How guided meditation can help ease anxiety during the pandemic
SALT LAKE CITY — Many employees are dealing with the most stressful times in their careers according to a recent study published by Human Resource Executive. But frequently practicing guided meditation is proving to be a helpful resource in combating increasing levels of stress.
In the study, 88% of workers reported experiencing moderate to extreme stress over the past 4 to 6 weeks due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Dr. Matt Woolley, a licensed clinical psychologist and assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Utah, believes that the continuation of uncertain times can cause even more damage to our mental health.
“Given just the right type of stress and pressure at the right or wrong time in life, that can bring to light a mental health problem that the person has,” Dr. Woolley described. “The worry is that more and more people will be struggling with mental health issues that otherwise may have been mild or insignificant in their life but now are coming to the forefront.”
One way to combat the increase in stressors is to practice guided meditation. Dr. Matt presented a guided meditation in a recent episode of the Project Recovery podcast which you can participate in at the bottom of this article.
Using guided meditation to relieve stress
Guided meditation is a specific type of mind-body complementary medicine that strives to create a deep state of relaxation. By steadying your breathing and focusing on the moment, you exercise your ability to focus and concentrate according to Dr. Matt.
“The reality is, the frontal lobe of our brain is one of the areas where we focus and concentrate. Functional MRI studies have shown that people who meditate regularly … we can see a strengthening of that frontal lobe of our brain,” he said.
Once you begin to strengthen that frontal lobe, you, in turn, increase your ability to focus, concentrate, and make good decisions according to the Harvard Medical School.
After practicing it for a few months, Dr. Matt says he felt the impacts. “I realized I just feel so refreshed and focused when I meditate on a regular basis,” he said.
The first step of practicing a guided meditation
“The first part is calming the body down,” Dr. Matt said. “What we’re going to do is actually calm your cardiovascular system down. Dry up your adrenaline and you’ll feel a big difference. Your body will start to feel heavy and relaxed.”
Dr. Matt believes the best way to do that is to begin to breathe with a method called relaxation breathing.
“The focus is important. When you’re breathing in … focus on the sensation of how the air feels coming in through your nose and filling up your lungs,” he added. “Then, I’d like you to breathe out through your mouth.”
By breathing out through your mouth, you force yourself to slow down with each breath according to Dr. Matt. As each breath becomes more focused and slow, you can feel the sense of relief and relaxation.
Aligning your mental and physical aspects
Once you have become relaxed through this breathing exercise, the next step is to focus on the mental and physical aspects of your body.
“We know that thoughts lead to feelings, which lead to behaviors. So if you’re thinking about stressful things … you’re going to have a whole rush of emotions that aren’t productive for this exercise,” Dr. Matt said.
Then Dr. Matt recommends that you plant your feet into the ground and repeat to yourself silently who you are, where you are, and what you’re doing.
“Your name is your most personal word, that grabs your attention. [Reminding yourself] where you are brings you right into this moment. What you’re doing helps you concentrate on the activity,” he said.
We want our body to be relaxed and we want to exercise mindfulness by bringing our focus into the present.”
Beginning the meditation
Once you have completed steps one and two, you are ready to begin the guided meditation.
Click play on the following podcast player to begin your own personal 10-minute guided meditation presented by Dr. Matt.
You can find more information on Facebook, KSL TV, or from Use Only as Directed. To hear more from Casey Scott and Dr. Matt Woolley, you can listen below or subscribe to the ‘Project Recovery’ podcast on Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts.
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