Meditation for stress relief

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Meditation. It’s not new, but it is clever. So we should chill out, tune in, breathe now, but how?

Woman meditating at home

How to begin meditating

If you’re new to meditation, it can be a little daunting to get started. For beginner’s it’s best to keep it super simple.

There’s 3 key things to remember to set yourself up for om success
1. Put meditation in your diary! Do it daily. Do it early. Set a reminder on your phone.

2. Block out the chatter and just breathe in, out, in… 

3. Let go of body tension. Start at your toes, end with your nose. Sounds nuts, but it works.

Relaxation techniques

There are a few particularly useful and simple techniques you can use to put the above into practice to calm the mind and help you sleep and reduce stress levels to feel more grounded.

What works for some, may not work for you so develop your own set of favourites With so many books, CDs, downloads and great teachers out there, it can feel a bit overwhelming.

Pick something simple that feels good for you and just start somewhere. Essentially, all techniques have the same core benefits. And the great news is that once you start feeling the goodness, it becomes easier and easier to make these techniques a regular part of your day.

Come back to your senses

A great one to do on a regular basis, it’s a simple, yet very effective technique to remind yourself that you are not your thoughts. 

All it takes is pausing in the moment and becoming aware of what you can see, hear, smell and feel in that moment. Take a deep breath, look around and really take notice your environment in the here and now. 

It only takes a moment, but it can often be enough to put things in perspective if you are worrying about something unimportant or daydreaming. 

Watching the breath

This one is simple and can be done anywhere, on the bus, in a queue, at your desk etc. 

If you catch yourself feeling tense, why not take a moment to close your eyes and just focus on observing your breath as it goes in and out. 

If it feels like it is not travelling deep into your lungs (which often it doesn't if we feel stressed. We often only breathe into the top of our lungs), pause to take a few deep breaths – 3 seconds in, 3 seconds out – and relax your neck, shoulders and jaw with each out breath. 

You may be surprised at how much of a difference this simple exercise can make! Especially if you do it regularly.

Heart centering meditation

If you’re feeling tired and overwhelmed during times of stress, it’s the perfect time to check-in with your heart and calm your mind. 

Pull up a comfy seat with Kate Kendall as she guides us through this effortless meditation.

Heart centering meditation with Kate Kendall

The mind–body connection - move your meditation into a more physical practice

Activities that exercise your body and mind simultaneously have firmly established themselves as popular ways to workout. The "no pain - no gain" philosophy is getting pushed aside by activities that deliver inner harmony, balance and functionality. 

As people seek a gentler path towards health and wellness, mind-body exercises appeal to people of all ages, physical capabilities and body types. 

By engaging your mind, and getting you to focus on posture, form, breathing, and the body's core, activities such as Pilates, yoga and Tai chi help you to unwind and relax.

There is a focus on stress relief and total wellness, not just fitness.

Energising exercises work your spiritual and psychological self, in addition to improving your strength, flexibility, and body awareness.

Relaxing for letting go of fear

Fear is a part of life. Most of us experience it fairly regularly in response to life’s stresses or our inbuilt capacity to worry.

Sometimes we don’t even realise that we are feeling afraid, but this gentle pre-bed visualisation practice may help you to let go of any tension in your body related to fear.

This practice involves focussing on, and relaxing or 'letting go' of different parts of your body progressively. It’s perfect for when you are trying to relax to get to sleep when you first get into bed, or if you wake in the night and your mind is busy.
  • Make sure that you are prepared for bed and are comfortable. Dim or turn off the lights and lay on your back in bed with your arms in a ‘T’ position, palms facing up. Place your legs straight, but with soft knees, and check that you are feeling that your body is in a straight line. Take a slow deep breath in and feel your tummy rising. Feel the openness of your position and reassure yourself that you are safe as you exhale
  • Scan your body from head to toe, noticing any areas of tightness or tension, and just make a mental note of these. Then take another three slow conscious breaths into your belly concentrating on the rise and the fall of your tummy. Again, reassure yourself that you are safe, and right now in this moment, all is ok
  • Begin by concentrating on the left big toe, and consciously will your toe to relax. You may not feel any immediate benefit, but you may be astounded as to how relaxed you feel at the end of this process. Carry on in this manner with each of your left toes individually, and then carry on to the left sole of the foot, top of the foot, ankle, calf, etc., until you arrive at the top of the leg. Then repeat the process with the right leg. Once both legs are done, move on to the main body
  • Relax the buttocks, the lower abdomen, the upper abdomen, the lower back, the upper back, the chest and the shoulders one at a time. It is up to you how long you spend on each area- you may want to spend longer on areas of more tension. Then repeat this process with both the arms, then the neck, the throat, the back of the head, the top of the head, the jaw, the mouth, the forehead and the eyes.
  • Take three slow conscious breaths into your belly again, concentrating on the rise and fall of your abdomen. Repeat again to yourself that you are safe, and right now in this moment, all is ok. Consciously scan your body as in the beginning and check if there are any areas of tension remaining. If some still stand out, go back and consciously try to relax these areas again
  • To finish take another three slow deep breaths into your belly and repeat to yourself that you are safe, and right now in this moment, all is ok
This technique can either be done yourself, or you could use a guided meditation.

There are two major benefits to this exercise; the mind is distracted so worrying is short-circuited, and the body relaxes to promote a feeling of peace and relaxation.

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