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Last Updated on January 12, 2021

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 anxiety and 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

    5 Simple Steps to Cultivate a Positive Mental Attitude 10 Self-Exploration Practices to Discover Your True Self 14 Personal Goals for a Better You Next Year 7 Self-Soothing Techniques for Stress and Anxiety Relief 5 Ways to Help You Get Through Depression

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    Last Updated on April 19, 2021

    How to Clear Your Mind and Be More Present Instantly

    How to Clear Your Mind and Be More Present Instantly

    You may be wondering how to clear your mind. Maybe you are facing a tough presentation at work and really need to focus, or perhaps you’ve got a lot going on at home and just need to relax for a few minutes. Whatever the reason, having a clear mind can help you find your center.

    The only problem is that you can’t completely erase the thousands of thoughts you have each day. The goal is to be able to observe those thoughts without engaging with each one of them.

    The good news is that clearing your mind and returning to the present moment comes from a simple act of acknowledging that you’re overwhelmed in the first place. A path to better mental health and overall quality of life starts here.

    What Happens When You’re Not Present?

    We’ve evolved to keep looking and working towards a future goal. The very nature of our careers is to make sure that we’re setting ourselves up for the future. Our thoughts and, therefore, our habits and actions consistently point in the forward-moving direction, whether it’s in your relationship, career, or goals.

    The point at which this becomes harmful is when we become too stuck in this forward motion and can’t reduce stress in the short or long-term. The result of this is burnout.[1] It’s a term that is most often used in the workplace, but burnout can happen in any area of our life where you feel like you’re pushing too hard and too fast.

    The idea here is that you’re so engrossed in the forward movement that you take on too much and rest too little. There is no pause in the present because you have this sense that you must keep working.

    On a physical plane, the body takes a real hit with burnout. You feel more muscle fatigue, poor concentration, insomnia, anxiety, poor metabolism, and so much more.

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    These symptoms are the body’s way of throwing you red flags and warning you that you must slow down. But because your mind is so preoccupied with this forward momentum, it disconnects you from listening to your body’s signals. The only time you really hear them is when the signals are too loud to ignore, such as during serious illness or pain.

    As we can see, not being present is something that snowballs over time. Eventually, it can cause serious mental, emotional, and physical ailments. 

    To help you deal with this, you can check out Lifehack’s Free Life Assessment to see where you may be off balance. Then, you can check out the points below to keep moving in the right direction.

    How Do We Come Back to the Present?

    Answering this question will answer the question of how to clear your mind because they go hand in hand. There are many tools you can use to begin a mindfulness practice.

    To reiterate, mindfulness is simply defined as the act or practice of being fully present.[2] Tools that allow you to step into this practice include meditation, journaling, a body-centered movement practice such as Qigong, or simple breathing exercises.

    Underneath it all, however, is one technique that acts as a universal connector, and that is acknowledgment. This term may not sound like a technique, but its power truly flourishes when put into practice.

    For us to come back to the present moment, we have to acknowledge that we have trailed off into the past or the future. Likewise, for us to clear our mind, we have to acknowledge that our mind is overwhelmed, distracted, or scattered.

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    This simple act of pausing and catching ourselves in the moment is how we can build our acknowledgment practice. So, the next time you find yourself overwhelmed at work with mental to-do lists, pause. Acknowledge your state of mind and say to yourself that you’re overwhelmed. This sends a signal to your whole being that you’re aware of what’s going on.

    It cuts the cords of illusion, denial, and ignorance. You are now building your awareness of yourself, which is an incredibly potent gift.

    How to Clear Your Mind

    Now that you’ve acknowledged where you are and how you feel, you can take action and learn ways to clear your mind. You can take a few moments away from your desk or to-do list, and practice something to ground yourself back into the present moment.

    1. Take a Walk

    Grounding yourself can be as simple as taking a walk and admiring the changing of the leaves. This practice is also known as “forest bathing,” and it doesn’t necessarily need to take place in a forest. It can be in your favorite park or even walking around your town or neighborhood.

    Bring your attention to the senses as you enjoy your walk. Can you tune in to the sounds of your footsteps on the earth? Can you notice the smells and take in the sights around you while staying present in the moment? Can you touch a leaf or the bark of a tree and allow the texture to teach you something new?

    Such a practice does wonders in clearing your mind and bringing you back to the now. It also connects you more deeply to your environment.

    2. Box Breathing

    As you’re learning how to clear your mind, a mind-clearing practice may look like sitting down and going through a nourishing meditation or breath practice. Breathing is, honestly, the easiest and best way to clear your mind. Even taking a few deep breaths in and out and feeling and noticing the breath will bring you right back to the present moment.[3]

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    In yoga, we call this breath Same Vrti, meaning a 1:1 breath ratio. It can also be translated as “box breathing.” The idea is to make the length of your inhales and exhales the same, as this allows you to take in more oxygen and slow down the chatter of the monkey mind. It also kicks on the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for rest and digestion, offering many health benefits in the long run.

    This will allow your heart rate to slow down so that you can reduce any anxiety you may be feeling. It also aids in digestion, as the metabolism is back on track, and helps you physically process food and drink properly.

    3. Add Meditation

    how to meditate and clear your mind is also helpful when you want to clear negative thoughts and relieve stress. In fact, following your breath is a meditation in itself. Adding a visual, like imagining gentle ripples on a lake or clouds passing along a beautiful blue sky, can give the mind something to attach to without running through the train of your thoughts.

    On the other hand, if you are mentally overwhelmed and meditation sounds like more stress, tuning in to a guided meditation session can be alleviating. It often helps to hear the voice of a teacher or guide who can walk you into more peace and contentment with their words and energy. If you can’t find such a guide in a local studio, turn to the many meditation apps on your phone, or YouTube.

    4. Write Your Thoughts

    Alternatively, another powerful practice for when you’re learning how to clear your mind is sitting down and writing out all of the thoughts in your head. We call this a “brain dump,” and it is an effective method for simply releasing your thoughts so that you can mentally breathe and process things better.

    Grab a piece of paper and write out all of the thoughts that are pressing for your attention. The idea is not to analyze the thoughts or fix them, but to give those thoughts an exit so that you can move on with your day without fixating on them aggressively. This can look like a laundry list of thoughts, or a diary entry.

    Afterward, feel free to close your journal or rip up the paper as part of your stress management. You don’t need to hold on to what you wrote, but it does help to see the expression of what you’re holding on to mentally. Likewise, this practice is very potent to do at night before bedtime. So many of us struggle to sleep soundly with many thoughts bouncing back and forth, and this exercise before bed can allow us to enter a deeper level of rest.

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    Regardless of what you do, understand that practicing mindfulness is a lifelong process. With life’s ups and downs, it’s stressful to attach yourself to the practice of being mindful and in the present moment because it’s never guaranteed that you will be present for 100% of your life.

    In this practice, what matters more than anything is intention. Our intention of staying present and sticking to our mindfulness practice is what will encourage us to keep coming back to it, even when we forget.

    Final Thoughts

    With the thousands of thoughts that we have in our head each day, it can sound overwhelming to even tackle this and try to learn how to clear your mind. The technique, however, is powerful, simple, and effective.

    It all comes down to first recognizing and acknowledging that we are overwhelmed, stressed, or far away from the present moment. That acknowledgment acts as a wake-up alarm, inviting us to examine our state of mind and take action.

    In this way, not only are we clearing our minds in a manner that works for us, but we’re also building our self-awareness, which is a beautiful and powerful way of being in the world.

    More Tips on How to Clear Your Mind

    Featured photo credit: Elijah Hiett via unsplash.com

    Reference

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