How Does Meditation Reduce Stress?
Mindfulness Meditation for Stress and Anxiety
Stress and anxiety result when we feel we can’t handle the pressures and adverse situations of everyday life. It’s a simple question of supply and demand of available emotional resources.
It’s not about whether the perceived stressor is valid or not—we feel a responsibility to respond to all of the pressures and demands. When we are stressed, the first question we need to ask is whether or not a response is truly necessary.
Stress Management: Supply & Demand of Emotional Resources
Do we have the space in our minds to figure out which tasks are actually essential and which are not so important? This is where mindfulness meditation for stress and anxiety, the feeling that continues after the stressors are gone, can provide relief.
How does meditation relieve stress? It gives us the space to sort out which demands on our energy, attention, and emotions are valid and which are not. Just think—if we had the ability to distinguish between the two, our experience of stress and anxiety would be much different. We feel pressure when we don’t have this space in our minds and in our lives. We experience relief when meditation gives us the space and clarity we need to organize our priorities. This is the demand side element of stress management.
The other key element is the supply side: increasing our resources. Science has shown that brain plasticity – the brain’s ability to change and adapt throughout life – is extraordinary. By using meditation techniques to train our minds, we increase our mental resources and become more capable.
As a society, we have become very conscious about how important it is to have a fit, healthy body—the gyms are full. It is just as critical to have a fit, healthy mind. Through mindfulness meditation practice, our minds can become more capable, focused and clear, enabling us to better handle stressful and demanding situations. This is how meditation for stress reduction enables us to experience a calmer life.
Mindfulness meditation is also a good baseline practice for stress prevention so that when adverse situations occur we don’t let them get out of control.
We all experience stressful situations in life, such as the loss of a loved one, divorce or moving, all of which are considered high-stress events. Any situation of this kind—or even simply challenging situations at work—demands a lot from us, so we would be wise to learn some basic ways to respond to stressful situations that cannot be avoided. At those crucial points in our lives, meditation can help provide relief. How? By giving us a better grasp of how to work with situations, a heightened awareness of our emotions, and more space to respond. For example, when we grieve for someone, the more aware we are of everything that is going on in our minds, the better we are able to process our sadness and grief. When we’re not aware, our emotions tend to color our perception and judgment and inflate our sense of what the situation demands of us, so that it is perceived to be beyond what we think we can provide. This is the insidious cycle of stress.
This is a glimpse of how meditation reduces stress. We begin by creating the space in our minds to reduce demands by discerning what is essential. And we train our minds and increase our mental resources. Then, when stressful situations arise, our training in meditation techniques for anxiety will have provided us with the skills we need to work with our emotions. We can deal with stress in a more peaceful way, and even begin to think about others. Mindfulness meditation practice is the ideal tool for stress management.