Meditation is a great way of clearing your mind of stress and anxiety, and has also been linked to physical benefits, including a reduction in heart disease. In other cultures and religions, including Buddhism and Hinduism, meditation is an element of daily religious practice and is viewed as a route to spiritual enlightenment. Meditation has historically been used to treat a number of conditions including stress, anxiety, depression, headaches, migraines and insomnia; amongst others. Meditation has been shown to rest the mind, and has a dramatic effect on brain activity, stimulating brain waves which promote relaxation of the body's nervous system. This can alleviate stress and anxiety, as well as effecting a reduction in blood pressure.
There are a number of different approaches to meditation, but all involve practising in a relaxed, quiet environment free of noise and distractions. Assuming a comfortable seated position is also important, as lying down may result in you falling asleep. Most meditation is centred on the process of breathing or breathwork, which is a conscious exercise and does take practice to get right. This should ideally be via the nostrils and be natural and not forced, and eventually be the only sensation one is aware of. Other techniques to promote meditation involve utilising a favourite image or object to focus on, as well as yoga or the chanting of mantras.
Stress is a natural part of the bodies coping mechanism that enables us to deal with day to day situations. Stress is characterised by a raised metabolism including heart rate and blood pressure, which enables the body to cope with the situation at hand. This is activated by the body's nervous system which releases the hormones adrenaline and cortisol into the blood stream. Some stress is healthy, but if it is triggered too often it can lead to health problems such as weight gain and heart disease. Stress is typically caused by a new situation or traumatic event, including problems in the workplace, death of a loved one or the onset of a chronic illness. Symptoms of stress and anxiety may be psychological in nature, including feelings of hostility or anger, mood swings, lack of self-confidence and depression. Physical manifestations that may appear include headaches, stomach complaints, disrupted sleep patterns and abnormal eating behaviour.
Anxiety is often related to stress and is characterised by a feeling of constant fear or worry, often generated by new experiences or stressful situations. Social isolation, depression as well as muscular tension and disrupted sleep often indicate anxiety in an individual.