Have you been feeling stressed out lately? Well, take some comfort in knowing that you’re not alone. Stress, in particular, workplace stress has become such a widespread problem that the World Health Organization calls it the “health epidemic of the 21st century.”
These days, many people are overwhelmed by their busy lives. They are feeling the pressure from work, family life, and other activities. All this activity is leaving them stressed and anxious. They know they need to relax, but they don’t know how. They are beginning to realize some of the health consequences of chronic stress, such as poor physical health, emotional disorders, and strained relationships.
The good news is that dealing with stress is a lot simpler than you might think. One of the simplest and most effective methods for stress relief is relaxation meditation.
In this article, I will discuss some of the health consequences of stress, what exactly relaxation meditation is, and how to practice it. I will finish with a few sample relaxation meditations I found on YouTube, so you can get started immediately without any fuss.
Consequences of Chronic Stress
A great deal of research has been done on the effects of chronic stress. Here is a sample of some of the short-term and long-term effects.
Short-Term Effects of Stress
On your body, stress can cause headaches, muscle tension, chest pain, tiredness, lower sex drive, digestive problems, and difficulty sleeping.
On your mood, stress can cause restlessness and anxiety, depression, irritability, lack of motivation, inability to focus, and the general feeling of being overwhelmed.
On your behavior, stress can cause you to eat more (or less), anger outbursts, withdraw socially, and use substances, such as alcohol, tobacco, or drugs.
Long-Term Effects of Stress
In the longer term, stress can have several consequences. It can diminish your mental abilities, such as concentration and memory. This can lead to poor judgment and decision-making.
Stress can also affect your physical appearance. It can cause wrinkles, puffy eyes, adult acne, and hair loss. Stress can also cause your skin to appear dull and dry.
Heart problems are a common effect of chronic stress. It causes inflammation of the arteries around the heart, which makes the heart work much harder.
Several of the short-term effects of stress, such as sleep and digestive problems, will also persist over the long term. In addition, stress can weaken your immune system and leave you more vulnerable to illness, and make healing more difficult. All these effects of stress will essentially shorten your life span.
What Is Relaxation Meditation?
Relaxation meditation is a term to describe several types of meditation. Their purpose is to help you relax your body and mind in order to relieve stress and anxiety.
To do relaxation meditation, you can listen to some slow relaxing music, or the sounds of nature, such as ocean waves. You can also do a self-guided body scan.
Here, you essentially sit quietly and move your attention to each body part and consciously relax your muscles in the process. There are also various forms moving meditation. I’ll describe all of them soon.
Benefits of Relaxation Meditation
Relaxation meditation, if done regularly, is one of the most effective methods for stress relief. In fact, it is so effective that sometimes just one session can completely relax a person who is all stressed out.
I’ve had people come into a corporate meditation session overwhelmed with stress, and after the session come up to me amazed that they are completely relaxed.
Stress relief through relaxation meditation is an effective way to avoid the health consequences of chronic stress described above. It will improve your mental abilities, such as concentration, memory, analytical thinking, and creativity. And as your mind relaxes, you will begin sleeping much better at night.
Furthermore, relaxation meditation will improve your mood, which will lead to better interactions with others, especially loved ones.
How to Practice Relaxation Meditation
1. Guided Imagery
Probably the most popular form of relaxation meditation for stress relief is the guided imagery. This form of relaxation meditation consists of relaxing music, and/or sounds of nature, and a person’s voice to guide you on an imaginary journey.
It usually starts with a little mindful breathing, followed by a body scan to physically relax your body. Then the meditation focuses on relaxing your mind by taking you to an imaginary place that is safe, comfortable, and happy. It’s like going on a short vacation from all the things that are causing you stress.
The meditation generally uses a countdown to get you to this place, and includes a set of affirmations to help you relax. The countdown is almost hypnotic, and helps you assimilate the relaxing affirmations more effectively.
Once you reach the imaginary safe space, you normally stay there for a short period in order to let your body and mind relax further. After a while, the voice will slowly guide you back to where you started by counting up with more positive affirmations.
The reason the guided imagery form of relaxation meditation is so popular is because it is quite effective, and you don’t have to do anything except listen to the meditation and follow the guide.
2. Moving Meditation
Moving meditation describes a variety of different movements that are used for stress relief by calming the body and mind, and developing awareness. Some examples are yoga, tai chi, qigong, and walking meditation. The great thing about moving meditation is that not only will it help you relax, but it will also help you stay physically active.
I recommend doing some form of moving meditation when you are too restless to sit still. You can either do a combination of both moving and sitting meditation, or an entire session of moving meditation. Both methods will help you relax.
I will sometimes start my meditation session with about five minutes of tai chi, then five minutes of walking meditation, and the remainder of the session in sitting meditation. This is a great way to work your way back into your meditation routine if you haven’t meditated for a few days.
3. Self-Guided Relaxation Meditation
Some people are more inclined to do their own relaxation meditation. What they generally do is start out with a body scan, where they consciously relax the muscles in each body part.
After completing the body scan, they may then sit quietly for a few minutes following their breathing. They often play some relaxing music in the background.
6 Sample Relaxation Meditations
Here are a few of the best relaxation meditations I’ve found on YouTube. Some of them are so relaxing that they will put you to sleep.
Body Scan Meditations
1. Body Scan Guided Sleep Meditation (Lauren Ostrowski Fenton) (1 hr.)
This is a nice relaxation meditation that starts out with a body scan, and then leaves you with the soothing music to lull you into a deep relaxation. You can either listen to the entire hour-long meditation, or just part of it.
2. Guided Body Scan Meditation for Mind & Body Healing (Michael Sealey) (30 min.)
This is another relaxation meditation with a body scan. Michael Sealey has a deep soothing voice that makes it easy to relax.
3. Guided Imagery for Relaxation (Mark Connelly) (10 min.)
Here is a short guided meditation that takes you on a journey through a tropical forest. The guide is a female with a soft and soothing voice, and the sounds of nature make you feel like you’re really in the forest.
4. Guided Meditation For Anxiety & Stress (Jason Stephenson) (30 min.)
Jason Stephenson has some of the best quality meditations on YouTube. His voice is soothing, and he has the right choice of background music. This meditation takes you on a journey through the night sky.
Relaxation Meditations for Sleep
5. Guided Meditation for Sleep… Floating Among the Stars (Jason Stephenson) (1 hr. 2 min.)
Here is another quality recording by Jason Stephenson. This meditation guides you into a deep relaxation as you float among the stars.
6. Guided Meditation – Blissful Deep Relaxation (The Honest Guys) (18.5 min.)
In this meditation, the music is soft and slow-moving, with gentle waves in the background. This is a relatively short meditation you can comfortably listen to right before you go to bed.
In addition to the above free guided-meditation, I’m also producing my own CD Inner Silence: Guided Relaxation Meditations for Inner Peace and Restful Sleep. If you’re interested, check it out here.
If you’ve read this article, it’s probably because you’re feeling a little (or a lot) overwhelmed, and in need of some stress relief. Maybe you have a high-stress job, or a lot of family commitments. Whatever the reason, you’re probably looking for a simple method for finding stress relief.
The health consequences of stress are many. It affects your body and mind. It also affects your mood, which has a significant impact on your relationships. And over the long term, some of the damage to your body may be irreversible. Put simply, stress keeps you from truly enjoying your life.
Relaxation meditation is a simple and effective method for stress relief. As you can see, there are a variety of different forms of relaxation meditation. You can either listen to a guided meditation or some relaxing music, or you can learn to practice one of the various forms of moving meditation, such as yoga and tai chi.
So, don’t postpone your happiness. Try one of the meditations above, or find one you like, and start enjoying your life stress free.
More Tips on Meditation
Featured photo credit: Amelia Bartlett via unsplash.com