Meditation For Stress

Last Updated: November 25, 2023

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Understanding meditation is a powerful technique that can lead to improved well-being and health. Learn more about the causes of stress, the benefits of meditation for stress, and the various meditation practices you can use for stress relief. 

What is Meditation for Stress?

At several points in life, everyone has experienced stressful times due to various reasons. 

According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, stress is the body and brain's response to challenge, demand, or change and the body's natural defence against danger due to a thought or event that makes an individual feel nervous, angry, or frustrated.

When individuals experience stress, the body becomes flooded with hormones that confront or avoid the danger faced, also known as the fight or flight response; the parasympathetic nervous system triggers that response. 

Stress can become chronic if individuals do not take the proper steps to manage and navigate stress. Chronic stress can result in chemical changes within the body, increasing heart rate, blood pressure, and blood sugar levels.

Although stress is a familiar feeling, high stress levels or prolonged stress can also result in physical and mental health issues; therefore, it is critical to managing stress effectively.

How to manage stress with meditation

Although stress cannot always be eliminated, managing and perceiving it through mindfulness is crucial. Mediation has existed for thousands of years and was initially practiced to deepen an individual's understanding of the mystical and sacred life forces.

Today, meditation is a common tool for managing stress and relaxation and can generate a tranquil mind and a deep relaxation state

During meditation, individuals eliminate the negative and confused thoughts they might be holding on to and feeling stressed about and focus their attention. 

Meditation helps regulate the autonomic nervous system, which is responsible for involuntary physiological functions, including blood pressure, heart rate, digestion, and breathing. 

Meditative practices pave the way for a healthy lifestyle and enable individuals to learn how to navigate control of their autonomic nervous system consciously and improve their mental and physical health.

Causes of stress

Anxiety is a very different state and cannot be used interchangeably with stress; it is a visceral feeling that individuals hold on to. Still, the reason behind it is not always apparent.

Stress can be caused due to:

  • workplace
  • financial issues
  • relationships
  • health issues
  • school or university
  • lack of social support or community

Stress reshapes the neural pathways and structure of the brain through neuroplasticity. The good part is that the human mind can be trained to manage stress more effectively. 

MRI scans demonstrated regular meditation can help shrink the amygdala and help individuals respond instead of reacting to stress. It helps the amygdala return to its baseline condition and is a tool for self-regulation.

Meditation also helps build mental resilience that can increase individual capacity to manage stress and be self-aware. 

Benefits of meditation for stress management

Meditation can help individuals feel a sense of balance, calm and peace, benefitting their overall health and well-being. When individuals mediate, they can clear the information overload that builds up and contributes to stress. 

Meditation can also help individuals manage symptoms of chronic conditions, including high blood pressure, depression, heart disease, sleep problems, irritable bowel syndrome and other health problems. Meditation plays a role in: 

  1. Reversing the stress response: During meditation, individuals go into a state of restful alertness. While the body is in a state of rest, the mind is fully awake and alert. Meditation helps with lowering heart rate, deep breathing, normalizing blood pressure, lower production of stress hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol, stronger immunity, and decreased inflammation.
  2. Increasing healthy neurotransmitters: Deep meditation relaxation triggers the brain to release certain neurotransmitters that enhance feelings of inner calm, focus and well-being. Some neurotransmitters released during meditation include dopamine, gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), serotonin and endorphins. Dopamine plays a major role in the ability of the brain to focus, feel rewarded, and experience pleasure. GABA deficiency results in sleeplessness, nervousness and racing thoughts. 
  3. Improving sleep and relaxation: Many individuals today live with chronic sleep deprivation, resulting in higher stress levels and irritability. Research suggests that meditation is effective for insomnia and can help individuals get restful sleep, which is crucial for their mental and physical health. 
  4. Improving attention: Individuals often feel stressed because they have to do multiple tasks simultaneously, so it is difficult for the conscious brain to multitask. Meditation helps train the brain to remain focused on the task at hand while avoiding distractions. Focus and attention on a single task help reduce stress. 
  5. Releasing emotional baggage: When practicing meditation, individuals develop a "witnessing awareness" that enables them to observe and understand their feelings and thoughts more objectively and from far away rather than reacting emotionally. 
  6. Altering the brain’s stress patterns: Meditation can help create new neural connections in the brain and alter brain regions in ways that promote a feeling of calmness and reduce habitual stress patterns. Research studies show that after eight weeks of regular meditation, participants experience beneficial growth in regions of the brain associated with stress regulation (prefrontal cortex, hippocampus and insula), empathy, self-awareness, memory and learning. 

Types of meditation for stress relief

Meditation generally refers to achieving a relaxed state of mind. Several relaxation and meditation techniques can relieve stress and inner peace.

Guided meditation

Guided meditation involves using the voice of a taped recording or a live person to guide the meditation session. This differs from self-guided meditation, where an individual directs meditation using their mind. 

Individuals may use guided meditation if they are new to the practice and wish to have a voice guide their meditation in some form or for mindfulness. It is also called visualization or guided imagery. In this practice, individuals can form mental images of situations or places relaxing. 

Guided meditations can involve live guides, usually available in group classes, whereas recordings can also be found through audio recordings, podcasts, apps and videos.

Mindfulness-based stress reduction

Jon Kabat Zinn was the individual who developed a course in mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) more than 30 years ago. The study aimed to manage mental health conditions and chronic pain in individuals who were unresponsive to conventional treatments. 

The duration of the original course was eight weeks, and components of the course included yoga, belly breathing, body scan and present moment awareness meditation. 

MBSR also entailed homework-related tasks; individuals kept a gratitude journal or a positive events log. Research studies have shown the beneficial effect of MBSR as individuals who participated in this meditation practice experienced reduced stress and pain and scored significantly better on psychological tests. 

Individuals who practice mindfulness-based cognitive therapy or MBSR are also less likely to experience unhelpful emotional reactions when faced with stressful situations. 

Transcendental meditation

Meditation can be combined with spiritual practices, and transcendental meditation is an example of such meditation. 

Transcendental meditation involves individuals breathing slowly and remaining seated. This spiritual form of mediation aims to rise or transcend above the individual's current state. 

During transcendental meditation, the focus is on the mantra. Often, teachers or guides can help individuals determine the mantra based on a combination of factors, or individuals can also choose it. 

Studies show that this form of meditation can also lower depression, burnout and stress; however, further research is required to understand the benefits of transcendental meditation. 

Mantra meditation

Mantra meditation involves repeating phrases, words, syllables or a mantra silently and continuously. The focus is to redirect and override the negative thoughts.

Research has shown that mantra meditation can result in moderate reductions in stress and anxiety and smaller declines in depression. 

Mindfulness meditation

Mindfulness is a practice that enables individuals to be fully present in the moment and involves increased awareness of the surroundings. 

It entails various components, including breathing exercises, guided imagery, and other techniques focused on the mind to lower stress and relax the body. 

Mindfulness meditation can be done in any place. For example, while waiting in a line at the store, a person can calmly observe their surroundings, the smells, sights and sounds they are experiencing. 

Research has found several benefits of mindfulness, including improved memory, focus, relationship satisfaction and reduced emotional, impulsive reactions or negative emotions.

Breath awareness meditation

Breath awareness meditation is a form of mindful meditation that promotes deep and mindful breathing. 

The aim is to breathe deeply and slowly, counting breaths so individuals can focus on breathing only while ignoring the distracting thoughts in their heads. 

Breath awareness has similar benefits as mindfulness meditation, including improved emotional flexibility, concentration and lower anxiety. 

Progressive muscle relaxation

Progressive relaxation meditation involves starting at one end of the body, usually the feet and working through the rest of the body. 

Some forms require individuals to tense and then relax their muscles. Individuals are guided to visualize a wave drifting over their bodies to release muscle tension. 

The benefits of this meditation include increased feelings of relaxation, calmness, and improved chronic pain. Some individuals also use this meditation to get better sleep as it slowly relaxes the body. 

How to practice meditation for stress relief

Meditation has various health benefits that can help with stress relief and reduction as it allows individuals to connect to their inner strength. 

Some ways to practice meditation on your own include

  • Breathing deeply
  • Repeating a mantra
  • Scanning your body, engaging in prayer 
  • Practicing breathing exercises 
  • Focusing on love and kindness 
  • Reading and reflecting

Meditation can be part of a daily routine. Some individuals also use relaxation techniques that can help them reduce their stress, such as listening to music or engaging in other hobbies they enjoy. 

There is no right or wrong way to approach meditation or a "perfect" meditation session. Individuals need to understand how mediation can help them reduce their stress and improve well being. 


Meditation for Stress - Headspace

A Guide on How to Meditate for Stress Reduction and More | Everyday Health

Meditation: A simple, fast way to reduce stress 

How meditation could change the brain 

The Benefits of Meditation for Stress Management 


The contents of this article are provided for informational purposes only and are not intended to substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. It is always recommended to consult with a qualified healthcare provider before making any health-related changes or if you have any questions or concerns about your health. Anahana is not liable for any errors, omissions, or consequences that may occur from using the information provided.