What are the best meditation techniques for stress relief? In this article, you’ll find guided meditations for stress relief, Buddhist techniques, modern methods, and exercises to do at home.
As a meditation teacher, one of the questions many people ask me is this: What are the best meditation techniques for stress relief? And honestly, the truth is that it depends on the exact nature of the stress you are suffering from.
Let’s take a look at the science of meditation and stress relief and then we’ll start practicing some powerful meditation techniques for stress relief.
What Are Meditation And Stress Relief?
Meditation is a system of mind-body exercises that involve focusing the mind on one or more things, such as a thought, an activity, a mantra or mudra, visualization, or a guided meditation script for stress. Originally a Buddhist and yoga practice, meditation is not a holistic health practice with scientific proof of efficacy.
Stress is the feeling of physical or emotional tension, which causes emotions like anger, nervousness and frustration. When we feel threatened, the sympathetic nervous system creates the “fight or flight” response. Cortisol and adrenaline are released, which creates an emergent mode. Heart rate escalates, muscles tighten, blood pressure increasing, breathing rate increases, and the senses are heightened. Chronic stress can cause major illness.
Common causes of stress include pressure, significant changes, worry, lack of control, being overwhelmed, and general poor lifestyle. One of the best solutions is to simply give the mind time to relax. As Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh says in the book How To Relax, we need “days where time unfolds naturally, unhurriedly, timelessly.” Meditation is one of the best ways to have such days.
Meditation and stress are like opposites. When we use traditional or guided meditation for stress we reverse many of the physiological effects of stress. For instance, meditation activates the parasympathetic nervous system to create relaxation, it balances blood pressure, slows breathing rate, relaxes the mind by reducing information overload, and reduces emotional reactivity. So in many ways, meditation and stress work in opposite ways.
Try the following meditation technique for stress relief
- Sit comfortably with good posture either kneeling down on the ground or siting on a meditation chair. Either way, make sure your back is straight but relaxed, that there is no pressure in your knees, and that the back of your neck is relaxed (you might find it helpful to do a few shoulder rolls).
- Do a five minute body-scan meditation. Gradually move your focus down through your body, from the crown of your head to your feet. If you notice any tense areas, imagine breathing air into that space, and ask it to relax. You can also gently rotate your muscles to relax.
- Move your awareness to your breath. Start to breathe using Box Breathing. To do this, breathe in for two; hold for two; exhale for two; hold for two; and repeat. While you are doing this, mindfully observe your breath moving around your body. Observe the energy and sensations involved with breathing. Observe how the breath is soft and gentle, but with a warm energy behind it. Meditate on this process and on the energy of breathing.
- Count to 108 breaths (one full mala) while meditating on your breath. Counting your breath will help you to stay focused while meditating.
- Once you reach 108 breaths, switch to a visualization. Imagine a truly relaxing scene, such as a beach. Vividly imagine this beautiful and relaxing scene. What sights do you see? Oceans? Cliffs? What sounds do you hear? The waves? Vividly imagine this scene.
- Realise that you have the power to create relaxing images in your mind. You can choose to imagine a relaxing scene anytime you like. This is empowering because it means that you can intentionally visualize things that will make you relax and undo your stress.
This is my best meditation technique for stress relief, but you might like to also try the methods below. Of course, for the premium meditation experience, book a meditation lesson with me.
The Best Meditation Techniques For Stress Relief, With Simple Scripts
All of these meditation techniques help with stress. Try each one to find the best one for you.
1: Meditation Script For Stress
One of the best options is to use a simple meditation script for stress.
Close your eyes for a few minutes. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Count to 27 breaths. Now recite the following words to yourself several times in your mind.
“I am feeling tense at the moment, but it is just a feeling. This feeling will pass. I am safe. All is well. I am becoming calm”. Now, continue to focus on your breath. On each inhale say the word “Relaxing”. And on each exhale say the word “Calming”.
Continue to count your breaths as you recite the words. Aim for 108 breaths. By using deep diaphragmatic breathing, you will stimulate your parasympathetic nervous system to produce feelings of relaxation.
This is a simple meditation script for stress relief. It will help you to let go and to calm down.
2: Guided Meditation For Stress Relief
One of the simple solutions is to use guided meditation for stress relief. You can do this either as a recording or as a self-guided meditation.
Check out guided meditation for stress relief videos by the following teachers:
- Tara Brach
- Sharon Salzberg
- Joseph Goldstein
Arguably the very best meditation for stress relief is mindfulness, which John Kabat Zinn [founder of Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction at Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School] defines as “the awareness that arises from paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally”.
Mindfulness is the simple practice of being consciously aware and non-judgmental. It is about seeing things for what they are. When we use mindfulness meditation for stress, we simply observe stress for what it is: an emotion with physical sensations.
Often when we are stressed, we sink inside the mind. Do you find that you have lots of negative thoughts when you feel anxious? Do you get caught up in those thoughts? If so, mindfulness will help. It gives you the ability to get away from your worries and to step outside your negative thoughts so that you are not controlled by your emotions.
Research highlights that there are big benefits of mindfulness for stress relief .Particularly worthy of your attention is the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction course devised by Jon Kabat Zinn.
4: Buddhist Methods
There are many excellent Buddhist meditation techniques for stress relief. Methods range from focusing on the breath to going for a mindful walk.
The core philosophy behind Buddhist methods is that they help us to understand the processes of the mind, including the feelings of pressure and anxiety.
When you practise Buddhist methods, you gain an understanding of how the mind works, and you gain greater control of your mind.
So if you have felt like you don’t understand how your mind works, and you feel like you don’t have control over your worries and concerns, you will find Buddhist methods excellent.
It is worth learning the various Buddhist methods because they are all beneficial. I’ve included the best ones further down in the list.
Some notable teachers to learn Buddhist meditation from include Thich Nhat Hanh, Pema Chodron, and Sharon Salzberg.
One of Buddhism’s best meditation techniques for stress relief is Vipassana. This is a prevalent practise at retreats.
Vipassana is all about observing your various mental states and processing them more healthily. When we practice Vipassana, we meditate on the breath, and we label our emotions and thoughts. For instance, if you experience a thought while meditating, you will simply say to yourself, “This is a thought” or “This is an emotion”. It’s simple but powerful. It trains your mind to process thoughts and feelings more rationally, so you are less reactive to negative states of mind. 
Anapanasati is a method in which we focus on the breath and then observe the various mental states that the mind goes through. As American Psychology and Buddhist meditation teacher Tara Brach says, “Our breath is often the most helpful home base for coming out of our circling worry thoughts and back into our senses. “
When we practice Anapansati, we start with breathing meditation, and then we observe when the mind comes and goes (for instance, when we get caught up in thoughts and then when those thoughts dissipate). We will label these mental movements as “coming” or “going”. This makes us more aware of when we get lost in thought.
Anapanasati teaches us that it is natural to go through different states of mind and that invariably if we get caught up in one frame of mind, it will soon dissipate. This teaches us that mental states are impermanent, so we need not be too worried when we momentarily experience anxiety. 
Buddha explained in the Anapanasati Sutta that Anapanasati leads to equanimity of mind (calmness), so this is arguably the best Buddhist meditation for stress relief.
Zazen is a powerful technique that helps us to be less agitated. It does this by developing our concentration.
Have you noticed that when you feel anxious, it is hard to focus? Sometimes when I’m stressed, I will try to work, but I will keep getting lost in my thoughts. This reduces my productivity, making it hard to complete my work, and of course, that just makes things worse.
Zen is all about developing concentration. It helps us to stay mindful and in the moment, so when we are agitated, we don’t sink into the mind.
If you find that you struggle to focus at times when you are worried or anxious, this method will be perfect for you.
8: Taoist Techniques
Taoist techniques are all about living as our true selves and connecting with pure energy (chi) inside of us. Taoist techniques, created primarily by Lato Tzu, cultivate purity of mind and body and eliminate negatives, such as toxins in the body and anxiety in the mind.
The reason these are some of the best meditation techniques for stress relief is that they cultivate inner stillness and tranquillity. We learn to let go of anything we don’t need, and we live more naturally, in harmony with our true selves.
There are many different types of mindful yoga exercises. The majority will help you when you experience anxiety or painful thoughts.
If you try combining yoga with mindfulness, you will soon feel more relaxed. The physical activity of yoga releases endorphins (the feel-good chemical), relaxes the body and reduces inflammation. And mindfulness stops stress by calming the mind and reducing negative thinking. 
If using yoga for stress, it is worth working on all Eight Limbs of Yoga as defined by Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras.
Other options include: Tai chi, Qigong, affirmations, forest bathing, using healing crystals, reiki, and breathwork.
Today we have looked at some of the best meditation techniques for stress. We’ve looked at guided meditation scripts for stress, Buddhist techniques, breathing exercises and more.
These exercises will help you to purify your mind and body, reduce the inflammatory response to stress, and train your brain to process stress in healthier ways. Not only does mindfulness help with tension, it also helps with the health problems associated with negative emotions. For instance, you can use meditation to lower blood pressure.
Meditation trains your mind to better handle negative emotions, and science shows that it works.
Meditative exercises reduce the inflammatory response to worry and to negative thoughts, which reduces the health impact of tension. Mindfulness also reduces activity in the amygdala , and increases connections between the prefrontal cortex and the amygdala, which lessens reactivity and improves our ability to manage stress naturally. It also stimulates activity in the parasympathetic nervous system, which creates relaxation.
You might also like to read my guide to anxiety meditation techniques.
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