“Did I turn off the coffee maker?” 

“I have so much to do. I need to reply to fifty emails today.” 

“I feel broke. I wish I had more money.

“I'm overweight. I should cut back on carbs.”

Does a flood of conflicting thoughts driven by angst ever happen to you at any one time?

Thoughts about what happened in the past alternate with your concerns about the future and before you know it, you feel your heart rate accelerate and you can’t focus on the task at hand.

We've all been there. And it's a scenario that demonstrates what stress is.

The Effects Of Long Term Stress

Chemically, stress is a combination of hormones released as an evolutionary response to a perceived threat.

When your brain interprets a certain circumstance as potentially dangerous, it releases adrenaline and norepinephrine, which are stress hormones that help you gear up to defend yourself or escape.

These hormones are the main cause of acute stress, or the immediate response to an imminent threat and they can save your life during a threatening situation.

There is, however, a long lasting type of stress which is slow and deadly. Often called latent stress in the beginning stages, we often get it from thinking back and forward in time and not being able to focus on tasks.

Latent stress happens as a result of thoughts about past regrets or shameful experiences, alternated with worrying thoughts about the future. It's a quiet response from the rational process of worrying, and we all experience it from time to time.

If latent stress progresses, it becomes chronic stress and is largely caused by a hormone called cortisol.

The excessive release of cortisol in the body has been scientifically linked to several common illnesses such as heart disease, cancer and even bone density issues. Moreover, cortisol can contribute to a surplus of free radicals, which kills brain cells.

The negative effects of long term stress in the body have been proven in numerous scientific studies, and the impact can be noticed in people’s bodies, their mood, the quality of their rest and even their libido, and it is all caused by emotional responses to the world around us.

This means that the cure of stress involves changing your thought and response patterns into a more mindful and relaxed standard.

But how do you do that?

Well, the answer is over five thousand years old and it has now been proven by multiple studies to be the single most efficient way to not only reduce current levels of stress but also remedy the impact of past stressful circumstances: Meditation.


Meditation To Combat Stress

Meditation can lead to amazing results in managing and eradicating the effects of chronic stress.

Whether you quietly sit or lie still, or just observe your thoughts and enjoy the present, when practiced for a consistent period of time, meditation allows you to truly appreciate the present moment, while not getting emotionally — and psychologically — attached to them.

What that means is to be able to distance yourself from thoughts that would normally cause an emotional response — by observing them, accepting them and allowing them to go their own way.

It’s about having thoughts, observing them without judgement and letting go. It’s not about judging yourself for having certain thoughts and letting your mind wander through the experience it’s having in the  now.

Meditation involves breathing exercises — an excellent way to focus on the present moment, by pacing your breath and truly experiencing the sensations of the world around you which each inhale and exhale.

Of course, like any skill or exercise, meditation requires some practice and diligent effort — specially for those of us who tend to feel restless when sitting quietly for even short periods of time.

Meditation is, however, a worthwhile time and energy investment when you look at the numbers regarding brain related illnesses that are caused by stress.

Your brain will thank you later!


Guided Meditation: The Elixir for Stress

A great way to start a meditation practice to combat stress is to use guided meditations, which are meditation audio or video tracks that give specific directions so that you can simply visualize and follow the instructions.

Guided meditations became popular in the 1970’s and has evolved with technology to allow beginners to learn how to meditate, while also immediately reaping the benefits of it, even from an early stage in their practice.

Aside from alleviating stress, guided meditations can also help address specific issues like anxiety, pregnancy related stress, addictions and other health ailments, simply by providing instructions that are relevant to tackling those specific circumstances and allowing people to center themselves, become more in tune with their mind and body, and visualize a positive outcome.

Another great benefit is the fact that guided meditations make it so easy for you to start a meditation practice — it’s hard to make common excuses for it, like,

“Oh, I don’t have time to sit down and breathe,” or “I can’t afford to hire a teacher,” or “I don’t know how to meditate.”

You simply explore various guided meditations, follow the instructions, and stick with what works with you.

Aside from the abundance of free guided meditation tracks you can find online, you can actually start your practice today — even if you only have 20 minutes to commit. An important myth to debunk about meditation is that you can get the benefit out of it even with just 20 minutes a day.

There is no need to sit quiet for two hours in a zen garden. Just 20 minutes with an effective guided meditation track can help you start building a healthy meditation practice to help address the chronic stress symptoms you may be feeling.

To help you get started in the practice, below are a few guided 20-minute meditation tracks we believe can help you reduce stress, cultivate a healthy brain, strengthen your mind-body connection, elevate your mindfulness, and address other aspects of your life you may be having trouble with.

Our Top Seven 20-Minute Guided Meditations: 

1. Breathing Into Presence

Purpose: Being present and relaxed

This meditation focuses on the breath and how it can be your path to awareness and calmness. It starts off with a breath exercise to calm your nervous system, inviting you into a relaxing state of mind. You will be much more aware of your surroundings and the sensations you are feeling in the present.


2. Loving Kindness Meditation

Purpose: Being present and relaxed

Like other meditations, the focus of this track is being present and mindfully aware, with an emphasis on focusing your intention on love and kindness. This specific one doesn’t have a background sound or music, but the author has a calming and soothing voice, if that is what you are looking for.


3. Guided Meditation "Connecting To The Calm Within"

Purpose: Being present and relaxed

This track by Diane Yeo is a great treat. Diane has a soothing voice, and the track starts with an important reminder to allow your thoughts to come and go. She also reminds us that every experience is perfect, and that there is no such thing as a “bad meditation.”


4. Self-Care Meditation

Purpose: Being present and relaxed

This is a great track by Mary Mackley. You will notice that this track is a part of a podcast with some more information on why it's important to reserve a space in your day for mindfulness and meditation as a self-care practice. The purpose of this track is perfectly aligned with the goal of this article — to provide solutions for your stress and to help you have more immediate quality of life as well as a healthier thought process for the long run. Check this amazing guided 20-minute meditation out!


5. Healing Meditation

Purpose: Healing Meditation

Healing is a journey of wholeness." This beautiful track starts with a powerful reflection on how our daily lives are not conducive of being connected — body and soul. The goal of this track is to bring awareness about our duality, while fostering the connection through the relaxation of our physical body.


6. Body Awareness

Purpose: Being present and relaxed

The focus of this guided 20-minute meditation is to allow you to observe the sensory stimuli around you, by focusing on what your senses capture, to feel truly present. It’s amazing how much more you notice after only a few minutes of being still.

This is a track without a background music purposefully to help you notice your environment and be aware. You can always mix it with meditation music for a different experience.


7. Meditation For Advanced Practitioners

Time: 20 Minutes

Purpose: Being present and relaxed

Link: http://www.sonima.com/meditation/advanced-meditation/

If you are already cultivating a meditation practice and want to take it to the next level, this may be a great track for you to level up.

Even if you are just starting your practice, make sure you bookmark this blog so that you can come back in a few months and try this track that has a lot less instruction and more focus on the breath.

Next Steps With These Guided 20-Minute Meditations

Now you can get started eradicating chronic stress from your life and embracing a practice that — among other things — will help you reduce stress, cultivate a healthy brain, and strengthen your mind-body connection.

Let us know in the comments which were your favorite guided 20-minute meditation tracks!

Tags: meditation Mind