Pressure. We all have it, to some degree. It may be financial, work-related, or even caused by relationships with family and friends. As human beings, we are hard-wired to react automatically to stressful situations. It’s common to bounce from one crisis to the next, putting out fire after fire as you react to whatever comes your way.
But how can we learn to deal with the pressures we face so they don’t take us off our path in achieving our goals?
Meditation. When we meditate, we release feel-good hormones like oxytocin and serotonin. Our heart rate and blood pressure normalize, and we can even improve our immune system. That's why I've developed a simple but effective meditation you can do anytime, anywhere. (Listen to the audio instructions at the bottom of this article!) But first, a little more about how meditation works.
Meditation also allows us to respond to certain situations appropriately and consciously, using our judgment with more calm and clarity—rather than reacting from that primitive fear place. With meditation, our amygdala (the ancient part of the brain responsible for the fight-flight response) shrinks, and the prefrontal cortex (the part responsible for executive functioning) grows.
Here are four ways meditation can help us deal with stress and help us succeed:
- It helps us learn to pause: The psychiatrist Viktor Frankl wrote, "Between the stimulus and the response, there is a space. In that space is the power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom." For any of us who have ever snapped angrily at our kids or our partner, we know how important that pause can be.
- It helps us see clearly: Have you noticed how the more pressure you feel, the more scattered your mind becomes? This can often lead to poor decision making. Think of a snow globe: When you stop shaking it, the snowflakes eventually settle and things becomes clear. That's what happens to the mind when you meditate. More and more business executives are turning to meditation to achieve a greater sense of clarity in their thinking.
- It helps us be more creative: Creative problem-solving and the ability to find solutions to life’s challenges help us overcome our hurdles. In a study done by Leiden University, it was proved that meditation helps with divergent thinking.
- It gives us perspective: When we’re dealing with a pressure-filled situation, we are so wrapped up in it that we can’t see the forest for the trees. Meditation helps us take a step back and see the bigger picture.
Ready to give it a try? Follow these simple steps
As the founder of OMG. I Can Meditate, a lifestyle app offering various meditation series for all sorts of specific life challenges, I’ve developed a two-minute meditation you can do anytime to calm down in stressful situations. (You can even close your eyes and listen to the audio while you try it.) Here's all it takes:
- Take 2 deep cleansing breaths in through the nose and out through the mouth.
- Now, allowing your breath to return to normal, in and out thru the nose, follow your breath with your full attention.
- Notice the sensation as the air touches your nostrils.
- Follow the breath for its full journey all the way from your nasal passage, into your lungs, and down to your belly, feeling your belly rise.
- And reversing that breath, feeling your belly fall as the breath leaves your body.
- Notice everything you can about each breath, the temperature of the air, how it feels at the tip of your nose and the back of your throat.
- Take 8 to 10 of these fully conscious breaths and notice the change in how you feel when you’re done.