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Last Updated on January 12, 2021

How to Meditate for Relaxation and Stress Relief

How to Meditate for Relaxation and Stress Relief

Have you been feeling stressed out lately? Well, take some comfort in knowing that you’re not alone. Stress, in particular, workplace stress has become such a widespread problem that the World Health Organization calls it the “health epidemic of the 21st century.”

These days, many people are overwhelmed by their busy lives. They are feeling the pressure from work, family life, and other activities. All this activity is leaving them stressed and anxious. They know they need to relax, but they don’t know how. They are beginning to realize some of the health consequences of chronic stress, such as poor physical health, emotional disorders, and strained relationships.

The good news is that dealing with stress is a lot simpler than you might think. One of the simplest and most effective methods for stress relief is relaxation meditation.

In this article, I will discuss some of the health consequences of stress, what exactly relaxation meditation is, and how to practice it for stress relief. I will finish with a few sample relaxation meditations I found on YouTube, so you can get started immediately without any fuss.

Consequences of Chronic Stress

A great deal of research has been done on the effects of chronic stress. Here is a sample of some of the short-term and long-term effects.

Short-Term Effects of Stress

On your body, stress can cause headaches, muscle tension, chest pain, tiredness, lower sex drive, digestive problems, and difficulty sleeping.

On your mood, stress can cause restlessness and anxiety, depression, irritability, lack of motivation, inability to focus, and the general feeling of being overwhelmed.

On your behavior, stress can cause you to eat more (or less), anger outbursts, withdraw socially, and use substances, such as alcohol, tobacco, or drugs.[1]

Long-Term Effects of Stress

In the longer term, stress can have several consequences. It can diminish your mental abilities, such as concentration and memory. This can lead to poor judgment and decision-making.

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Stress can also affect your physical appearance. It can cause wrinkles, puffy eyes, adult acne, and hair loss. Stress can also cause your skin to appear dull and dry.

Heart problems are a common effect of chronic stress. It causes inflammation of the arteries around the heart, which makes the heart work much harder.

Several of the short-term effects of stress, such as sleep and digestive problems, will also persist over the long term. In addition, stress can weaken your immune system and leave you more vulnerable to illness, and make healing more difficult. All these effects of stress will essentially shorten your life span.[2]

What Is Relaxation Meditation?

Relaxation meditation is a term to describe several types of meditation. Their purpose is to help you relax your body and mind in order to relieve stress and anxiety.

To do relaxation meditation, you can listen to some slow relaxing music, or the sounds of nature, such as ocean waves. You can also do a self-guided body scan.

Here, you essentially sit quietly and move your attention to each body part and consciously relax your muscles in the process. There are also various forms moving meditation. I’ll describe all of them soon.

Benefits of Relaxation Meditation

Relaxation meditation, if done regularly, is one of the most effective methods for stress relief. In fact, it is so effective that sometimes just one session can completely relax a person who is all stressed out.

I’ve had people come into a corporate meditation session overwhelmed with stress, and after the session come up to me amazed that they are completely relaxed.

Stress relief through relaxation meditation is an effective way to avoid the health consequences of chronic stress described above. It will improve your mental abilities, such as concentration, memory, analytical thinking, and creativity. And as your mind relaxes, you will begin sleeping much better at night.

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Furthermore, relaxation meditation will improve your mood, which will lead to better interactions with others, especially loved ones.

How to Practice Relaxation Meditation

1. Guided Imagery

Probably the most popular form of relaxation meditation for stress relief is the guided imagery. This form of relaxation meditation consists of relaxing music, and/or sounds of nature, and a person’s voice to guide you on an imaginary journey.

It usually starts with a little mindful breathing, followed by a body scan to physically relax your body. Then the meditation focuses on relaxing your mind by taking you to an imaginary place that is safe, comfortable, and happy. It’s like going on a short vacation from all the things that are causing you stress.

The meditation generally uses a countdown to get you to this place, and includes a set of affirmations to help you relax. The countdown is almost hypnotic, and helps you assimilate the relaxing affirmations more effectively.

Once you reach the imaginary safe space, you normally stay there for a short period in order to let your body and mind relax further. After a while, the voice will slowly guide you back to where you started by counting up with more positive affirmations.

The reason the guided imagery form of relaxation meditation is so popular is because it is quite effective, and you don’t have to do anything except listen to the meditation and follow the guide.

2. Moving Meditation

Moving meditation describes a variety of different movements that are used for stress relief by calming the body and mind, and developing awareness. Some examples are yoga, tai chi, qigong, and walking meditation.[3] The great thing about moving meditation is that not only will it help you relax, but it will also help you stay physically active.

I recommend doing some form of moving meditation when you are too restless to sit still. You can either do a combination of both moving and sitting meditation, or an entire session of moving meditation. Both methods will help you relax.

I will sometimes start my meditation session with about five minutes of tai chi, then five minutes of walking meditation, and the remainder of the session in sitting meditation. This is a great way to work your way back into your meditation routine if you haven’t meditated for a few days.

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3. Self-Guided Relaxation Meditation

Some people are more inclined to do their own relaxation meditation. What they generally do is start out with a body scan, where they consciously relax the muscles in each body part.

After completing the body scan, they may then sit quietly for a few minutes following their breathing. They often play some relaxing music in the background.

6 Relaxation Meditation Examples

Here are a few of the best relaxation meditations I’ve found on YouTube. Some of them are so relaxing that they will put you to sleep.

Body Scan Meditations

1. Body Scan Guided Sleep Meditation (Lauren Ostrowski Fenton) (1 hr.)

This is a nice relaxation meditation that starts out with a body scan, and then leaves you with the soothing music to lull you into a deep relaxation. You can either listen to the entire hour-long meditation, or just part of it.

2. Guided Body Scan Meditation for Mind & Body Healing (Michael Sealey) (30 min.)

This is another relaxation meditation with a body scan. Michael Sealey has a deep soothing voice that makes it easy to relax.

 

Guided Imagery

3. Guided Imagery for Relaxation (Mark Connelly) (10 min.)

Here is a short guided meditation that takes you on a journey through a tropical forest. The guide is a female with a soft and soothing voice, and the sounds of nature make you feel like you’re really in the forest.

 

4. Guided Meditation For Anxiety & Stress (Jason Stephenson) (30 min.)

Jason Stephenson has some of the best quality meditations on YouTube. His voice is soothing, and he has the right choice of background music. This meditation takes you on a journey through the night sky.

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Relaxation Meditations for Sleep

5. Guided Meditation for Sleep… Floating Among the Stars (Jason Stephenson) (1 hr. 2 min.)

Here is another quality recording by Jason Stephenson. This meditation guides you into a deep relaxation as you float among the stars.

 

6. Guided Meditation – Blissful Deep Relaxation (The Honest Guys) (18.5 min.)

In this meditation, the music is soft and slow-moving, with gentle waves in the background. This is a relatively short meditation you can comfortably listen to right before you go to bed.

 

In addition to the above free guided-meditation, I’m also producing my own CD Inner Silence: Guided Relaxation Meditations for Inner Peace and Restful Sleep. If you’re interested, check it out here.

Final Thoughts

If you’ve read this article, it’s probably because you’re feeling a little (or a lot) overwhelmed, and in need of some stress relief. Maybe you have a high-stress job, or a lot of family commitments. Whatever the reason, you’re probably looking for a simple method for finding stress relief.

The health consequences of stress are many. It affects your body and mind. It also affects your mood, which has a significant impact on your relationships. And over the long term, some of the damage to your body may be irreversible. Put simply, stress keeps you from truly enjoying your life.

Relaxation meditation is a simple and effective method for stress relief. As you can see, there are a variety of different forms of relaxation meditation. You can either listen to a guided meditation or some relaxing music, or you can learn to practice one of the various forms of moving meditation, such as yoga and tai chi.

So, don’t postpone your happiness. Try one of the meditations above, or find one you like, and start enjoying your life stress free.

More Tips on Meditation

Featured photo credit: Amelia Bartlett via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Charles A. Francis

Author, meditation teacher, and director of the Mindfulness Meditation Institute

10 Ways a Silent Retreat Improves Your Mental Health Why Do I Feel Depressed Every Once in a While for No Reason? The Beginner’s Guide to Practicing Self-Compassion Meditation 20 Best Guided Meditations for Sleep and Insomnia What Is Mindfulness Meditation? 7 Ways to Start Meditating

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Last Updated on January 15, 2021

How to Cope With the Stages of Grief and Heal After Loss

How to Cope With the Stages of Grief and Heal After Loss

The death of a loved one is, unfortunately, something most of us have experienced or will experience at some point in our lives, but grief and loss are not felt only when someone passes away. You may move through the stages of grief quickly or slowly, and you may even find yourself moving back to a stage you thought you had passed. People grieve differently, and there is no correct way to grieve in any situation.

A close friend or family member moving away, a divorce or breakup, loss of a job, as well as a number of other life experiences can cause feelings of grief or loss. Coping with loss is one of the most stressful and difficult things we have to deal with in life, but it is an experience everyone can relate to.

The Stages of Grief

The five stages of grief—denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance—are related to the common emotions we go through when we experience loss. This grief model was identified by psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in 1969[1].

However, because everyone is different, there is no “standard” way to react to grief and loss.[2]

Some people will wear their emotions on their sleeves and be outwardly emotional. Others will experience their grief more internally, and may not cry. You should try not to judge how a person experiences grief, as each person will experience it differently.

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Stages of grief

    Stage 1: Denial

    The feeling of shock when you first find out about a loss can lead to thinking, “This isn’t real.” This is a temporary way to deal with the rush of overwhelming emotion and a defense mechanism for your mind.[3]

    Stage 2: Anger

    Feelings of frustration and helplessness take hold during this stage. Thoughts like “It’s not fair” can be common. Even being angry at your loved one who died for “leaving you behind” is natural. This anger can spill over into your close relationships, and you can find yourself getting angry at those around you for no apparent reason.

    Stage 3: Bargaining

    During this stage, you are constantly thinking about what you could have done to prevent the loss. Thoughts of “What if…” and “If only…” replay in the mind. You might also try to bargain with a higher power in hopes of reversing the loss.

    Stage 4: Depression

    This stage brings the deep sadness you feel as you realize the loss is irreversible. You think about how your life will be affected by the loss. Crying, loss of appetite, feelings of loneliness, and unusual sleeping patterns are all signs of depression.

    Stage 5: Acceptance

    You accept the loss, and although you’re still sad, you slowly start to move on with your life and settle in to your new reality.

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    The stages of grief don’t have to be in this order, and you might not experience all stages. There is also no set time period for grieving, and some people take longer to heal than others.

    How to Heal From Grief and Loss

    When you’re experiencing those heartbreaking feelings and the stages of grief, it’s hard to believe that you’ll eventually heal, but you really will. Here are some ways to help the healing process:

    1. Confront the Painful Emotions

    Try not to bottle up your emotions. Allow yourself to express how you feel. It’s a healthy part of the grieving process.[4]

    If you’re not ready to get together with friends and family to talk about how you’re feeling, you can work with your emotions through mindful meditation, which can help create space for you to take a look at what you’re feeling and why.

    2. Talk About It

    When you’re ready and have entered the final stages of grief, talking to someone about the way you are feeling can be very helpful in starting the healing process. Often, people want to isolate themselves while grieving, but being around friends and family can help. Talking can also help you to confront your emotions if you have been unable to.

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    3. Keep up With Your Routine

    Loss can make you feel like your world has been turned upside down. As you move through the stages of grief, getting through your daily routine may feel more difficult, which can cause you to put self-care to the side. Keeping up with your routine can help bring back some normality and ensure you are showing yourself love and consideration.

    4. Take Care of Yourself

    When you are grieving and depressed, simple things like eating become an afterthought, and sleeping may become difficult. Taking care of yourself and your health will help with the healing process.

    While you may not do everything you were doing before your loss, try to do one act of self-care each day. It can be taking a long bath, going for a walk, making a nice meal, or even practicing a hobby once you feel ready. It doesn’t have to be anything complicated; it just needs to be something that makes you feel good.

    5. Don’t Make Any Major Decisions

    Grief clouds the ability to make sound decisions.[5] Try to postpone making any big decisions for a while or get guidance from close friends or family if you can’t put it off.

    Grief may also make you feel like making major changes to your life, such as quitting a job or ending a relationship. Try to remember that now is not the best time to make these changes, and hold off further consideration until you have moved through all of the stages of grief.

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    The Bottom Line

    It is important to heal after a loss so that you can get on with life. There is no set time period for grieving, but if you feel that your grief isn’t getting better, and you are unable to accept the loss, it might be time to seek advice from a mental health professional.

    In the meantime, accept that now is a difficult time, but that it will get better. Time will inevitably help and make the pain less powerful. One day, you will wake up and realize the pain is simply a small echo in the back of your mind and that you have successfully moved through each of the stages of grief. It’s time to get back to your life.

    More on Dealing With the Stages of Grief

    Featured photo credit: Ben White via unsplash.com

    Reference

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