April is Stress Awareness Month - something we will all experience more than once in our busy day-to-do lives. Experiencing signs of stress can have serious impacts on anyone's health and taking the time to pause and rest can really make you feel better in the moment, and allow you the time to deal with the impact on your body.
The sense of being overwhelmed can be helped by taking just a few minutes out of your day to really allow yourself time to focus on the present and put all of your attention on your breathe, and how your body moves with each inhale and exhale. Sometimes, 2-3 minutes is all it can take, and it can be practiced at any time, or in any place.
Meditation is a great stress management practice to really help level out your emotions throughout the day. Whilst it may not be a permanent fix, it has definitely been proven to help guide your body back to a more relaxed state. Practicing different forms of meditation allows your mind to cope better with life's daily stresses, like money, careers, and even family.
Being able to bring yourself back to the present moment over and over no matter how many times your brain wanders is a helpful skill to aid focused concentration - this can be used in daily activities, not just in meditation. Practicing mediation means you can build on the skills to help you manage the stress, gain a new perspective on stressful situations and reduce the negative emotions you may feel daily.
There are endless benefits to meditation - to name just a few;
This is all about a calm reflection - taking some time out of your day to really focus on the now, and calming your breathing. A technique called 'Guided Imagery' is a great place to start - and is perfect if you only have a couple of minutes spare in your day. In a comfortable position, focus on your breathing for a couple of seconds. Start to visualise a place where you felt the most content and calm - this could be a familiar place, or even a completely imaginary environment.
Go through each of your five senses to create as much detail as possible - how do you feel? Are you inside or outside? Is there a certain smell, like flowers or baked bread? Focus on how it feels to continuously move towards this imagery, how peaceful it is for you, the further in you go. With each deep breath, allow this feeling of healing and peace to enter your body, and the feeling of tension and stress walking out as you breath out.
Once you feel ready, you can leave. This is a really helpful practice to get into if you do feel stressed and anxious throughout the day. It allows you to feel in control of your feelings, and your environment, managing the stress more easily as you continue to practice.
Body scan meditation is great for anyone who is experiencing any form of tension. It allows you to take notice of every body part and component to work out where the cause is coming from, and work towards releasing it, focusing on the bottom of your body, right to the top of your head. If performed daily, this practice can have multiple physical and mental benefits, like improved sleep, reduced stress levels and feeling more energised.
To start, lay down flat on your back, or if you can't, find a relaxing position that you feel more comfortable. Allow yourself time to once again, focus on your breathing and the movement of your body as you breathe - how your chest, belly and rib cage rise as you inhale. If your mind begins to wander, return your focus back to your body's movements as you breathe.
Focusing on your feet, focus on the sensations. If there is discomfort, acknowledge it, and any other emotions that may come with that too. If you begin to notice any tensions, allow yourself to visualise this leaving your body, through your inhales and exhales. Once you're ready, move up to the next part of your body.
Continue to scan your entire body, allowing yourself to visualise the tension and discomfort leaving your body and disappearing. This can allow you to be much more aware of these in future daily experiences.
Mindful breathing helps reduce cortisol levels - one of our stress receptors in the body. Focusing on our breathing can ease the sense of peace, bringing you back to a calm centre, allowing your body to deal with stresses.
This is one of the most practical methods of meditation for anyone with a busy schedule, long work hours or simply need a couple of minutes throughout the day to focus on calmness. It's great for relaxing the muscles too, allowing you to release any tension from the day.
Make sure you are seated upright, or lying down and close your eyes. Start by taking a few deep breaths in and out. Focus on your body's movements as you inhale and exhale. Don't try to control how you breathe - instead just allow your body to breathe naturally. When thoughts enter your mind, which will happen, simply bring your attention back to the body, and allow them to pass through your mind. If you consistently bring these thoughts back and follow the sensations of your body, you can remain focused on your breathing.
If you experience stressful situations in your day to day lives, then give these short practices a go! There are so many more different forms of meditation, and allowing yourself this time to focus on nothing but your body is a great way to help relieve the tension, and learn new techniques to handling stress.