Mindfulness Meditation for Stress and Anxiety
Stress and anxiety result when we experience daily pressures or adverse situations that feel greater than our resources allow us to cope with or satisfy. It’s as simple as supply and demand of emotional resources.
It’s not about whether the perceived stressor is valid or not—we feel a responsibility to respond to all these pressures and demands. When we are stressed, the question we need to ask is whether or not we truly need to respond.
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 what are valid demands and what are not. Just think—if we have the capability to distinguish between the two, our experience of stress and anxiety would be much different. The problem is that we don’t have this space in our minds or in our lives. We experience relief because meditation gives us the space and clarity we need to discriminate. This is the demand side element of stress management.
The other key element is increasing our resources, the supply side. Science has shown that brain plasticity, the brain’s ability to change throughout life is extraordinary; therefore by training our minds through meditation techniques we can increase our mental resources and become more capable.
We have become very conscious about how important it is to have a healthy body—the gyms are full. It is just as critical that we have a fit, healthy mind. Through mindfulness meditation practice our minds can become more capable, more 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 rated as high stress events. Any of these situations demand a lot from us, so it would be wise to learn basic ways to respond to stressful situations that cannot be avoided. At those crucial points in our lives meditation can also help provide relief because we will have more space to respond and will be more aware of how to work with situations. For example, when we grieve for someone, the more mindful we can be of all that is going on in our minds, the better we will be able to process our emotions. This is very important—through meditation we become more aware of our emotions. When we’re not aware, our emotions tend to color our perception and judgment and thus inflate the sense of demand beyond what we think we can provide. This is the insidious cycle of stress.
In summary, this is how meditation reduces stress. We begin by creating the space in our minds to reduce demands by discriminating what is essential and by training our minds to increase our mental resources. When stressful situations arise, because of this training we have developed the skills to work with our emotions to deal with stress in a more peaceful way. Mindfulness meditation practice is the ideal stress management training.