With the hustle and bustle of everyday life compounded with the every day news of a doom and gloom economy, how does meditation help with these stresses on top of the seasonal holiday stresses?
Meditation is a practice used to relax the body, calm the mind and center yourself. It is the process of clearing the mind from all its chaos. In short, meditation is the ability to relax the mind and give it freedom to be.
In order to be a successful meditator, you have to be gentle with yourself and do a little meditating each day, until it comes as naturally as breathing.
Practice makes perfect.
When you become one with your body, relax the mind, and release any tensions, a sense of strength and clarity will emerge.
Think of a room completely cluttered. So much so that you are unable to see the floor. Picture that as your mind completely cluttered. Just as cleaning that room takes patience, focus, & organization so does your mind. Now in order to get started on your room, you will need to know what to throw away or if we are talking meditation, what to release from your mind and body.
As we get started on our room, we remove what we don’t want and create a room that we do want. Meditation can help do the same with your mind and body. With proper breathing, posture, and technique, you will be able to relax your mind to gain clarity as to what you want and what you want to release.
If you have ever had a cluttered room, how did it feel once you were able to turn it into what you want? That same feeling of peace, relaxation and accomplishment can be done as well with meditation.
One of the most common reasons that people cite for wanting to learn meditation is to reduce stress. Life is always going to be full of challenges, and a life without some turmoil is not only impossible but is also undesirable.
A considerable amount of research has shown that meditationhas benefits on mental & physical health, including a reduction inproneness to depression, an increase in emotional positivity, and an increasedability to deal with life’s inevitable stresses.
People often think of meditation as being nothing more thanrelaxation. Meditation, however, not only involves relaxation (thecessation of unnecessary effort) but promotes mindfulness, which helps thestress-sufferer to recognize unhelpful patterns of thought that give rise to thestress response, and also involves the active cultivation of positive mentalstates such as loving-kindness, compassion, patience, and energy.
Each meditation group session is geared towards the needs ofthe individuals of the group itself.
Are you feeling overwhelmed and having a lot of difficulty in your life?
Stress creeping in your life?
Feeling like you’re losing purpose?
Stress is different for everyone. What may be stressful for one person may not be stressful for another and stress appears in many different ways. However, chronic unhealthy stress slowly creeps in our lives and is a growing epidemic becoming toxic to our physical health, mental health, and spiritual health. At all times, in order to maintain a healthy mind, body, and spirit, we must be in a constant equilibrium or balance.
Spirituality, separated from Religiousness, can help manage your unhealthy stress, because spirituality in its core helps give your life meaning and purpose regardless of your religious beliefs.
How do I know if my stress is normal or if it is unhealthy? Normal healthy stress occurs during certain events such as child birthing, exercise, or even in cases like winning the lottery. The natural stress response is the body’s reaction to danger, uncertainty or change through various hormonal reactions. That is the first stage of stress, also called the “fight or flight”.
Although stress is a normal natural survival mechanism, it can quickly become toxic to our mind, body, and spirit if kept in overdrive taxing our system. Ever hear anyone say their nerves are fried? Well unhealthy stress puts your nervous system in overdrive. Research suggests that prolonged toxic stress contributes to high blood pressure, heart disease, coronary artery disease, anxiety, depression, obesity, and addiction.
Statistics according to the American Psychological Association:
About 25% of Americans are experiencing high levels of stress
About 50% report moderate levels of stress
Over 76% of Americans cite money as a significant cause of stress.
Research also suggests that time management may be a significant barrier preventing people from taking the necessary steps to improve their health. Most Americans have a general awareness and understand the general health impacts of toxic stress. Unfortunately, studies also show there is a disconnect when it comes to impact stress may have on an individual’s own health.
You cannot avoid stress, but there ways to better manage stress levels and spirituality can help.
Steps to manage stress:
First, in order to change the effects of stress, you have to learn to recognize and identify when you’re feeling overly stressed and become more aware of the signs, symptoms, and triggers. Your body tells you everything you need to know by sending you signs and signals. Are you listening?
Spirituality can help you become reconnected with yourself. It allows for self discovery, and can assist in helping you build a sense of awareness. Because spirituality focuses on the inner self and our inner world, it encourages a passive shift in our attitude and how we react to certain situations that confront us.
Research suggests that those who believe in God or a higher power or have gone through a spiritual journey experience many benefits to their overall health and wellbeing including a reduction of toxic stress.
Once you identify the stress, next is to choose a way to deal with it. One way is to find something positive in your life no matter how dire your situation may seem. Focus on positives. Find gratitude in the little things in your life that right now may seem mundane.
Another way, is avoidance or removal. However, avoiding your stressors are not always possible especially if the source of your stress is family. So what do we do? We change our thoughts and how we react to people, things or situations. You cannot change how someone treats you or what situations have been given to you, BUT you can choose how you react to them.
As you go through this process pay attention to you – not the ego self, but the inner you!
There are various practices associated with spirituality that have also been shown to reduce unhealthy stress including:
Meditation – Meditation is probably the most researched practice showing profound benefits to improving a variety of chronic health issues such as stress, anxiety, depression, HBP, and improve immunity. The US Army has studied its effectiveness in using it as a treatment method for soldiers returning from battle who suffer from PTSD.
Yoga – Yoga is considered a form of complementary alternative medicine using various poses and breathing techniques. Research has shown yoga to reduce stress related symptoms, enhance mood, and improve overall sense of well-being.
Tai Chi – When Communist China took over, Tai Chi was the only martial art not banned. It is now considered a meditation in movement. With the use of the gentle flow and movements, Tai Chi can have tremendous health benefits including reducing stress.
Breathing Exercises – Mastering the power of the breath with deep breathing techniques is one of the best ways to lower stress and can be done anywhere. This is because how we breathe affects the overall functioning and health of our body.
Relaxation – Relaxation Techniques help activate the body’s natural relaxation response to combat stress. Methods include: hypnosis, meditation, breathing exercises, and yoga.
Prayer – Prayer has also show to have many of the same benefits as meditation by bringing a sense of calmness that can help buffer stress. Prayer has long been associated with connecting to God.
Touch Therapies such as Reiki and Acupuncture have ancient healing roots that promote healing and reduce stress.
Laughter – Laughter has been shown to cause biochemical changes in the body leading to greater healing and changes of perspective.
Through various spiritual practices, you will quickly be able to restore calm, clarity and serenity to your chaotic life and restore the equilibrium in your body. In the process, your stress will naturally be reduced.
… our mental strength and attitudes can be a deciding factor in identifying a stressor and the nature of our response to it. So becoming aware of our own inner thoughts, maintaining a positive attitude, and learning to laugh more can all help keep our mind, body, and spirit healthy.
So when life throws you a curveball, change how you react to the situation, and find the lesson to be learned. Those who practice some form of spirituality also view these types of situations as a karmic test or lesson to be learned for personal spiritual growth.
As someone once told me when I was at a place where I felt cornered with no possible solutions in sight while stress controlled my life, I was reminded “It is always darkest before it becomes dawn”. The light always triumphs the dark. Always.
Let spirituality and your spiritual path guide you in your life and help you reduce the unhealthy stress you have accumulated before it becomes too late. You will be glad you did. Have a blessed day.
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References: 1. AmericanPsychological Association; Managing YourStress Through Tough Economic Times; November 2010; http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/economic-stress.aspx 2. The Mayo Clinic; Spirituality and Stress Relief: July23, 2010; http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/stress-relief/SR00035 3. AmericanPyshcological Association; Stress inAmerica; 2011 http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/stress/index.aspx 4. Life Positive; Spirituality for Stress Relief; http://www.lifepositive.com/mind/psychology/stress/mental-health.asp 5. Columbia CenterFor Psychiatry; Stress; David FischerMD, Medical Director; 2011; http://www.columbiapsychiatric.com/stress.html 6. The FreeDictionary by Fairafax; Stress; http://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/stress 7. Harvard HealthPublications; Harvard Medical School; Understandingthe Stress Response; http://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletters/Harvard_Mental_Health_Letter/2011/March/understanding-the-stress-response 8. Spirituality and health: What we know,what we need to know; Linda K George; David B Larsons;Harold G Koeing; Michael E McCullough; Journal of Social and ClinicalPsychology; Spring 2000; 19, 1; Psychology Module; http://www.psy.miami.edu/ehblab/Religion%20Papers/spirituality%20and%20health_george_larson_et%20al._JSCP.pdf 9. Stress Management; Stress Relievers: Top 10 Picks To TameStress; Mayo Clinic; http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/stress-relievers/MY01373 10. Stress Management Health Center; Stress Management; Breathing Exercises for Relaxation; WedMD; http://www.webmd.com/balance/stress-management/stress-management-breathing-exercises-for-relaxation 11. The Mayo Clinic; Stress Management; Relaxation Techniques; http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/relaxation-technique/SR00007
 American Psychological Association; Stress in America; 2011 http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/stress/index.aspx  American Psychological Association; Stress in America; 2011 http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/stress/index.aspx