This time of year can be one of the most stressful – whether you have midterms, extra work because of the Holiday season or the end of the year, or plans to go out of town just as things settle down, the next few months can often be jam-packed and stressful. In order to deal with this stress in a healthy way, try some basic meditation techniques to relax your body and mind while in the middle of a hectic work week. Even if you can only spend a few minutes a day clearing your mind and unwinding, these moments of mindfulness and clarity can make a big difference overall. Here are a few of the best ways to get into a meditative state despite the hectic nature of your day-to-day life.

1. Mindfulness Meditation

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If you find yourself having trouble staying in the moment, and if you often stress out about what you have to do by a certain date, or how you wish you had done better on the last thing you turned in at school or work, then mindfulness mediation might be the solution for you. This type of meditation is a bit different than most, because rather than asking you to totally clear your mind and block out all external stimuli, it allows you to focus in on some of that stimuli and use it to get into a meditative state. This makes it a great solution for beginners who find the idea of focusing on nothing for hours on end daunting or difficult.

To do mindfulness meditation, you can focus on a thought or an emotion, or you can choose an activity like eating, listening to soothing music, or looking at an enjoyable piece of artwork. You could also burn incense and focus on the smell, sit on a soft blanket and focus on the sense of touch or even  choose a mantra in your head to repeat over and over. This will give you a sense of focus for your practice. Try to sit comfortably for as long as you can and focus on just that one sensation. By the end of your sitting practice, you should feel less stressed and scattered, and more able to focus on just one thing instead of stressing out about the past and future.

2. Visualization

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This is another good technique for those who aren’t yet comfortable with completely clearing their mind as a way to meditate. Try and picture a room or outdoor area that you find pleasant and comforting, and mentally go to that place as you close your eyes and deepen your breathing. Really try to lose yourself in the imagery you are exploring – feel the temperature, breezes, wood stove, smell the smells and listen to birds singing or other enjoyable sounds. The more real this place can become, the deeper your meditative practice will be. You can then use this meditative technique when you only have a few minutes to get relaxed in the middle of the day. This is a great way to let everything go and focus in more thoroughly before a big event like a test or an evaluation.

3. Body Scan

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This style of meditation is similar to mindfulness, but it focuses specifically on your body. If you’ve done yoga before, you may have ended your practice with this type of meditation as a way to focus in on the positive effects that the yoga had for you. For this type of meditation, lie on your back quietly and focus on your breathing until you feel fully relaxed. Then allow yourself to feel the tips of your toes, focusing only on how they feel, making sure to fully relax them and zoning in on the way your feet feel. Then, move this attention up your legs, through your arms, into your torso and eventually to your head and breath. This is a great way to totally ground yourself and get in touch with your body. It is also a wonderful way to wind down after yoga, running, or any type of work out that changes the way your body feels. So often it is tempting to run to the gym, hop in the shower and then race off to class or work just to feel productive. However, it can really pay off to focus on your physical sensations after working out, and it serves to remind you why being physical throughout the day is important for mental well-being as well as staying in shape.

4. Breathing Meditation

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This traditional style of meditation is a little trickier to master, but once you do it really pays off. Sit in a comfortable position and focus on deepening your breathing until you feel yourself slip into a state that is both very relaxed, but also very easily aware of your breaths. Try to hold onto and maintain that as long as possible, until you lose track or feel distractions that cause you to snap out of it. If you get good at this style of meditation, you can work on focusing on and deepening your breathing all the time, not only when it is appropriate to sit and meditate for a long time. You can do this while driving or sitting on public transportation, or while working on a laptop. This skill can help you relax almost anywhere and manage hectic times when you need to relax but don’t have time to stretch out and unwind.

5. Walking Meditation

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This is a kind of mindful meditation as well, and is a great way to combine a physical workout with meditation. Next time you are going for a walk or run, or even a swim or walk on the treadmill if that is your favorite way to work out, try to only focus on the sensations of the workout, the movement, how your body feels as you exercise and your breath. Think about the rhythm your body is making, and why each breath in and out, each footfall or each stroke is important and meaningful. This will make your workout more relaxing, and give your brain some much-needed exercise along with your body.

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