Stress and Anxiety Relief Program

Note: An enhanced version of this meditation is on the Nature-Based Meditation page with audio files and how-to outline.

This Stress and Anxiety Relief Program evolved from Nature-Based Meditation classes starting in 2011.Notice: If you are experiencing chronic or unusually high levels of stress and/or anxiety your Dr. should be the first place you go to make sure it’s not stemming from a medical condition. That said, the following can also offer some relief.

Purposely distracting ourselves from our normal auto-pilot mental habits and changing them, along with creating a new mental association, gives us an easy, highly effective, and more permanent stress and anxiety relief solution.

Just kick back in a comfortable chair, or lay down, and notice your natural breathing in and out while relaxing all the muscles in your body. Let your body become more and more relaxed with each exhale for up to 15 minutes.

If you have difficulties when paying attention to breathing such as a lack of breath or feel a heaviness on your chest, common with people who have asthma, instead of paying attention to breathing, silently count down 3,2,1 then start over at 3 again. Each time you each time you count down relax all the muscles in your body. Let your body become more and more relaxed with each count down.

Generally speaking, we have up to 12-15 minutes before our minds begin placing extra importance on trying to evaluate our surroundings, making it more difficult when we try to push it for longer periods. And within 30 minutes blood begins to pool in our feet, legs, and seat, decreasing the amount of blood flowing through the brain. This can cause light-headedness or even have deceptive mental experiences. This period can be even shorter for people with a variety of cardiovascular health issues, or when sitting in positions that can further restrict blood flow. So sticking to the 15 minute rule gives us an optimal time-frame for deeply relaxing safely and more effectively. If you want to go for longer just divide it up into shorter intervals and stretch and move around a little in between.

This simple relaxation activity can do more than just helping us deeply relax. Through repetition, it creates a natural mental association between being aware of our breathing (or counting down) and becoming deeply-relaxed. Then we can start using this mental association to combat stress and anxiety in our daily lives by purposely paying attention to our breathing (or counting down) when we feel stressed or anxious…a natural relaxation-response kicks in because of the mental association we’ve created. By repeatedly paying attention to our breathing (or counting down) when feeling stressed or anxious, we create a new mental response habit for stress and anxiety.

How long does it take to create a new mental habit? According to a study by Phillippa Lally, a health psychology researcher at University College London, it takes 66 days on average. In Lally’s study, it took anywhere from 18 days to 254 days for people to form a new habit.