A 6 Step Stress Relief Meditation Guide
猿も木から落ちる – Even Monkeys Fall From Trees
What is Stress Relief Meditation?
Meditating for the purpose of releasing stress is one of the most common reasons people begin meditation, especially in the Western world. In the United States, according to CNBC, the average American works 44 hours a week (~9 hrs a day with commute). The average worker in a competitive industry (banking, marketing, etc) works 47 hrs a week. According to the APA roughly 60% of students in college reported having counseling to help with anxiety and stress. With so many of us working so much, and many students overworked it’s no wonder why people look to meditation for help releasing their stress. Stress relief meditation is a category of meditation that focuses on relaxation, healing, and mental well being. There are many types of stress releasing meditations, and today I will be presenting you with my personal favorite technique that takes only six steps.
TIME IS UP TO YOU, however, I recommend 5 minutes to start and after a week of consistency go up in increments of 5.
1. Stretch to Begin Releasing Stress.
The first thing I do before meditating is to stretch for a good 30-60 seconds. Stretch your back, your neck, and your legs too. Simply relax the areas with noticeable tension. Because I tend to work on my computer a lot I tend to have tension in my lower back and should muscles, for this, I usually lay on the floor with a tennis ball and massage myself for a minute to release all the stress in my back.
Tip: Take a warm shower beforehand to relax your muscles (don’t take a steaming shower as this could actually damage your muscles).
2. Position Yourself Correctly and Start the Clock.
Many people recommend to sit in the Full-Lotus position with your left leg over your right thigh (or vice versa) and your back up straight at 90 degrees. Once your legs are crossed and your back is straight, gently place your palms on your knees. Placing your palms down are relaxed will release tension from your hands.
The full lotus position is meant to be just comfortable enough so as to not cause pain, but just uncomfortable enough to keep you awake and prevent you from falling asleep. If you are unable to perform the full-lotus position, simply practice the half-lotus position in which only one leg is over the opposite thigh. This is usually the preferred method for beginners.
Now set a timer for 5 minutes, or however long you prefer to meditate for. I recommend 5 for beginners and 8-10 minutes for those who have meditated in the past.
Tip: If you find you notice that you are straining your back muscles then massaging your back with your fist in circular motions to release tension. This discomfort should pass within 1-2 minutes of the meditation.
3. Begin to Breathe PROPERLY.
For the first few breaths don’t practice any breathing techniques, again, don’t change your breathing pattern. If you’re excited you’ll probably have a pounding heart, and inconsistent breaths, which is perfectly normal. If you’re stressed, you’ll likewise have a pounding heart. For the first 3-5 breaths just let your body breathe as it would naturally. After your fifth breath, you should begin to inhale through the nose and exhale out the mouth. Make sure you’re breathing all the way down to your stomach and not your chest as this. Don’t rush anything, just let your breath flow naturally. After a minute or so, or until you feel your breath is stable, begin to inhale through your nose for 5 seconds, and out the mouth for 5 seconds. After that breath, go up to 6 seconds (inhalation and exhalation), then 7, and so on. Do this until you can inhale for 10 seconds, and exhale for 10 seconds.
Tip: Put some chapstick on beforehand as your lips can become dry, especially during the winter.
4. Reflect On And Reassure Yourself.
As your breath begins to slow, and your body softens, take a moment to notice the thoughts going on in your head. Maybe you can’t get the image of a failing grade out of your mind, maybe you can’t stop thinking about how mad your boss is going to be for messing up on an assignment. Maybe you messed up with your partner and you can’t stop thinking about it. Whatever is on your mind just take note of it, and allow your mind to wonder. Here comes the tricky part! As you begin to think about your stressors and what makes you anxious, take note of how your emotions influence your mind. For instances, if you feel anger you might notice your body will tense, and you feel more discomfort. Take notice of this kind of reaction, and remind yourself of the following.
猿も木から落ちる (saru mo ki kara ochiru) – even monkeys fall from trees. Even the most successful, and skilled of people f*ck up. Whatever I do I know that 6 months from now I will be a different person, and how I deal with this mistake/problem will determine how I change.
Tip: Repeat this quote or something along the lines to reassure yourself that things are going to be okay. Even some of the most major mistakes and f*ck ups have been overcome. In the end, how you deal with stress and anxiety will determine how it affects you.
5. Bring Your Attention to Your Breath.
After you have taken a moment to process your thoughts and emotions bring your attention back to your breath. For a beginner practicing for 5 minutes, I recommend this starting this at minute 3 or 4. You will naturally get a feel for the approximate times. The point of bringing your attention back to your breathing is to train your brain to take notes of your thoughts and learn to control the outcome. Once you have practiced for a period of time you will notice that you become more mindful and aware of when you begin to feel stressed. You will learn to intake stressors and anxiety triggers, and instead of overreacting or getting overwhelmed you become more at ease with your thoughts.
Tip: Focus on air quality. Take note of whether your breath is cold or warm, sharp or scattered. This will keep your brain actively focusing on your breathing.
6. PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE… PRACTICE SOME MORE!
Meditation is a skill, and just like soccer, piano, painting, and writing take constant practice to perfect so does meditation. If you want to truly see results you must incorporate meditation into your daily lives. This MUST become a routine. I meditate every day for at LEAST 5 minutes. This is usually early in the morning, or after I get home. Meditate while with a friend, meditate on the bus or train, meditate at lunch, or even outside. As long as you consistently practice, I promise you will see results that will change your life. I wish you the best of luck in your meditation and stress management goals!
*This article was written by Joshua Conrad, Founder & Director of JCSURGE Marketing*