5 Surprising Ways Meditation Can Help Reduce Stress
While stress is nearly unavoidable in this non-stop world and it’s all too easy to fall prey to ever-present stress, this doesn’t mean you have to live with it. Indeed, stress is best when banished because unchecked stress can lead to potentially fatal heart attacks, strokes, ulcers and many other serious medical conditions. What’s a person to do?
One secret weapon is meditation, long-known by practitioners to effectively defuse stress and restore balance. Take a look at these five surprising ways meditation can help banish stress:
- Anticipate Stress Before It Gets Out of Control
Stress sneaks up on you. It’s hard not to succumb to it when you’ve had a bad day or your boss says something that unsettles you or some driver cuts you off on the road, but learning to identify and recognize the sources of stress is a good way to prevent stress from taking a chokehold on you.
Meditation is the opposite of stress. Where stress is all about resistance to change, to a threat, to uncomfortable feelings, meditation is all about acceptance. This doesn’t mean wallowing in a bad situation, just that you’re OK with things as they are until you can change them. Regular meditation alerts you to when stress triggers are present so that you can use the techniques to slow and calm yourself down. Cut stress off at the knees before it takes over.
In addition, not every individual reacts the same way to stress, as researchers have found that our individual genetic makeup, along with environmental factors, determines the outcome. But we can all learn how to anticipate stress before it gets out of control.
- Learn How to Relax
Another important point about stress is that it is addicting. Like an addiction to toxic substances such as drugs or alcohol, stress can literally become a way of life. It’s also a killer. Surprisingly, researchers from Duke Medicine say that mental stress may tax women’s hearts more than men.
Seeking ways to banish stress from your life is a powerful motivation to change. Meditation helps you hone in on relaxation, to restore a sense of balance and equilibrium in your life. Using meditation techniques, starting with deep breathing and a conscious focus, you let stress and tension melt away from your body. The most incredible thing about conscious focused meditation practiced a few minutes each day is that it can literally change your outlook and attitude. Stress, what stress? You’ve banished it through meditation.
- Ditch the Internal Drama
Everyone has a lot going on in their lives. All this drama tends to ball up and reside in the pit of the gut — what we commonly recognize as a sign of stress. But allowing internal drama to continue is like letting a pot boil over on the stove. You know there’ll be a mess that needs cleaning up. Isn’t it far better to take proactive steps so that the stress of internal drama doesn’t get to that point?
Here’s where meditation goes to work. Instead of going over and over all the anger, fear, disappointment and depression in your mind, with meditation you learn that these powerfully negative emotions are something you stir up yourself — and you can stop the self-destructive action of internal drama by applying meditative techniques. Voila, you’ve exerted constructive effort to get rid of stress and restore balance.
- Find Your Center
Think of the most grounded person you know. What is their secret? Could it be that they’ve learned how to proactively deal with stress so that it doesn’t rob their lives of focus and meaning? Instead of acting stressed out, this person is relaxed, self-possessed, has a sense of gravity and speaks with presence and intention. This is being centered and grounded and it’s an art that you can cultivate through meditation. But how do you do this?
In meditation, you alone control what you think about, what you allow into your mind or consciously allow seep away. Nourishing, restorative and deeply generative, meditation shows you the essential truth, brings you back to center – the center that resides within you. This helps you live in the present, fully grounded and not prone to reacting to stress that seeks to ensnare you.
- Just a Few Minutes A Day Is All That’s Required
Maybe you’re worried that you don’t have enough time in your day to do any sort of meditation. But do you have 15 minutes to spare? Most of us do.
Consider the fact that we waste more time in line at our favorite coffee shop than we care to count each week and that small amount of time doesn’t seem so out of the question. A Carnegie Mellon University study shows that as little as 25 minutes a day of mindfulness meditation three consecutive days does reduce stress. Another powerful benefit of meditation is that it may reduce anxiety, depression and pain as much as certain medications.
By Suzanne Kane