Meditation and Holistic Stress Management

Stress can be managed via a multitude of strategies from exercise to increasing leisure time to meditation.  Meditation is the single most accessible method of stress management we have available to us and, there are so many options.  They key is finding the method that suits you.  Getting started can be overwhelming.  There is A LOT of information on the internet about meditation and the recommendations and requirements vary widely. Below you’ll find the basics and some easy strategies to get started. If you want more help, contact us at mayerwellness@gmail.com.

Meditation and Wellness

There are physical, emotional and mental benefits to meditation.

  • Allow the body to rest, stimulating the para-sympathetic nervous system.
  • Reduction of cortisol production and immune boost.
  • Clear the mind for better focus for work and sleep.
  • Reduce and manage pain, anxiety, as well as other symptoms.

See what the National Institute for Health has to say about meditation: https://nccih.nih.gov/health/meditation/overview.htm#hed2

Meditation Frequency, Duration, Preparation and Positioning

There are no clear guidelines for how often you should meditate.  Use a timer and start with a short meditation practice once per day.  Slowly increase your time until you feel it is a good match for you. Even short meditation practices can bring wonderful benefits.

If you intend to meditate for longer periods of time, try stretching or doing yoga for a few minutes prior to sitting or lying in meditation.

Some meditation styles suggest certain sitting positions which often include a straight spine and crossed legs.  This can be very challenging if you are not used to this position.  Many people have very tight hips and are used to having their back supported when sitting. Don’t let this stop you.  Find a comfortable position and start by learning to focus your mind, then work towards a more traditional meditation posture.

It is recommend you sit versus lie down so you are not tempted to fall asleep. If you do fall asleep each time you meditate, you probably need more sleep.  Begin your practice with a comfortable position and explore others as you gain more comfort and experience.

Key Pillars to Meditation

Breathing

  • Breathing method varies across meditation styles. Slow calm diaphragmatic breathing is the most common.

Being present (mindful)

  • Keeping your mind focused on the here and now is a common thread in meditation. Let go of the concerns from the past and worries about the future during meditation.

Letting go of judgement

  • As thoughts enter your mind or as you notice sensations during meditation, do not judge them as good or bad. Experience them and let them go.
  • Do not judge yourself and your ability to meditate.

Focus on something (as opposed to nothing)

  • Emptying the mind completely is nearly impossible.
  • Focus the mind on the breath, an object or a sensation depending on your choice of meditation.

Meditation Options

Below are some of the many options to structure your meditation practice.

Type of Meditation Practice Notes
Diaphragmatic Breathing (DB)

Using the respiratory diaphragm muscle located directly under the lungs to deepen breathing and fill the lungs with each breath.

 

  • Place one hand on your chest and one just below your belly button.
  • Close your eyes and breathe naturally.
  • Notice how your body moves as you breathe.  Do both hands move?  Do they move differently?
  • Start by calming the chest by keeping the shoulders still.
  • Feel the belly rise with the in breath and fall with the out breath.
  • Push the air out of the lungs as you pull your belly button in toward your spine and up.
  • Release your belly and allow the lungs to fill.
  • Continue breathing while focusing on the rise and fall of your belly.  Slow the breath and breath deeply. Feel a sense of calm.

 

Physically Feeling the Breath

While using DB noticing all the sensations associated with breathing including air movement and body movements.

 

  • While breathing slowly and deeply using DB notice the sensations in your body as you breathe.
  • Feel your belly rise and the bottom of your ribs gently expand.
  • Feel the belly fall and the ribs gently fall back towards the body.
  • As your ribs expand, feel the pull of the air into your nose.
  • As the ribs fall, feel the air move up and out through your nose.
  • Feel the coolness of the air as it enters your noes.
  • Feel the warmth as you exhale.
Breath Visualization

While using slow DB and eyes closed, begin to visualize the air coming in through the nose and into the lungs. Bring the air in deeper.  See the air as a color. See the air go past the lungs and filling the body.

 

  • As the air comes into your nose, visualize it as a white mist or any color you choose.
  • See it enter your nose and travel down and into your lungs.
  • See it as it travels back up and out your nose.
  • Pull the air in and down into your lungs visualizing it as it moves through your body.
  • Pull the air into your lungs and hold it there.  Watch is swirl throughout your lungs and fill the entire space.  Exhale.
  • Pull the air in again and visualize it moving all through your lungs and beyond.  Move it deeper into your arms, legs and head.

 

Breath counting

Any form of counting while breathing.  Using one count per exhale.  This may include counting backwards from 100. Counting up or down from 10 and repeating.

 

  • Continue with DB at a slow pace.
  • As you exhale begin counting.  Start at 100 and count backwards.  One count with each exhale.
  • Continue at a slow pace.
  • If you lose your count begin anywhere.
  • If thought come, release them with the exhale.
4-Part Breath

While using slow DB count 4 on the inhale, hold for a count of 4, exhale a count of 4 and hold for a count of 4.  Repeat.

  • Continue with DB at a slow pace.
  • Inhale for a count of 4.
  • Hold for a count of 4.
  • Exhale for a count of 4.
  • Hold for a count of 4.
  • Repeat several times.
4-7-8 Breath

While using slow DB, inhale for a count of 4, hold for a count of 7 and exhale for a count of 8.  Repeat.

 

  • Continue with DB at a slow pace.
  • Inhale for a count of 4.
  • Hold for a count of 7.
  • Exhale for a count of 8.
  • Repeat several times.
Sensory Meditation

Focusing on all the senses, one at a time: smell, taste, hearing, vision and tactile sensation.

 

 

 

 

 

  • Begin with DB at a slow pace.  Close your eyes.
  • Focus your attention on one sense at a time in any order you choose.  Don’t judge anything you notice.  Just observe and continue.
  • Focus all your attention on your sense of smell. There may be no smells.  Notice this too. Don’t judge.
  • Shift away from smell to taste.  Focus on your sense of taste.  Notice anything you can taste from a recent meal, snack or drink. There may be no taste.  Notice this too. Don’t judge.
  • As any thoughts enter, let them go with the breath.
  • Keeping the eyes closed shift to the sense of sight. Behind your closed eyelids notice what you see.  There may be colors, movement, shapes, pictures, etc.
  • Shift to the sense of hearing.  Notice sounds that are very close.  Notice sounds that are far away.  Focus in on one sound and notice all the qualities you can.  Don’t judge.
  • Shift to the sense of touch.  Notice the parts of your body that are exposed to the air.  Feel the coolness or movement of the air on your skin.  Feel your clothing on your skin.  Feel where your body is touching the floor or chair.
  • Notice which sense kept your attention.  Return to that sense and breathe.

 

Progressive Muscular Relaxation

Systematically tensing and releasing muscle groups to increase the ability to determine a sensation of relaxation vs. tension.

 

  • Begin with DB at a slow pace.  Close your eyes.
  • Scan your body from head to toe.  Notice any part of your body that feels tense or tight.
  • Begin anywhere and rotate through all areas of the body. You can work with small or large areas of the body.
  • Let’s start with the hands.  Make a fist.  Squeeze it tight and hold. Continue breathing as you hold. Notice how the tension feels. After several breaths release on an exhale.  Notice the difference between the tension and the relaxed muscles.
  • Tense the whole arm. Squeeze it tight and hold. Continue breathing as you hold. Notice how the tension feels. After several breaths release on an exhale.  Notice the difference between the tension and the relaxed muscles.
  • Tense the shoulders, raising them to the ears.  Squeeze tight and hold. Continue breathing as you hold. Notice how the tension feels. After several breaths release on an exhale.  Notice the difference between the tension and the relaxed muscles.
  • Continue the process with the following muscle groups: Feet, calves, thighs, hips, stomach, chest, back, neck, face.
Guided Imagery

Using story, imagination and sensation to focus the mind.

 

  • Begin with DB at a slow pace.  Close your eyes.
  • Choose a place you enjoy.  This may be a beach, a hike in the woods or your back yard.
  • Imagine yourself in the space.
  • Notice all the sights, sounds and smells. What do you feel?  Notice all the details one at a time as you move through the space.

 

Autogenic Meditation

Training your body to respond through focus and intention.

 

  • Begin with DB at a slow pace.  Close your eyes.
  • Notice your own heartbeat.  Notice the pace and intensity.
  • Slow your exhale and slow the pace of the heartbeat.
  • Imagine the warm blood pumping through your heart.
  • With each beat, feel the warm blood moving away from the heart and out to your arms.
  • Slowly repeat 3-5 times with each outbreath.  I feel the warm blood flowing to my hands.  My hands are warm.
  • With each beat, feel the warm blood moving away from the heart and out to your feet.
  • Slowly repeat 3-5 times with each outbreath.  I feel the warm blood flowing to my feet.  My feet are warm.
  • Repeat as often as you choose.
Loving Kindness Meditation

Using a series of phrases to focus on a feeling of love and kindness toward yourself and others.

 

  • Begin with DB at a slow pace.  Close your eyes.
  • Repeat each phrase while feeling the words and directing the feelings toward yourself and others.
  • Start with yourself.  Choose someone you are close to and care about and those you love.  Chose a neutral person or group.  Choose a person who you do not care for or consider difficult.  Reflect on each group and extend positive feelings toward each for several minutes.
  • May I/you be filled with loving kindness.
  • May I/you be safe from inner and outer dangers.
  • May I/you be well in body and mind.
  • May I/you be at ease and happy.
Mantra Meditation

Choosing meaningful words or phrases to repeat and focus on while meditating.

 

  • Set a timer for the time you plan to meditate.
  • Begin with DB at a slow pace.  Close your eyes.
  • Choose a mantra.  This is a word or short phrase that is meaningful to you.
  • Try a word just a love, peace, kindness, gratitude, etc.
  • You can use a phrase such as, I breath in love, I breath out kindness.
  • Repeat slowly with the breath letting all other thoughts go.

 

Object Focus Meditation

Using an object to focus on while meditating.

 

  • Set a timer for the time you plan to meditate.
  • Begin with DB at a slow pace.
  • Focus on an object of your choice.
  • It may be a candle, a flower, a photo, etc.
  • Breathe deeply as you notice all the qualities of the object.  Do not judge.
  • As thoughts enter, let them go with the breath and refocus on the object.

 

Inclusive (Non-judgement) Meditation

Allowing attention and the mind to wander and thoughts to enter and exit the mind. No thought is judged.

 

  • Set a timer for the time you plan to meditate.
  • Begin with DB at a slow pace.
  • Allow your mind to wander. Notice each thought as it enters.
  • Do not judge it or focus on it.  With the exhale, let the thought go.
  • Repeat this process with each thought or sensation that you notice.

 

Yoga Nidra

A process of rotating consciousness through the body to focus the mind.

 

  • Begin with DB at a slow pace.
  • Begin with any area of the body.  Repeat the name of the body part in your mind.
  • Move to another body part with each part of the breath.  Focus fully on each area.
  • Choose an organized path through the body.
  • Example:  front of the right big toe, back of the right big toe, tip of the right big toe, front of the right second toe, back of the right second toe, tip of the right second toe.
  • Continue at this detailed pace or a pace of your choosing.

 

Moving Meditation

Using slow purposeful movement such as walking, yoga or tai chi to focus the mind.  Brining the attention to each movement as it is made.

 

  • Choose your activity.
  • If you choose walking, notice each movement as you make it.
  • Notice your breath as you breathe in and out.
  • Move as slowly as possible.
  • As thoughts enter, let them go with the breath.