Meditation for Stress Management
Simple Meditation Techniques
Is your job stressful? For many of us, the answer is probably "Sometimes," or even, "Yes!"
Most of us experience some stress while we're at work. A little pressure can be good for you, by increasing productivity and performance. But too much can affect your physical and mental health in a profoundly negative way.
One useful technique for dealing with stress is meditation. This is not just a "new age" practice – people have used meditation for thousands of years to relax their minds and bodies, and to manage stress.
In this article, we'll look at the practical application for meditation as a stress management tool. We'll look at some simple meditation techniques, and offer ideas you can use to find time in your daily schedule to meditate.
Stress can cause severe health problems and, in extreme cases, death. While these stress management techniques have been shown to have a positive effect on reducing stress, they are for guidance only, and readers should take the advice of suitably qualified health professionals if they have any concerns over stress-related illnesses or if stress is causing significant or persistent unhappiness. Health professionals should also be consulted before any major change in diet or levels of exercise.
Background to Meditation
Meditation has been around for thousands of years. The word "meditate" comes from the Latin word "meditatum," which means "to ponder" – to contemplate or think about.
Over the years, people have used meditation to deepen their understanding of the spiritual nature of life. Originally, it was practiced for religious purposes. Today, however, millions of people meditate as a way of relaxing and managing stress.
Meditation has several disciplines, each of which uses different techniques to reach a state of deep relaxation. But most techniques involve sitting quietly, while focusing concentration and quietening the mind.
How Meditation Can Reduce Stress
When you meditate, you calm your mind and body. Your heart rate slows down, you sweat less, and your breathing becomes deeper and more efficient.
This is the opposite of some of the main symptoms you have when you're stressed, such as breathlessness, sweating, and heart palpitations. So meditation can fight the effects of stress, and help you feel more relaxed.
Dr. Herbert Benson of Harvard University carried out key research into meditation and published his findings in his book "The Relaxation Response." He looked at various popular meditation techniques, and found that meditation had a very real effect on reducing stress.
Meditation in the Workplace
Taking time out to meditate can help you fight stress at work, but, for obvious reasons, you might be reluctant to sit in the "lotus position" in front of your co-workers.
However, there are some easy, discreet ways to meditate in the workplace, even with a busy schedule. Here are a few different techniques you can try:
- Find an empty meeting room or close your office door, and turn down the lights. Sit in a chair, keeping your body relaxed and your feet flat on the ground, and breathe in and out deeply. Close your eyes. Be aware of your breathing, and of what it feels like for the air to enter and exit your body. Focusing on your breathing will help your body, and your mind, to slow down. Do this for five to 10 minutes.
- Do a physical relaxation meditation. Sit in a chair, and relax the muscles of your body, starting with your feet. Think about the muscles relaxing as you move up your body, breathing slowly and deeply.
- Sit up straight in your chair, with your feet flat on the ground. Take slow, deep breaths, and focus your eyes on an object in front of you. Continue breathing slowly and deeply for five minutes, and keep your attention focused on your chosen object.
- If you're always busy, or don't have a private office or room you can use, then try counting breaths. This is a type of meditation you can do even when you're standing. All you do is breathe in and out slowly and deeply, counting your breaths every time you exhale. Focus on your breath, and don't think. Try to make it to 10 without thoughts popping into your mind.
- Go for a walking meditation. To do this, simply walk slowly, with no destination in mind. Allow your thoughts to enter and leave your mind at will – and try not to react to those thoughts, or even push them away. Focus instead on your body and the way your legs feel as you're moving.
Remember that the main objective of meditation is to relax. Don't focus on being so quiet or so still that you end up frustrated or even more stressed. Meditation should be easy, so do what feels comfortable for you.
Other Benefits of Meditation
As well as stress relief, there are also other benefits to meditation.
In a study called "Short-term Meditation Training Improves Attention and Self-Regulation," published by Yi-Yuan Tang in the August 2007 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers discovered that using meditation, even on a short-term basis, had many other benefits. After only five days of practicing short meditations, study participants improved their conflict resolution skills; lowered their levels of anxiety, depression, anger, and fatigue; and reported increased energy, longer attention spans, and a stronger immune system.
Another study, "The Influence of a Meditation Relaxation Technique on Group Problem-Solving Effectiveness" by Herbert Kindler with Loyola University, found that meditation before team meetings made group problem-solving faster, with fewer transactions. In this study, workers who meditated also felt less tension, and showed more effective teamwork than workers in the control group.
We've covered several ideas and techniques to help you use meditation to manage stress at work. But if you'd like to learn further meditation techniques, and more about different types of meditation, consider the following:
- Research different meditation techniques online. Many Western forms of meditation don't have religious affiliations, and differ only in technique.
- Join a yoga or meditation group in your area.
- Read one of many books available on meditation.
All of us have some level of stress in our lives. But too much stress can affect our physical and emotional well-being. Meditation can help relax our mind and body, making us stronger and better able to cope with stress in the future. There are several different meditation techniques, but most involve sitting quietly and focusing the mind.
If you start feeling the negative effects of too much stress, sit quietly and focus on your breathing. Deep, slow breathing will calm your body, quiet your mind, and lower your stress levels.
Apply This to Your Life
If you're feeling stressed at work, try meditation out!
Make time for meditation in your schedule, perhaps during a break or at lunchtime, and give it a go. Keep a diary of how you feel before and after each session, and monitor how you feel for the rest of your day. You'll be surprised at how effective it is!