Meditation for Stress

Meditation for Stress

Some answers to common questions about meditation and stress.

What is Stress?

Stress is your body's response to something that the mind, or the brain, sees as a challenge.
Stress is often seen as a redundant hangover from our ancestor's lives in nature. Yet, stress keeps us alive in the modern world too.
If you have ever jumped out the way of an oncoming car, you have experienced the stress response.
Your heart would have sped up, your blood pressure would have increased. Your bloodstream would have filled with stress chemicals.
This physiological response is the Stress Response.

What is Chronic Stress?

In response to a threat, the stress response places the body on high alert.

The state of alertness is maintained while the threat continues. Unfortunately, threats like financial insecurity can last a lifetime. This can lead to a lifetime of stress.

This system has evolved over billions of years. It is designed to protect us from natural threats like predators.

The body will keep a high level of stress chemicals while the threat continues.
A stress chemical that has a great deal of effect on our level of stress is cortisol.
Stress has far-reaching effects on many systems in the body.

While in high stress, some critical body function systems such as the immune system are suppressed. [1]

Can meditation reduce stress?

Meditation can reduce stress at different levels and over different training timescales.

Some practices can reduce stress in the short term fast. With minimal effort, you can learn to intervene in your stress levels. These stress management practices are a cornerstone of what I teach. They are very effective.
[2], [3].

The effects of meditation on stress reduction are well known and don't need to be repeated here.
Researchers have long moved from studying the effectiveness of meditation for stress management. They are now trying to understand the mechanism that underlies this effect [4].

We have long known that meditation makes significant structural changes to the brain.

The changes are good, and thankfully, they are permanent [5].

Which type of meditation is best for stress?

Different types of meditation work on stress in different ways.
The most obvious difference is the amount of time it takes a student to learn the practices.

Getting Quick Results
To deal with a crisis, a combination of breathing and relaxation is the best way [6].

Is meditation good for exam stress?

One of the systems that high stress switches off is memory. Short-term memory is inversely proportional to stress levels. The more stressed you are, the less you can remember.
Researchers often use the ability to remember a phone number as a way of measuring stress.

If we are doing a complex calculation or composing a detailed summary, we need to hold a lot of information in our short-term memory. High stress will definitely affect this.

To get our physiology under control, regulating the breath is always the best place to start. Regulating the breath is used by elite athletes and the military to manage high stress [7].

Can I use meditation for chronic stress?

For chronic stress, regular mindfulness meditation with a breath-based focus is best [8].

To meditate regularly, join a meditation group. If you don't know one, join The Meditation Course.

Can I meditate for stress and anger?

Speaking as a recovering angry person, you most certainly can!

Use the same practices to intervene in anger as you would use to intervene in stress.

Know that you will not be able to intervene in your anger at first. But, you will reduce the level of anger after the event.

This will help to calm you down after the event.

Over time, the point where you become calm will get closer to the point where you lose your temper.

Over time, your body will replace your angry response with the calming one.

Unfortunately, this can take years to unlearn, but it took years to learn...

The only way to monitor this change is to look back over time and see that you are better at managing your anger[9].


[1]Cumulative childhood stress and autoimmune diseases in adults - Dube et al. Journal of psychosomatic medicine 2009.
[2] Effects of Yoga Respiratory Practice (Bhastrika pranayama) on Anxiety, Affect, and Brain Functional Connectivity and Activity: A Randomized Controlled Trial - Frontiers in psychology journal 2020.
[3] Sighing-Peng Li* and Kevin Yackle - Current biology 2017
[4] Blood Pressure Response to Meditation and Yoga: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis -Park The Journal of alternative and complimentary medicine 2017.
[5] "Results also show that meditation practice induces functional and structural brain modifications in expert meditators" - The Meditative Mind: A Comprehensive Meta-Analysis of MRI Studies - Boccia, Piccardi, Guariglia - University of Rome - BioMed Research International - 2017
[6] The Four Tens Relaxation Meditation from The Meditation Course Podcast -
[7] The 4-6 Breaths from The Meditation Course Podcast -
[8]The Following The Breath Meditation from The Meditation Course Podcast -
[9] Anger, Burnout, and Overwhelm -



#meditation, #resilience and #mindfulness teacher (I’ve taught about 3,000 classes). Founder of @bromleymindfulness and @themeditationcourse
London, England.