Mental Health

Using Meditation and Mindfulness To Ease Stress

Using Meditation and Mindfulness To Ease Stress
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If you’re feeling a bit more anxious than usual due to the recent events occurring in the world, you’re certainly not alone. We’re all facing grave uncertainty, and experts worldwide are aware of the significant toll the “new normal” can play on our mental wellbeing. 

Understanding The Psychological Impact of These Troubling Times

Much of the world’s population is now under quarantine, which is ultimately defined as “the separation and restriction of movement of people who have potentially been exposed to a contagious disease to ascertain if they become unwell, so reducing the risk of them infecting others.” 

Most of us understand the importance of self-quarantine during this time, but just because we understand it doesn’t mean it’s any easier.

If you’re feeling something similar, know that the fluctuation of emotions you’re experiencing right now is common in quarantine situations. According to Dr. Lauren Hallion, Assistant Professor of Psychology at the University of Pittsburgh, “We aren’t supposed to feel okay at a time like this. Fear is there to keep you safe and the most important thing is to recognize that fear and anxiety are healthy and appropriate right now. That means that a lot of us aren’t going to be able to concentrate on our normal work right now, especially if our normal work doesn’t involve coronavirus.”

Something that could help manage the stress you might be feeling during this time? 

Meditation and mindfulness. 

How Can Meditation And Mindfulness Help Ease Stress?

There’s a reason meditation and mindfulness have become more popular in Western culture in recent years. They’re amazing for combatting everday stress and the overwhelm many of us felt even before COVID-19 became our new normal. 

There are several studies that highlight the positive effects of meditation and mindfulness on stress and anxiety. Take this review from Johns Hopkins University researchers, for example. It looked at some 19,000 studies on meditation and further examined 47 that met the criteria they were looking for. They found that “meditation programs can reduce the negative dimensions of psychological stress.”  

While meditation won’t eliminate the financial stress, fear of mortality, the pressure of caring for your children 24/7, or the myriad of other worries you might be currently faced with, it can help put your mind in a better space to face the uncertainty that will undoubtedly continue during this pandemic. 

How To Use Meditation And Mindfulness To Help You Cope With Stress and Worries During This Time

If you’ve never meditated before, now is a great time to start. If the idea of sitting cross-legged on a meditation mat doesn’t exactly resonate with you, understand that just taking a few conscious deep breaths can do wonders to help calm your nerves. 

When you begin to notice negative feelings, simply take 5-10 long, deep breaths. Count slowly to five on your inhale and count slowly to five on your exhale. Just performing this exercise 5-10 times can help you feel a significant shift in the way you’re responding to the world around you. 

The breath is one of the most helpful tools we have to bring us back to a state of calm and focus. If you’re new to meditation, there are plenty of apps to help you get started. Insight Timer, Headspace and Calm are all excellent, each offering a range of both guided and silent meditation options. 

If the idea of downloading one more app sends you into a state of overwhelm, there are countless guided meditations you can find on YouTube. Click here to listen to one of our favorite guided meditations to help you fall asleep. 

Sitting down for a “formal” meditation practice isn’t the only way to overcome the stress you might be feeling during this time. Simply becoming more mindful of your everyday actions can offer a significant change in the way you feel. 

Mindfulness is often defined as “paying attention on purpose to the present moment without judgment” and is something that can be done wherever you are and with whatever you’re doing. 

Ethan Nictern, a Buddhist teacher and author, says that “mindfulness almost always means that you’re using a particular sensory object or mental experience as kind of the home base of the present moment to return to.”  

You can bring mindfulness into anything you do throughout the day, which can offer a sense of calm you might not normally experience during that activity. 

According to Headspace, “mindfulness means to be present, in the moment. And if you can do it sitting on a chair, then why not while out shopping, drinking a cup of tea, eating your food, holding the baby, working at the computer or having a chat with a friend? All of these are opportunities to apply mindfulness, to be aware.”

While meditation and mindfulness won’t make our new reality suddenly disappear, they can help immensely with the stress that so many of us are feeling during this life-changing time in history.

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