Life can be stressful. Who hasn’t wished that there were more hours in the day, so that there would be time to prepare healthy meals, instead of ordering take-out; time to spend with friends and family; time to get fresh air and exercise; time to get everything done, and still get a good night’s sleep…
For many people, stress has become a way of life. Stress doesn’t have to be bad – the occasional adrenaline-rush that comes with working towards a tight deadline can be invigorating. But when it becomes the norm, your mind and body pay the price.
Causes of Stress
There are many different causes of stress, and they vary from one person to another. Being stuck in a job you hate. Being single, and envying your married friends. Being stuck in an unfulfilling relationship. Money problems. Family problems. In general, any circumstances that you feel are out of your control may lead to stress.
Effects of Stress
It’s possible that you are not aware of how stressed out you really are, or that you know it, but have just accepted it as the way things are. In fact, stress can have many negative effects, not just on how you feel, but on how you function, and on your health.
Irritability, moodiness, anxiety, and depression may accompany a feeling of being overwhelmed. You may have difficulty concentrating, or be tired all the time, and have difficulty sleeping. Your eating habits can be affected – you just don’t feel motivated to make healthy meals, so you eat whatever is lying around. Your health may suffer – tension headaches, back and neck pain, frequent illness…
Meditation as an Antidote for Stress
There are many varieties of meditation, and all can be effective ways to reduce or eliminate stress. One form of meditation that is easily learned and highly effective is Mindfulness Meditation. Mindfulness is the practice of becoming more fully aware of the present moment, rather than dwelling in the past or obsessing about the future. It can be practiced in many ways, and easily adapted to your everyday life.
The easiest way to start is with conscious breathing. Find a quiet, comfortable place, close your eyes, and spend a few minutes focusing on your breathing. Breathe in and out deeply, and concentrate on the feel of your breath as it enters your body, and then leaves your body. If you find it difficult to keep your mind on your breath, and stop thinking about what you should be doing, or how you should have handled an argument, or… then you might try some sort of ‘mantra’ while breathing. For example, with each breath, concentrate on something as simple as “Breathing in…. breathing out….”. While we practice conscious breathing, our thinking can slow down, and we can enjoy peace in the present moment.
Practice conscious breathing periodically through the day, even just for a minute. Before you get out of bed in the morning, on the bus, at work, in the checkout line at the grocery store. Each time you do it, it can reduce your stress at that moment, and make it easier to get on with living your life with ease.