Can’t Meditate? Try These Other 5 Stress Busters
FEBRUARY 21, 2017 by DR. HEATHER MODAY, MD
When anxiety is running high, meditation can feel impossible. Thankfully, meditation isn’t the only method for reducing stress and reclaiming your calm. Here are some alternatives to meditation you can learn in our Philadelphia office.
You’ve heard it before. Meditation is the next big thing. Everyone is doing it, from CEOs to wellness gurus to stay-at-home moms. There are apps and classes and videos all encouraging us to sit on a pillow for a few minutes each day, be mindful and present, etc. The proven benefits of meditation are overwhelming: everything from lowering blood pressure, enhancing immunity, decreasing anxiety and depression and enhancing productivity. It all sounds amazing! But what if every time you try to shut off your mind and just sit, your monkey mind buzzes with intrusive thoughts. Are you destined to be stressed out forever?
As an integrative and functional medicine doctor, I see many clients whose health issues have been caused or worsened by chronic stress levels. Many have tried to meditate before but gotten frustrated because even trying so hard made them more anxious. Meditation is a practice, and it can take quite a while to cultivate even a few minutes of mindfulness, but if your stress is raging out of control, here are some other options to try first.
- Try self–hypnosis. Self-hypnosis may be similar to guided mediation, but instead of emptying the mind of thought, hypnosis encourages total relaxation into a trance-like state with a specific goal in mind. This goal could be decreasing anxiety, stopping smoking or improving self-esteem. It has been found to improve healing times after surgery, help change negative behaviors, and improve PTSD. There are many MP3s and online downloads available to try.
- Listen to binaural beats. This is an exciting, emerging field of study- using wavelengths of sound to entrain and calm the brain. Our brain goes into different wavelengths when we are active (Gamma and Beta wavelengths) versus when we are calm (Alpha) and sleeping (Theta and Delta). Just listening to binaural beats using stereo headphones can induce a relaxed state. This is also something you can use when working during the day.
- Train your heart.Heart rate variability (HRV) is the change in time intervals between heartbeats. Too much or too little HRV is directly associated with poor resiliency and higher chronic stress levels. You can actually train your heart rate variability with your breathing using software for mobile devices and simple heart rate monitors.
- Just breathe.We all have a set of lungs, so this relaxation technique is cheap and portable. Breathwork, also known as pranayama in the yoga world, has widespread health benefits, and can stop a panic attack in seconds or be used to bring down the physiologic stress response immediately. I like to teach the 4-7-8 breath which can be done in just few minutes at your desk, before a big presentation or on the bus.
- Tap your stress away-“Tapping” a.k.a Emotional Freedom Technique, is a technique using energy meridians similar to those found in Chinese acupuncture, except you don’t use any needles and it can be self-administered in a few minutes to stop the stress response in its tracks and bring down cortisol hormone levels. It may also provide relief for a myriad of disorders including phobias, chronic pain and addictions as well.
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