How to manage your stress with meditation
As humans, we are constantly exposed to physical, mental, and emotional stress. We are aware of the negative impact it has on our health, and we try to keep it under control. However, it seems to sneak up into our lives with such effortlessness.
We are bombarded every day by the media with ideal images of how our life should be and our mind is busy every minute of the day with images that are not necessarily our own. Learning to quiet your mind and focus your awareness on the present moment is an invaluable skill that can be acquired with daily meditation. You only need a few minutes of your day to start benefiting from it.
I was exposed to meditation at an early age, my father used to call it “quiet time” and the idea was to sit with your eyes closed for a few minutes and just be there. Sounds easy, right?
Well, not so easy at first. But with a bit of practice, you and your body will start loving it.
A few months ago, before Covid19 reshaped our world and pushed our stress to a totally different level; I attended a meditation class at my local community center. The instructor was very kind, knowledgeable, and soft-spoken. His approach to meditation was fresh and modern. A short class was enough to get me started, and I have been practicing a few techniques since then. Here is a list of what works for me:
Get up 10 minutes earlier and meditate
It is only 10 minutes and you will start your day nurturing your mental and physical well-being. Just sit comfortably on a chair, close your eyes, and be aware of your breath - you can count each breath with your fingers if it helps. Breathe in to be aware of your body and breathe out to be aware of your body. If your mind starts to wonder, don’t fight it. Be aware of the thoughts and learn from them. My instructor taught me that fighting your thoughts is not beneficial, you can only discover yourself by learning from your thoughts. If a thought keeps coming back, maybe there is something you need to address or take care of. Your thoughts are teaching you who you are, and how to live a better life. Let the thoughts flow in and out of your mind, and use your breathing as an anchor to get back to your meditative state.
A simple yet very useful way to incorporate mindful meditation into your life is by eating. Most of us eat in a rush, we swallow our food as fast as possible, so we can move to the next task. Sometimes we eat in front of the TV or while reading the news, which takes away a wonderful opportunity to meditate and to be grateful for all the wonderful nutrients in our food. The simplest technique is to be aware of the three steps of eating: lifting your food, chewing your food, and swallowing your food. Putting your spoon or fork down between bites does help with awareness, especially at the beginning - plus one mindful breath after swallowing.
For me it was amazing to discover new flavors, new sensations, and a new level of enjoyment. Taking your time to eat helps you realize all the effort and energy required for a single meal. Think about all the time it took for your food to grow, all the people involved in the process, all the distance your food traveled to get to you, the dedication and time required to cook your meal, and the energy you invested to get the money to pay for your food. Let’s take a moment to be grateful for our planet and for everything it gives us to stay alive and healthy. When you meditate while eating, the stress goes away, and you slowly learn to be in the present and stop thinking about what’s next - a big source of our daily stress.
More tips on eating meditation https://www.newdir.org/doc/eating-1/
One of the most automatic responses of our body is walking. Once we learn how to walk, we don’t think about it, we just do it. When you walk with intention, realizing that you are making the choice to move your body, and observing each part of your body as it moves, your mind opens to new discoveries and experiences. Be aware of the people and the environment around you; it creates a peaceful and long-lasting connection with everything around you. Start trying it with short walks, such as walking from the parking lot to the store or walking from your living room to the kitchen. If you have the time, go for a meditation walk, and enjoy the benefits of meditation and exercise; a win-win situation for you, and your mental and physical health.
The magic of one breath
My major discovery about myself during my meditation journey is knowing that I was constantly thinking about the future, my mind used to be in a constant loop with all the things I needed to do next. I was stressing myself with a harmful mindset and I caught tensions in my body while doing daily tasks because my mind was not in the present but the future. Rushing to the next thing as it was more important was a constant in my life. Meditation has helped me be aware of those moments where I am falling into the what’s next attitude; when I see it, I stop and breathe, and it’s like magic. That one breath brings me back to the present moment, I can slow down, relax my body, and enjoy the now. I am still working on it and I am sure the journey is not over, but I can assure you, meditation can truly help you manage your stress. Try it today, close your eyes and meditate for just 10 minutes!