How to Reduce Anxiety and Stress with Meditation
Reset Your Mind and Eliminate Anxiety
Taking care of your body goes a long way towards helping you cope with anxiety. The diet, exercise and supplementation routines mentioned in this issue of Home Cures That Work will better equip you to deal with the stresses placed on your body. A good diet and supplements help you cope with increased production of free radicals caused by stress. Exercise reduces stress and increases your cardiovascular ability to handle stress while increasing your antioxidant potential. Do you notice how often exercise keeps popping up? Exercise and diet are paramount. If you don’t like exercise, at least go out for regular brisk walks.
In addition, when faced with anxiety, make sure you get enough rest. Fatigue can definitely reduce your immune function and healing ability.
Besides exercise, many physical relaxation techniques can manage the effects of your stress. A stress management relaxation technique designed by the Institute of HeartMath has raised DHEA (your master hormone) levels by 100% and reduced the stress hormone cortisol by 23% in just one month. Some of the best techniques are meditation and deep breathing. Did you ever notice how fast and shallow you breathe when you are stressed? It’s hard to breathe deeply and feel anxious or tense at the same time. Try it.
Meditation doesn’t just have to be for eastern mystics. Millions of Americans practice it, because its health benefits have been proven in many different studies. It’s not an escape, as some think. Meditation is a proactive practice that can enhance your life. It’s the equivalent of giving your mind an escape valve to blow off steam.
All meditation really means is to focus on one thing for an extended period of time. This allows your mind to reset itself and stop the vicious cycle of thinking about things that stress you out.
Focus separates peak performers from average performers, possibly more than any other attribute. It also builds energy. That’s why so many high profile leaders practice meditation. Meditation is anything that brings you to the moment and keeps you there. The more you meditate and focus on the “now,” the stronger you grow physically, mentally and emotionally.
Mainstream medicine is now beginning to take notice of meditation’s effects. For example, mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT), which is about 80% meditation, has been approved in Britain for use with people who have experienced three or more episodes of depression.
Your brain, just like your muscles, can be overworked, and it needs recovery time. Like many people who exercise, meditators in their mid-fifties tested twelve years biologically younger than non-meditators. Did you know meditation actually increases the thickness of your brain regions associated with attention and sensory processing? Here are some additional benefits:Meditating…
- Increases the growth of new brain cells..
- Increases your IQ and Emotional Intelligence scores.
- Increases your comprehension and productivity.
- Improves your mental focus, memory and decision making.
- Decreases stress, anxiety and depression.
- Reduces free radicals, heart rate and biological aging.
- Slows your breathing.
- Improves quality of and ability to sleep.
- Reduces your blood pressure.
- Relaxes your muscles.
- Reduces your risk of stroke or heart attack.
- Gives your body time to eliminate lactic acid and other waste products.
- Increases blood levels of DHEA.
- Reduces anxiety and eliminates stressful thoughts.
- Helps with clear thinking.
- Helps with focus and concentration.
- Reduces irritability.
- Accelerates weight loss.
- Reduces stress headaches.
- Enhances overall health.
Wow! Is that incredible, or what? Review this list a few times. Let the benefits sink in. Who wouldn’t want better health, to think more clearly, to age more slowly and to be smarter?
The essence of meditation is to quiet your thoughts by focusing completely on just one thing. Unlike hypnosis, which is more of a passive experience, meditation is an active process that seeks to exclude outside distractions by concentrating all your thoughts on the subject of meditation.
In all cases, it helps if your body is relaxed. Get in a position that you can comfortably sustain for a period of time (20–30 minutes is ideal, but even five minutes helps a lot). If you choose, and if you are sufficiently supple, the lotus position may work best for you. Otherwise, sitting in a comfortable chair or lying on a bed may be equally effective.
A number of different focuses of concentration may be used. Which one you choose is a matter of personal taste. Some of these are detailed below:
- Breathing: Focus on each breath in and out, breathing in through your nose on a count of seven, hold for a count of three, and breathe out through your mouth on a count of eight. Inhale and exhale completely, totally filling and emptying your lungs.
- Focusing on an object: Completely focus on one object. Choose something pleasant and interesting, and then examine it in detail. Observe its color, shape, texture, etc.
- Focus on a sound: Some people like to focus on sounds. The classic example is the Sanskrit word “Om,” meaning “perfection.”
- Imagery: Create a mental image of a pleasant and relaxing place in your mind. Involve all your senses in the imagery: see the place, hear the sounds, smell the aromas, feel the temperature and the wind.
In all cases, keep your attention focused. If external thoughts or distractions wander in, let them drift out. If necessary, visualize attaching the thoughts to objects and then move the objects out of your attention.
I do this several times a day. To demonstrate how effective this simple technique can be, I did it last evening when I felt stress over an unpleasant task. When I started, my blood pressure was 117/75. Seven minutes later, I dropped it to 97/63. That’s simply amazing! Had I not taken my stress break, I would have eroded my health, functioning sub-par and frenzied. Instead, I reduced my anxiety and jumped back into my task with renewed energy and motivation.
This is not a one-time event. I get these results regularly. Taking several anxiety-busting breaks every day could help you avoid 80% of all medical conditions. That’s the medical profession’s conservative estimate of the toll anxiety and stress takes on you.
How often do you think what you are doing is so urgent and important that you can’t afford to take one minute off, let alone seven? Well, I’ve got news for you. The best time to take a anxiety break is when you think you don’t have the time. That’s exactly when proactive relaxation breaks are the most productive way to spend your time and reduce stress. Not only will they improve your performance, but you could avoid a nasty hospital stay, or even a premature death as a side effect.