before meditating -- follow your nose!
a lot of times it's the mind and emotional body that responds to stress -- and it's a truism that as the mind goes, so does the body. and vice versa. the body will follow a calm mind, and the mind will follow a calm body.
so how to achieve mental calm?
through the breath.
calming the breath and the body down will definitely help your mind settle down, get more peaceful, and relax.
you can jump-start your relaxation state by using the mechanism of the breath before meditating by doing a few minutes of pranayam -- alternate nostril breathing. pranayam is where you hold one nostril closed with a fingertip, breathing in and out slowly and relaxedly through the other, then alternating, for maybe five or up to fifteen minutes.
it's useful to add the simple mantra so-ham (pronounced like 'hum') while doing pranayam. think the syllable 'so' in your mind, on the inhale, and exhale on the syllable 'ham.'
it's also traditional, when doing pranayam, to use the fingers on one hand, in front of your face, closing the right nostril with the thumb-tip, and the left with the pinky-fingertip. the other three fingers are left on their own, floating somewhere around the bridge of your nose -- careful, don't poke yourself in the eye!!!!!!
after a few minutes of pranayam, you'll feel relaxed, peaceful, but vibrant, internally. more clear and able to focus inside.
then it's easy -- even natural -- to meditate.