayo Clinic recommends it as well in the article Meditation: A Simple, Fast Way to Reduce Stress:[2]

    “Meditation has been practiced for thousands of years. Meditation originally was meant to help deepen understanding of the sacred and mystical forces of life. These days, meditation is commonly used for relaxation and stress reduction.”

    Medical conditions worsened by stress such as depression, headaches and anxiety can also be improved by meditation. The best part? Anyone can do it!

    Follow a Guided Meditation

    If you find yourself having a difficult time focusing, don’t punish yourself. Gently draw yourself back. If you are prone to losing focus of the moment or positive thoughts, try a guided meditation where all you need to do is listen to a soothing voice guide you through it.

    There are a ton of guided meditations online. Here’s one I recommend:

     

    If meditation had a slogan, this would probably be it:

    Disconnect from the world. Reconnect with yourself.

    Sit, Breathe, Forget Your Woes, Call the Answer Up, Breathe, Sit.

    That would be the sections of meditation listed as those as the steps.

    You start by sitting somewhere. It can be anywhere. Pick a time of day to do this consistently (or at random, up to you). Be somewhere in some room you can focus. Breathe in and out your mantras. Forget what is ailing you or triggering you to have anxiety and stress. And call the answer.

    What happens when clarity overcomes us? Anxiety and stress no longer do.

    Why is this effective? Meditation has only been scientifically studied for a few decades but, according to The Washington Post on mindfulness meditation: [3]

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    “Some of the most impressive studies to date involve a treatment called mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, which combines meditation with psychotherapy to help patients deal with thoughts that lead to depression. Randomized controlled trials have shown that the approach significantly reduces the risk of depression relapse in individuals who have previously had three or more major depressive episodes.”

    How Often Should You Meditate for Anxiety?

    Meditation can be done daily as a preventative practice or simply every time anxiety and stress occurs. Some people meditate while they’re in their rooms for as long as they like or throughout the day in bits such as when they are waiting in traffic, watching a sunset, preparing for a speech, etc.

    How often can you practice meditation? The truth is as often as you’d like.

    Final Thoughts

    Anxiety or stress doesn’t have to control or own you. You can start today by giving it to the meditation. If you find yourself with a wandering mind, give it time. With more practice in meditation, you will be able to feel it working for you. Your questions will be answered. Your happiness will be held onto. Your negative thoughts will diminish.

    All you have to do is show up.

    Show up to the meditation and it will change your life. Rather than acting on the anxiety or stress, you learn to listen to it. And that is the best lesson of all.

    You get what you give, and in this case, the more you give to the meditation (of your thoughts and worries), the more it will serve you.

    The best part? You can customize it to work for you. You pick when, you pick where, you pick how long and to what extent. You pick what thoughts to give it, you pick how much anxiety or stress to let it cleanse.

    Cleanse it will. Because in that silence, or guided meditation, is your safe space. And while you may not know what you are doing sometimes in life, here you have all the power.

    Good luck!

    More About Meditation

    Featured photo credit: Cristian Newman via unsplash.com

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    Reference

    More by this author

    Sarah Browne

    Sarah is a speaker, writer and activist who promotes the end of stigma for mental health.

    Why Am I so Sad? 9 Possible Causes You Shouldn’t Ignore How to Practice Meditation for Anxiety and Stress Relief How to Control Anxiety and Calm Your Anxious Thoughts 5 Steps to Cultivate a Positive Mental Attitude How to Be True to Yourself and Live the Life You Want

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    Last Updated on November 11, 2019

    How to Improve Memory and Boost Your Brainpower

    How to Improve Memory and Boost Your Brainpower

    Have you ever noticed that some people are able to effortlessly remember even the most mundane details and quickly comprehend new things? Well, you can too!

    To unlock the full potential of your brain, you need to keep it active and acute. Wasting time on your couch watching mindless television shows or scrolling through facebook is not going to help.

    Besides getting out flashcards, what can you do to help remember things better and learn new things more quickly? Check out these 10 effective ways on how to improve memory:

    1. Exercise and Get Your Body Moving

    Exercising doesn’t just exercise the body, it also helps to exercise your brain. Obesity and the myriad of diseases that eventually set in as a result of being overweight can cause serious harm to the brain.

    Furthermore, without regular exercise, plaque starts to build up in your arteries, and your blood vessels begin to lose the ability to effectively pump blood. Plaque buildup leads to heart attacks and it also reduces the amount of oxygen and nutrients that your blood carries to your brain. When the nutrients don’t make it there, the brain’s ability to function is compromised.

    To prevent this from happening, make sure you get moving every day. Even if it’s just a brisk walk, it’ll help you maintain and increase your mental acuity. Brisk walking, swimming and dancing are all excellent activities. Take a look at these 5 Ways to Find Time for Exercise.

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    2. Eliminate Stressors and Seek Help If You’re Depressed

    Anything that causes you major stress, like anger or anxiety, will in time begin to eat away the parts of your brain that are responsible for memory. Amongst the most brain-damaging stressors is depression, which is actually often misdiagnosed a a memory problem since one of its primary symptoms is the inability to concentrate.

    If you can’t concentrate, then you might feel like you are constantly forgetting things. Depression increases the levels of cortisol in your bloodstream which elevates the cortisol levels in the brain. Doctors have found that increased cortisol diminishes certain areas of the brain, especially the hippocampus which is where short-term memories are stored.

    Prolonged depression can thus destroy your brain’s ability to remember anything new. Seek professional help to combat your depression – your brain will thank you.

    3. Get a Good Night’s Sleep and Take Naps

    Getting a consistent 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night will increase your memory. During sleep, the brain firms up memories of recently acquired information.

    Getting enough sleep will help you get through the full spectrum of nocturnal cycles that are essential to optimal brain and body functioning during the waking hours. Taking a nap throughout the day, especially after learning something new, can also help you to retain those memories as well as recharge your brain and keep it sharper longer.

    4. Feed Your Brain

    Fifty to sixty percent of the brain’s overall weight is pure fat, which is used to insulate its billions of nerve cells. The better insulated a cell is, the faster it can send messages and the quicker you will be thinking.

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    This is precisely why parents are advised to feed their young children whole milk and to restrict dieting – their brains’ need fat to grow and work properly. Skimping on fats can be devastating even to the adult brain.

    Thus, eating foods that contain a healthy mix of fats is vital for long-term memory. Some excellent food choices include fish (especially anchovies, mackerel and wild salmon) and dark leafy green vegetables. Here’re more brain food choices: 12 Foods that Can Improve Your Brain Power

    Deep-fried foods obviously contain fat but their lack of nutritional value is not going to help your brain or your body, so think healthy foods and fats.

    5. Eat Breakfast and Make Sure It Includes an Egg

    According to Larry McCleary, M.D., author of  The Brain Trust Program, an egg is the ideal breakfast. Eggs contain B vitamins which help nerve cells to burn glucose, antioxidants that protect neurons against damage; and omega-3 fatty acids that keep nerve cells firing at optimal speed.

    Other foods to add to your breakfast include fruits, veggies and lean proteins. Avoid trans fats and high fructose corn syrup. Trans fats diminish the brain cells’ ability to communicate with each other and HFCS can actually shrink the brain by damaging cells.

    Having a healthy breakfast in the morning has been shown to improve performance throughout the day. If you’re too busy to have a healthy breakfast, this maybe just right for you: 33 Quick And Healthy Breakfasts For Busy Mornings

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    6. Write it Down

    If there’s something you want to remember, writing it down can help.

    It may sound like a no-brainer, but do you really know why? Writing it down creates oxygenated blood flow to areas of your brain that a responsible for your memories and literally exercises those parts of it. Here’s How Writing Things Down Can Change Your Life.

    You can start a journal, write yourself emails or even start keeping a blog – all of these activities will help to improve your capacity to remember and memorize information.

    7. Listen to Music

    Research shows that certain types of music are very helpful in recalling memories. Information that is learned while listening to a particular song or collection can often be recalled by thinking of the song or “playing” it mentally. Songs and music can serve as cues for pulling up particular memories.

    8. Visual Concepts

    In order to remember things, many people need to visualize the information they are studying.

    Pay attention to photographers, charts and other graphics that might appear in your textbook; or if you’re not studying a book, try to pull up a mental image of what it is you are trying to remember. It might also help to draw your own charts or figures, or utilize colors and highlighters to group related ideas in your notes.

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    Here, you can learn How to Become a Person Who Can Visualize Results.

    9. Teach Someone Else

    Reading material out loud has been shown to significantly improve memory of the material. Expanding further upon this idea is the fact that psychologists and educators have found that by having students teach new concepts to others, it helps to enhance understanding and recall.

    Teach new concepts and information to a friend or study partner, and you’ll find you remember the information a lot better.

    10. Do Crossword Puzzles, Read or Play Cards

    Studies have shown that doing crossword puzzles, read or play cards on a daily basis not only keep your brain active but also help to delay memory loss, especially in those who develop dementia.

    So pick up the daily newspaper and work on that crossword puzzle, read a book or enjoy a game of solitaire.

    Pick one to two of these tips first and start applying them to your everyday life. Very soon you’ll find yourself having better memories and a clearer head!

    More About Boosting Memory

    Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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