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Mental Wellness

5 Relaxation Meditation Techniques for When You’re Stressed

Written by Adam Bergen
Adam Bergen is the founder of Monday Views, a movement dedicated to showing that with focus and self-discipline, your potential is limitless.
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Saying you’ll avoid stress is like saying you’ll avoid sweets for the rest of your life; unfortunately, it probably won’t happen. While that sounds like a losing battle for both the chocoholics and the super stressed out there, it’s not all bad news. Even though stress is something we all get hit with on occasion, we’re lucky enough to have tools at our disposal to help combat that gripping feeling of helplessness, and one of the most powerful is relaxation meditation.

Meditation assists a great deal in battling the daily grind, and while I highly suggest making it a regular practice, not all of us are at that point in our lives. However, there are other smaller techniques we can utilize to battle the overwhelming feeling we get when the stress is getting the best of us.

Keep in mind that all of the following can be done on the spot in an instant to help put you in a more relaxed state. It doesn’t hurt to try them out—it could be a game changer in your day. These relaxation meditation techniques will help you achieve balance no matter where you may find yourself when stress hits hard.

1. The 16-Second Rule

Take 16 seconds, whenever you need it, to reset yourself through square breathing. Whether you need a moment to calm down, to tone down the anger, or get into the present moment, following this simple process causes a small “pattern interruption.” 

Think of this as a reset button to ease stress, or saying no when you usually say yes. It is anything that causes you to snap out of the pattern you’re in and refocus.

Simply breath in for a count of four, hold for a count of four, release for a count of four, and you guessed it, pause for a count of four. Four minor steps at four seconds each, and you’ve got a 16 second reset. Use it whenever you need a moment or feel overwhelmed[1].

Square breathing for relaxation meditation

    2. The Finger Trick

    This relaxation meditation trick can also be done absolutely anytime you want; on the subway, at your desk, or even waiting in line for lunch. If your mind is getting the best of you, simply place your thumb on the side of the bottom of your middle finger (closest to the base of the finger) and close your eyes. Then, breath in and out slowly a few times while putting light pressure on the middle finger with your thumb.

    You should feel a slight head-rush or ever-so-small light-headed feeling when following these simple steps. Once you open your eyes, you will feel a renewed sense of calm.


    3. Deep Breathing

    This is yet another simple relaxation meditation exercise that can be done on the spot, anytime you’re feeling overwhelmed with what life’s throwing at you.

    Your eyes can be open or closed, but the idea is to inhale as deep as you possibly can. At first, you’ll probably feel your chest expanding and opening up as you inhale, but if you continue inhaling past that point, make it your mission to slowly expand your stomach with the last bit of that inhale.

    You might temporarily look like you just ate Chipotle’s largest burrito, but it’ll only last a second. If you can do this for five or ten breaths, you’ll stimulate the Vagus nerve, reducing the fight or flight response of the sympathetic nervous system[2]. This can be a game-changer for your stress levels, so take some time each day to devote to deep breathing and focus on the rising and falling that it creates in your body. 

    4. Be Grateful

    You need to cultivate an attitude of gratitude to find stress relief, and the best way to do that is to consistently note what you’re grateful for in your life. To do this, you can train yourself to actively think about the things that support it.

    Before or after a relaxation meditation, try incorporating a gratitude journal where you list three to five things each day that you’re grateful for. It can be small things such as the comfort of your favorite chair, or big things like your spouse or children. When you begin to identify three new things each day, your mind will learn to automatically look for these things without being told to do so. 


    Often, we don’t actively take note of the good things we have because we’re so busy comparing our lives and possessions to everyone else. If this is the case for you, step away from social media for a bit to get a more positive perspective on your own life.

    5. Visualization

    Our brains are capable of a vast amount of creativity that allows us to create situations and have our bodies respond accordingly, without the situation actually occurring.

    Here’s a great example: imagine you have to give a public speech. Before you even get up there to deliver the speech, you already know what happens. Your palms get sweaty, your heart rate increases, you feel weak and nauseated.

    But you haven’t even given the speech yet. Your brain has successfully tricked your body into thinking you’re seconds away from getting in front of that crowd and spewing out your monologue.

    We can see how powerful it actually is. Now it’s time to use the brain’s power to your advantage.

    Close your eyes and put yourself in a situation that you find peaceful. It may be sitting on the porch of a lakeside cabin, lying on a sandy beach, or standing on top of a mountain while soaking in a beautiful valley view. 


    Really put yourself there. Feel the breeze, and smell the air, whether it’s tinged with the salty ocean or crisp pine from the forest. Use each of your senses to immerse yourself in the visualization.

    Once you make it back to the actual present moment after this relaxation meditation technique, you’ll feel more relaxed and centered in body and mind.

    Final Thoughts

    The bad news is that stress is real and nearly impossible to shed from your life. To try would be fruitless, and ultimately, life is about navigating those moments as they arise.

    The good news is that there’s a multitude of relaxation meditation tools at your disposal to help you improve your mental health when you’re feeling overwhelmed. You just need to be aware of them and realize they’re not hard to implement.

    The next time you’re feeling like the stress has gotten the best of you, try to use some of the techniques above. Whether it’s one, two, or all five, you’ll feel more relaxed and calm as the day wears on. Knowing that you have the power to reset your day at any time should give you confidence that stress, while difficult, is only temporary.


    More to Help You Relax

    Featured photo credit: Isabell Winter via unsplash.com


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