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How to Manage Stress and Anxiety with Meditation

by Gareth Michael

With modern life placing more demands than ever on our time and energy levels, it’s not unusual to find ourselves feeling overwhelmed, stressed, or in a state of anxiety as we attempt to navigate many of life’s challenges. Whilst these feelings we experience are not unusual, it can be helpful to understand how to manage them when they do occur. 

In this blog, we’ll discover the impact that stress can have on your health and learn how meditation and mindfulness practice can help with stress reduction.

Understanding Stress and Anxiety 

As humans, we will have experienced stress at one time or another in our lives. You might associate it with feeling overwhelmed, fearful, or out of your comfort zone. The term ‘stress’ is used to describe a whole range of emotions that we may experience when we feel challenged or threatened.

Stress is a normal human reaction, and each of us will have different stressors or stress types. Our bodies are designed with a stress response that is evolutionary and has kept us safe for thousands of years. This survival mechanism triggers the release of hormones in the body, which helps the mind and body take action. 

Anxiety is different from stress and often feels less explainable. Whereas with stress, we usually know what is causing it, anxiety can hit out of nowhere, making it more challenging to control. When we experience excessive worry about things happening around us, or the possibility of something happening in the future, this is anxiety. 

What causes stress, and what are the signs?

Each of us will react differently to situations, which means that the causes of stress will differ from person to person. A situation that feels inherently stressful for one person and plays on their mind all day might be shrugged off by another. 

We all have different circumstances too, and this may mean that one person’s life feels far more stressful than another person’s. Personality can play a part in how we deal with stress, as can the support and resources available to us.

Some common stressors include:

  • Work 
  • Financial issues
  • Family life
  • Relationships
  • Doing too much

You may instantly know you are feeling stressed, but at other times, it might be less obvious. Irritation, feelings of overwhelm and fear can all be signs that your stress levels are rising. Physical signs such as raised heart rate, dizziness, high blood pressure, stomach issues, and sleep problems can all occur as a result of our stress levels. 

What Causes Anxiety, and What are the Signs?

Anxiety is commonly caused by stress that we are experiencing in our lives. This is usually related to circumstances that we are currently facing or past trauma that we have not yet been able to process. Whilst anxiety is a very normal human emotion, when we become consumed by our worries, it can start to impact our lives and become overwhelming. 

It is thought that there are many different factors that can bring on and exacerbate anxiety, which include:

  • Past experiences
  • Big life changes
  • Genetics
  • Current life circumstances
  • Use of drugs such as caffeine, alcohol, and illegal drugs

The main symptoms of anxiety can include excessive worry that begins to get in the way of life, being unable to focus, feeling a sense of dread, expecting the worst, and avoiding situations that might make you feel anxious. It’s also common to experience physical symptoms such as rising heart rate, rapid breathing, and sweating, as well as a general decline in mental health. 

How Stress and Anxiety Impact Your Health

The effects of stress and anxiety can take their toll in different ways. For most people, stress will come and go and only affect life briefly. But for others, extended periods of stress – or chronic stress – can have a real impact on health. 

Long-term, a high-stress response means higher levels of cortisol within the body. This is known to be damaging to many of the body’s systems, lowering the immune system and putting you at an increased risk of many physical and mental health issues.

Research has shown that workplace stress is associated with an increased rate of heart disease. High stress levels may also cause other diseases and illnesses due to changes in lifestyle and poor habits that are adopted as coping mechanisms. This includes smoking, alcohol use, and overeating. 

Addressing Stress or Anxiety

It’s important to take steps to reduce stress and anxiety as soon as you notice it and before it begins to have an impact on your health and wellbeing. If not managed effectively, stress can become a chronic condition that is much harder to get under control. Short-term strategies for managing stress – or coping mechanisms – may give temporary relief, but in the long term, ignoring the signs of stress could cause more harm than good.

Luckily, there are many ways to train the mind and manage our reaction to life’s stressors. Mindfulness, in particular, has been found to have a positive effect on wellbeing. But how does mindfulness reduce stress? Research has shown that directing our attention to the present moment can improve our stress resilience. When we pay attention to what’s happening right now, we are less likely to worry about the future or ruminate on the past. 

An Intro to Meditation

Meditation is a popular Eastern practice that involves focusing the mind and increasing awareness. The benefits of meditation have long been spoken about and include improved sleep, stress relief, and a reduction in depression symptoms. 

You can use meditation for stress relief and relaxation and to reduce anxiety, amongst other things. Many people find that when they practice meditation, they begin to become more present and mindful throughout their lives, which has a positive effect on stress levels. 

Here are some meditation techniques that you could consider trying as part of your stress reduction:

1. Mindfulness

Mindfulness meditation is a type of meditation that focuses our attention on the present moment. The idea of mindfulness is to become aware without placing any judgment on what you’re feeling. This meditation includes a body scan, which involves checking in with your body, scanning from head to toe, and observing any sensations you’re feeling. 

2. Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR)

The MBSR program was created by mindfulness teacher Jon Kabat Zinn. This 8-week course offers mindfulness training to people who are ready to change their relationship with stress. It uses a combination of mindfulness and stress-relief strategies to explore patterns of thinking and heighten awareness of the mind, body, and soul. This mindfulness-based stress reliever will also help with anxiety and enhance wellbeing.

3. Guided Meditation

This form of meditation uses guidance to inspire your imagination on a journey. Usually, through an audio or video script, your attention is focused on creating a positive picture in your mind, which keeps your attention present. This is a great way to create new ways of being, which will help to change your mindset and benefit your stress levels. 

4. Mantra Meditation

This type of meditation uses a word or phrase as a focal point for our attention. This is designed to keep your attention present and calm the mind. The mantra is repeated, either out loud or in the mind. 

5. Loving Kindness Meditation

In this type of meditation, our attention is focused on good thoughts towards others. As we cultivate a state of kindness and compassion, both within ourselves and towards others, this will have a positive effect on our reaction to future stress. 

6. Movement Meditation

We know about the benefits of movement for our wellbeing, but when we combine movement with mindfulness, this creates a different way to focus the mind and aid stress levels. 

Incorporating Meditation into Your Daily Life

There are many ways to become more mindful throughout your day. Simply slowing down enough to check in with yourself will allow you to notice what is happening both within you and outside of you. 

Making time for daily meditation will help you to create the headspace needed to approach stress differently. Take a daily walk, combine it with movement such as dancing, or take a few deep breaths. Meditation is the ideal practice to combine with other stress-relief tools, such as breathing and mindset work. 

Key Takeaways

It’s impossible to avoid stress altogether, but we can change our approach to how we react to it. Meditation is a great tool for enhancing mindfulness, stress reduction, and cultivating a more positive mindset. Using meditation as a daily tool will prevent chronic stress and help you to manage your stress levels effectively. Try meditation today and experience the benefits for yourself!

About the Author

Gareth Michael is a spiritual coach, teacher, channel of Michael, and author of the best-selling book Ever-changing Perspectives. He provides tangible, practical spiritual support stemming from his own life lessons and Michael’s profound wisdom and teachings. His personalised guidance helps people heal, find their spiritual direction, and understand their purpose.

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