As a professional and a human, no matter which field you are in, occupational stress exists. Your work, your bills, and your life all exist, and the responsibility can be overwhelming. While there are many tactics for calming yourself when you are having a bout of anxiety, an easy method is body scan meditation.
Body scan meditation may sound strange, but it is simply taking a bit of time out of your day to listen to your body. If you continue reading, you will not only come to understand just how easy it is, but you will also see just how beneficial it can be.
Body Scan Meditation
First and foremost, body scan meditation is an exercise meant to help you. It is all about the individual, about your needs and comfort. As such, feel free to tailor it to your needs. Do not dwell on whether you follow the exact formula because there is not one.
There is no need to pressure yourself. What you want to do is put your full attention on the experience, on each step, slowly following the path of least resistance. After all, body scan meditation is meant to improve your mental and physical well-being, so there is no value in putting additional pressure on yourself.
Relationship to Occupational Stress
Occupational stress can be a major detriment to both physical and mental well-being. It includes any psychological stress associated with your job, and while it may not sound like something you deal with personally, it is. Even if you have an incredible job with amazing coworkers, everyone suffers from some degree of stress.
Here are a few things to keep in mind about occupational stress:
- It is a chronic condition
- It cannot be cured with traditional treatments
- It impacts emotional well-being, physical health, and job performance
- It is linked to seven of the ten leading causes of death
How can simple body scan meditation help with such a serious problem? The answer is through bringing about awareness and helping you cope. While there is no traditional treatment for occupational stress, meditation has been proven effective at coping with stress. In five easy steps, body scan meditation can help you cope with stress.
The Steps of Body Scan Meditation
When you are ready to begin, the first step of your journey towards body scan meditation is understanding the different steps. The steps you will be going through during body scan meditation are:
- Setting Your Intention
- Getting Grounded
- The Body Scan
- Connect It All Together
It is worth keeping in mind the best way to utilize these in your life, not only at home but at the workplace. While the article will touch upon certain ways to fit this in no matter where you are, it still relies on the individual. With each step, keep in mind how you could make it fit into your day and schedule, altering them as needed.
Consider where in your life body scan meditation needs to fit in. Do you have the time to set aside half an hour? What about fifteen minutes? During those times, where will you be and what will be available to you? It is important to understand what suits your needs. Remember, there is no need for perfection. This is all about you.
Traditionally, body scan meditation is done by laying down, usually using a mat or bed to help you feel comfortable and relaxed. Alternatively, you can use a chair, though preferably one in which your feet can touch the ground, and you can relax. It may not be that simple, though, as you may not have a choice.
Life is busy, and if you are looking for a way to reduce occupational stress, that might mean you have long work hours and little time to spare. Body scan meditation can be worked around your needs. A few places you can perform body scan meditation even if you are busy:
- At your desk at work
- On the bus, subway, or in a cab
- In the sauna at the gym
- In bed before or after you wake up
Some Tips for Getting Ready
Time may be tight for those trying to fit body scan meditation into a busy day. However, try to set aside as much time for yourself as you can. Aiming for around half an hour is a good place to start, though ten to twenty minutes will do in a pinch, considering it has been shown that as little as ten minutes of meditation a day can lead to reduced stress.
When preparing for your body scan meditation:
- Make sure that you are comfortable. This includes temperature, clothing, and anything else that could otherwise affect your ability to relax. To that end, remove any excess clothing, placing it aside while you meditate. You also want to make sure that your surroundings are relaxing, even if you are doing this at work.
- While each person has their own relaxing environment, silencing your mobile phone and turning off any TVs or computer screens is an excellent place to start. You can even consider letting in some natural light if possible, or perhaps opening a window for some fresh air. Whatever makes you more comfortable.
- Next, lie flat on a bed or mat, something you find relaxing. Then, lay your arms comfortably at your side. Alternatively, if you wish to take a sitting posture, pick a comfortable seat and place your feet on the floor, resting your hands in your lap. However, what is most important is being relaxed. Do not worry about perfection.
Setting Your Intention
This step is the closest to traditional meditation. Your goal is to relax, to forget about what has happened and what is going to happen. You want to let everything fade away and let the sound around you grow dull and distant. Focus your mind internally, letting it sync with your body.
This does not have to be something foreign or difficult. The goal is for you to find that thing that allows you to focus on your body and nothing else. Perhaps it is not thinking about everything fading away but instead focusing on a sensation, something tangible that has no further meaning than that particular feeling.
You can also turn to music, allowing a peaceful instrumental to help lull you into a state of utter relaxation. Perhaps you may even find a certain guided meditation that can help, discovering a soothing voice that guides you to where you need to be.
As you do this, agree with yourself that anything you find will be met with friendliness. Your goal is to identify problems, not to judge them or grow angry. Not only will those emotions disrupt your meditation, but they will make it more difficult to understand or accept what you find. This is the intention. Do not lose sight of the goal.
The Importance of Intention
In this step, relaxation is the goal, but it is also a tool for the greater purpose, which is to let everything fade away.
This is important because it brings a focus to the present, to your body, and it filters out emotion from the process. This is particularly important when dealing with occupational stress, especially if you are using it as a tool to relax and refresh during work hours. Try your best not to let outside influences, including yourself, affect your body scan.
Also, pay close attention to the final part of setting your intention, meeting what you find with friendliness. The goal is not to judge, something we all have a tendency to do. Keep that in your mind going in, that your only goal is to accept what you feel, nothing more. That is the ultimate intention of body scan meditation.
This is the final step before beginning your body scan. The goal of this step is to notice the parts of your body that are in contact with the surface. Whether you are on a mat, bed, or chair, parts of you will be connected. For many, they notice their hips or their heads, body parts with direct contact.
Once you have recognized the different areas, work on softening them, helping them relax. Let the tension float away. Take this chance to tune in and understand what parts of your body hold the most tension. Some common trouble areas are:
- Lower Back
The main purpose of this step is to drain tension, but it is also important as a tool for self-examination. Just like you must clear your mind of the past, you must also clear your body. Getting grounded ensures whatever you feel in the process to come is not a result of pre-existing tension you forgot to release beforehand.
The Body Scan
It is time to begin. If you have performed the previous steps, you will either be laying down or seated, your body and mind relaxed and prepared. The goal of what comes next is similarly simple, to practice as best you can while bringing about awareness to any sensations that you detect.
Awareness is the key focus of the scan itself. Unlike some forms of meditation, which focus on emptying the mind or focusing on a single thing such as breathing, the goal of body scan meditation is to shine a light on each and every part of your body. You want to inspect and learn about each and every part, accepting and understanding yourself.
Move Your Awareness
Start by bringing your awareness to a part of your body. The foot is a great place to start, as it is connected to the surface in both the traditional and the seated posture. Slowly breathe in and out, focusing your awareness on your toes. Focus on each one, gently investigating every sensation. Some things you might notice:
- A sense of contact between toes or between them and the floor
- A sense of tingling or warmth, perhaps even a chill
- The feeling of socks and shoes if you were not in a position to take them off
- Maybe nothing at all
After spending time with your toes, slowly move across the foot. Go from the toes to the heel, then make your way up to your ankle. Your calf, knee, and thigh come next, each one getting the same gentle examination. Every step and every individual part should be treated with the same care.
Move up to your torso when you are ready, then to your other leg, repeating the same steps as before, experiencing every sensation with an open, non-judgmental mind. Continue this for your entire body, moving from your feet and legs up, exploring your arms and your chest. Finally, move up your neck to your head, taking it all in.
Good Body Scan Practices
The entire purpose of the body scan is to bring you awareness of the different sensations of your own body. Keep these things in mind while performing your body scan:
- When you become aware of tension or an intense sensation in a particular place, it can be helpful to take a deep breath, using the inhale to bring further awareness to the sensation. Following this, you can exhale, gaining a sense of letting go and releasing the tension.
- The mind will wander from time to time. That is entirely normal. In fact, it can be helpful. Notice where it has gone, gently acknowledge it, and then slowly return your attention to the part of the body you are focusing on. Sometimes, these moments of wandering can provide insight into concerns after the mediation.
- You can adjust the time spent during body scan meditation by focusing on larger sections of your body at one time. This will allow you to spend a shorter amount of time with each part. Use this to help adjust your available time with your body scan needs, choosing larger sections over rushing through the exercise.
Connect It All Together
After you finish exploring your head, take a deep breath, then start to connect your entire body. You want to slowly connect each section that you examined. Start by connecting the head to your neck, feeling the energy inside of you as you do. Then, connect the neck to the torso, followed by the arms. Do this for your entire body.
The final step will be to feel your skin, paying attention to every detail as you take in the sensations it is experiencing. Pay close attention to how it is wrapped around you, letting that transition into relaxation, letting everything go, feeling how open you are.
It is at that moment that it all comes together. Focus on the physical wholeness, experiencing nothing else. Now breathe, spending a few minutes to be mindful of what it is you are experiencing and of your inner attitude. Hold on to how you feel, and carry that with you as you end your meditation and continue with your day.
Good Practices for Body Scan Meditation as a Whole
Body scan meditation can be a powerful tool, allowing you to inspect and understand your mind and body on another level. You might find yourself able to see things more clearly, to focus and relax. Perhaps the very act itself is all you will need. However, no matter your needs and the stressors in your life, building good practices is important.
- Make It a Habit: Nothing happens in an instant. It takes time to understand something, particularly your own body. Things change every day, and the reasons need to be studied and reflected upon. Perform body scan meditation regularly and pay attention, and you might see things you never did before.
- Avoid Specific Goals: If you are looking to begin body scan meditation, you likely have a cause. However, focusing on finding a single thing can leave you blind to others. On top of that, the stress built up by not finding what you are desperately seeking can be counter-productive. Keep an open mind.
- Avoid Right and Wrong: There is no real right or wrong in meditation. This is especially true with where and how to practice. While there are steps that make the process easier, you should do what is right for you.
The Benefits of Body Scan Meditation for Stress
Occupational stress is a chronic condition, one that can negatively impact health in a dangerous way. Not only is it difficult to recognize occupational stress through its symptoms, but reducing occupational stress poses just as much of a problem.
This is where body scan meditation comes in. The relationship was discussed briefly earlier, and now you know how to go about implementing body scan meditation in your daily life, but is it really worth the time and effort? Absolutely, and for various reasons.
It Helps to Identify the Symptoms
Occupational stress has a plethora of symptoms of all shapes and sizes. There are those that are difficult to see, such as depression and anxiety, but there are also physical symptoms. You might not even know you are experiencing symptoms of occupational stress. Think about these symptoms:
- Stomach problems
- Trouble concentrating
They seem ordinary, things you could experience every day for no reason. Perhaps your headache is due to allergies, and your stomach problems could be because of what you ate. However, these are also symptoms of occupational stress. While they could be something else, they could also be signs of stress affecting you physically.
Think back to the steps of body scan meditation, to the step by step observation. This might not seem like much, but imagine doing it every day. It will give you the chance to notice differences and, potentially, link them to their causes. The body scan, through both practice and intention, can help you find, accept, and understand these symptoms.
Reducing Stress Directly
Stress is a feeling of tension, both physical and emotional. It is something people deal with every day, and it can even be positive in certain situations, such as when avoiding danger or trying to meet a deadline. However, while stress is a part of life, it becomes dangerous when it is chronic.
When looking at short-term symptoms, we see headaches and stomach problems, but the long term effects can be far more serious. Depression, heart problems, and even the immune system can show serious negative reactions when met with long-lasting, chronic stress. This is due to the constant stress response straining the body.
Meditation can counter the stress response with a relaxation response. This directly combats stress and its effects on the body, decreasing blood pressure, heart rate, and oxygen consumption. This makes it ideal for particularly stressful days and when you need an immediate reset. Fortunately, body scan meditation can be done anywhere.
More than that, meditation can provide long-term benefits against stress as well. It works by affecting the brain itself, conditioning it to cope with the ever-present problem that is stress. This is particularly important because avoiding stress is difficult, especially when it is related to your job.
Conditioning the Mind to Cope
Here is where body scan meditation shines. You are now aware of the stress response and hormone response. Well, those are simply terms for what happens when certain hormones are released into your body. Body scan meditation helps balance those levels, reducing stress using relaxation. However, it can do more than that.
Studies have shown that meditation is an effective stress-management tool. It works by setting good habits and actually reprogramming the brain to deal with stress. It works to the extent that, with consistent, daily practice, those who meditate end up having a greater capacity to deal with stress. You train your brain to cope.
How Conditioning Works
So, meditation can help the body and mind deal with stress, but how exactly does it do that? It does that by altering the very manner in which we view and deal with the stress we experience. Here are a few of the ways meditation helps reduce and manage stress:
- Observation: Meditation teaches you to observe, allowing you to become aware of certain mental patterns. This can mean understanding what affects you in the workplace or how certain relationships impact you once you return home. By recognizing these patterns, you become less affected.
- Perspective: By taking the time to step back and ponder, you can understand what you are thinking and feeling. Through this, you can come to terms with your emotions, changing how you view and relate to the stress. This may allow you to come up with ways to not only reduce stress but approach the cause.
- Types of Stress: Not all stress is bad. Previously, danger avoidance and positive stress were mentioned. It is important to take the time and consider what stress you are dealing with, determining whether it is positive stress or negative stress. Recognize what you can and should change.
Other Benefits of Body Scan Meditation
Body scan meditation is a tool to bring about awareness, and it is clearly beneficial to those dealing with occupational stress. However, it can also:
- Benefit Sleep: Practicing body scan meditation before bed may help those with sleep disturbances. This can even be done with the aid of music, working together to clear away the noise and focus on the body. It can be beneficial for both falling asleep and staying asleep, particularly for those with insomnia.
- Help Cope With Pain: Coping with chronic pain is largely about coming to terms and accepting the pain. With body scan meditation’s focus on an accepting attitude, it promotes understanding and acceptance of bodily ailments, such as pain.
- Help With Cardiovascular Issues: While meditation cannot replace medication or proper lifestyle choices, it has been shown that the relaxation response from mediation has a direct positive impact on blood pressure and heart rate. This helps fight problems like coronary artery disease and hypertension.
Occupational stress is a major issue faced by workers all around the world. With no traditional treatment options, there are few ways to combat it aside from understanding what is causing it. Body scan meditation can help with that, so for anyone suffering from occupational stress or any other difficulties, it is an option worth trying.
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