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5 meditation tips for stressful situations

Keep your cool in stressful situations by practicing meditation techniques wherever you are. Dennis Buttimer, M.Ed, CEAP, RYT, CHC, a life and wellness coach at Cancer Wellness, shares how you can enjoy the benefits of meditation on the go.

Try the following tips in any stressful situation, such as when you are:

  • Giving a big presentation at work.

  • Having a disagreement with a spouse, child or loved one.

  • Sitting in the doctor's office waiting room.

  • Stuck in traffic.

  • Undergoing cancer treatment, such as chemotherapy infusions or radiation sessions.

1. Mindfulness

Prevent or reduce stress by incorporating a few mini-meditations into your day. Here are a few examples:

  • Practice mindfulness as you make your coffee or tea in the morning. Notice each action you take as you prepare your beverage, the shape and details of your mug, as well as the warmth and flavor of your drink.

  • Enjoy a technology-free lunch break. Turn off your computer and silence your phone, or better yet, take your meal outside.

  • Each time you get up to go to the bathroom or water cooler, take a few deep breaths.  

  • Listen intently to the speaker during a work meeting.

  • Take in the scenery around you as you sit in traffic or wait in line at the store. Resist the urge to daydream about something else. Instead, notice the sights, smells and sounds of location.

2. Deep breathing

"If you get into a stressful situation at work, retreat to your own office, the restroom or your car, and sit for a few minutes," suggests Buttimer. "Do a few rounds of deep yogic breathing."

If you are stuck in a tense meeting and cannot get away, continue to focus on your breathing.

"It's the most direct way to change your stress level in the moment," he says. "Deep breathing will cause a relaxation response in the body."

To practice deep breathing:

  • Inhale through your nose, filling up your chest and belly with air.

  • Breathe out through your nose or mouth, gently squeezing the stomach to the spine until all the air is gone.

  • Breathe in for three counts and out for three counts.

  • Repeat as often as needed.

3. Total body scan

A quick body scan can help relax the body. In your mind, bring awareness to every part of your body. Think about your toes, lower legs, knees, upper legs and so on. Systematically go through each part of the body. Imagine breathing into each area.

4. View your racing thoughts objectively

"The mind is a tricky thing," says Buttimer. "You can't believe everything it's telling you. We all have impulsive thoughts and can slip into certain patterns or beliefs."

If your mind is jumping all over the place, objectify it and pretend you are simply an observer of your thoughts, he says.

"You're not the waterfall you're watching it," says Buttimer.

5. Gratitude

When you are in a stressful situation, think of three things for which you are grateful or ask yourself, "What might this difficult circumstance be trying to teach me?" Perhaps it will help you become more patient, calm or accepting of yourself or others.

Learn more ways to practice mindfulness in your daily life.

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