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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.

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    Last Updated on January 21, 2020

    The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

    The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

    Creating a vision for your life might seem like a frivolous, fantastical waste of time, but it’s not: creating a compelling vision of the life you want is actually one of the most effective strategies for achieving the life of your dreams. Perhaps the best way to look at the concept of a life vision is as a compass to help guide you to take the best actions and make the right choices that help propel you toward your best life.

    your vision of where or who you want to be is the greatest asset you have

      Why You Need a Vision

      Experts and life success stories support the idea that with a vision in mind, you are more likely to succeed far beyond what you could otherwise achieve without a clear vision. Think of crafting your life vision as mapping a path to your personal and professional dreams. Life satisfaction and personal happiness are within reach. The harsh reality is that if you don’t develop your own vision, you’ll allow other people and circumstances to direct the course of your life.

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      How to Create Your Life Vision

      Don’t expect a clear and well-defined vision overnight—envisioning your life and determining the course you will follow requires time, and reflection. You need to cultivate vision and perspective, and you also need to apply logic and planning for the practical application of your vision. Your best vision blossoms from your dreams, hopes, and aspirations. It will resonate with your values and ideals, and will generate energy and enthusiasm to help strengthen your commitment to explore the possibilities of your life.

      What Do You Want?

      The question sounds deceptively simple, but it’s often the most difficult to answer. Allowing yourself to explore your deepest desires can be very frightening. You may also not think you have the time to consider something as fanciful as what you want out of life, but it’s important to remind yourself that a life of fulfillment does not usually happen by chance, but by design.

      It’s helpful to ask some thought-provoking questions to help you discover the possibilities of what you want out of life. Consider every aspect of your life, personal and professional, tangible and intangible. Contemplate all the important areas, family and friends, career and success, health and quality of life, spiritual connection and personal growth, and don’t forget about fun and enjoyment.

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      Some tips to guide you:

      • Remember to ask why you want certain things
      • Think about what you want, not on what you don’t want.
      • Give yourself permission to dream.
      • Be creative. Consider ideas that you never thought possible.
      • Focus on your wishes, not what others expect of you.

      Some questions to start your exploration:

      • What really matters to you in life? Not what should matter, what does matter.
      • What would you like to have more of in your life?
      • Set aside money for a moment; what do you want in your career?
      • What are your secret passions and dreams?
      • What would bring more joy and happiness into your life?
      • What do you want your relationships to be like?
      • What qualities would you like to develop?
      • What are your values? What issues do you care about?
      • What are your talents? What’s special about you?
      • What would you most like to accomplish?
      • What would legacy would you like to leave behind?

      It may be helpful to write your thoughts down in a journal or creative vision board if you’re the creative type. Add your own questions, and ask others what they want out of life. Relax and make this exercise fun. You may want to set your answers aside for a while and come back to them later to see if any have changed or if you have anything to add.

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      What Would Your Best Life Look Like?

      Describe your ideal life in detail. Allow yourself to dream and imagine, and create a vivid picture. If you can’t visualize a picture, focus on how your best life would feel. If you find it difficult to envision your life 20 or 30 years from now, start with five years—even a few years into the future will give you a place to start. What you see may surprise you. Set aside preconceived notions. This is your chance to dream and fantasize.

      A few prompts to get you started:

      • What will you have accomplished already?
      • How will you feel about yourself?
      • What kind of people are in your life? How do you feel about them?
      • What does your ideal day look like?
      • Where are you? Where do you live? Think specifics, what city, state, or country, type of community, house or an apartment, style and atmosphere.
      • What would you be doing?
      • Are you with another person, a group of people, or are you by yourself?
      • How are you dressed?
      • What’s your state of mind? Happy or sad? Contented or frustrated?
      • What does your physical body look like? How do you feel about that?
      • Does your best life make you smile and make your heart sing? If it doesn’t, dig deeper, dream bigger.

      It’s important to focus on the result, or at least a way-point in your life. Don’t think about the process for getting there yet—that’s the next stepGive yourself permission to revisit this vision every day, even if only for a few minutes. Keep your vision alive and in the front of your mind.

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      Plan Backwards

      It may sound counter-intuitive to plan backwards rather than forwards, but when you’re planning your life from the end result, it’s often more useful to consider the last step and work your way back to the first. This is actually a valuable and practical strategy for making your vision a reality.

      • What’s the last thing that would’ve had to happen to achieve your best life?
      • What’s the most important choice you would’ve had to make?
      • What would you have needed to learn along the way?
      • What important actions would you have had to take?
      • What beliefs would you have needed to change?
      • What habits or behaviors would you have had to cultivate?
      • What type of support would you have had to enlist?
      • How long will it have taken you to realize your best life?
      • What steps or milestones would you have needed to reach along the way?

      Now it’s time to think about your first step, and the next step after that. Ponder the gap between where you are now and where you want to be in the future. It may seem impossible, but it’s quite achievable if you take it step-by-step.

      It’s important to revisit this vision from time to time. Don’t be surprised if your answers to the questions, your technicolor vision, and the resulting plans change. That can actually be a very good thing; as you change in unforeseeable ways, the best life you envision will change as well. For now, it’s important to use the process, create your vision, and take the first step towards making that vision a reality.

      Featured photo credit: Matt Noble via unsplash.com

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