10-minute meditation is all we need to release the stress load we have. We are all aware that stress is harmful to our health. Whether it's the news headlines, the morning school-prep rush, a looming work deadline, or discovering an empty refrigerator at 6 p.m., today's men and women often have more stress triggers than the average. But what are our options? Especially if we don't have time for hour-long yoga courses, long candle-lit baths, spa days, or long walks, which are some of the most common stress-reduction suggestions?
The most effective approaches are those that fall under the category of "mindfulness-based stress-reduction" (MBSR), according to current medical research. These are approaches that cause our bodies' natural relaxation response rather than their stress response. When we are stressed, certain chemicals in our blood such as adrenaline and cortisol rise, we take shorter breaths, and our muscles tense. The opposite happens when we are relaxed. The value of MBSR approaches is that they can block the physiological reaction to stress and trigger some or all of the relaxation response.
So, what is MBSR, exactly? Meditation. Not the kind of meditation where you sit and stare at the horizon, but the kind where you take a moment to breathe—in other words, the kind that any of us can do, anyplace.
Here are ten quick 10-minute meditations (or MBSR practices) to help you stop your stress response in its tracks:
1. Belly breathing: Place your hands over your belly button and take 5-10 deep breaths, making sure to expand your belly rather than your chest with each inhalation. This forces your diaphragm down, allowing your lungs to take in more air - an effective way to calm your body right away.
2. Progressive muscle relaxation: Close your eyes and concentrate on the muscles of your face. Take a deep breath and visualize all of these muscles relaxing as you exhale. Then shift your focus to your neck and shoulder muscles, take another deep breath, and envision the tension in that place dissipating. Continue to scan your entire body, one breath at a time. This technique is wonderful for helping you fall asleep fast after a long day, in addition to being a stress reliever.
3. Vacation visualization: Visualizing a relaxing image is a terrific technique to reduce stress, and recalling a specific scene from your past is especially beneficial because many of the neurotransmitters released during the original experience are also released when you recall it in detail. Choose a favorite vacation memory - for example, sitting on a beach at sunset - and try to recreate what you saw, heard, smelt, and felt.
4. Favorite word: Another amazing MBSR practice is word repetition. Simply choose a term that expresses the polar opposite of any stressful emotion you're experiencing. Are you enraged? Try the word 'peace.' Depressed? Try the word 'joy.' Discouraged? Try the word 'optimistic.' Simply repeat your term 10-20 times under your breath to yourself.
5. Sun heat: Nature has a calming impact, but you definitely can't go for a walk in the woods or on the beach in the heat of the day. Instead, take a minute to stroll outside and concentrate on the sensation of the sun as it strikes some portion of your body. Imagine the sun's warmth melting your stress away.
6. Breeze of insight: The wind, or breeze, is another useful natural element you might focus on during brief outings outdoors. For a time, turn away from it and imagine it sweeping away your worries. Then envision it blowing in relaxation as you face it.
7. Go for a walk: Walking meditations are especially useful because the movement helps to alleviate the restless sensation that often comes with tension. If you make an attempt to divert your mind away from the source of your stress, a quick walk around the parking lot at work, or simply down the hall, can help. Try paying close attention to each of your senses in turn, for instance, take careful notes on everything you see, then everything you hear, then smell, and so on.
8. Find the love: Reminding yourself of your emotional support system can sometimes help you relax. Close your eyes and imagine someone you care about (children are wonderful) in a loving moment. Take a few deep breaths and hold that notion.
9. Gratitude: Gratitude is another emotional switcher. Taking a few moments to remind yourself of all the positive aspects of your life can help you re-center in the midst of a crisis. Make a mental list of everything you're grateful for, including people, things, and experiences.
10. Self-distancing: A more abstract strategy, self-distancing is commonly utilized in anger management programs. When you start to feel furious, stop for a moment and ask yourself, "Who is it that is angry?" The goal is to develop your self-awareness and impulse control by beginning to distance yourself from your own angry emotion. You can improve your capacity to choose which emotions you want to tap into and which you want to push aside over time.
Whatever method you use, the main thing is to avoid turning your stress relievers into stressors! To put it another way, don't pass judgment on your attempts, and don't get too caught up in trying to find the ideal location or moment. Most of these techniques can be practiced in bathroom stalls, parked cars, or even your workplace chair. Simply set aside one minute, choose your approach, and unwind.