Meditation and Stress

 

The origins of meditation are coming from ancient religious and spiritual traditions. Meditation is basically a mind and body practice. During meditation, the practitioner will observe thoughts, feelings, and sensations in a nonjudgmental way.

 

What is stress?

Every disorder of well-being that is caused by pressures that come from work, interpersonal conflict, family, money worries, and a combinations of these and many others can be referred to as stress. Stress is needed and can be good for you in right amounts. Weird, isn’t it?

Our body has two nervous systems: CNS (central nervous system) and PNS (peripheral nervous system). We’ll focus on the second one in order to explain. The PNS is divided into autonomic and somatic nervous systems. The ANS is further divided to parasympathetic nervous system and sympathetic nervous system. The parasympathetic nervous system causes inhibition, while the sympathetic nervous system is responsible for excitation. When you are under stress, epinephrine (also known as adrenaline) is secreted due to increased activation of the sympathetic nervous system. This will put your body into “fight or flight” mode. This “fight or flight” state is responsible for performing well under pressure, perhaps exceeding our expectations of what we are capable of achieving. But when our body becomes overloaded (too much stress) and doesn’t have time to absorb and adapt to the changes, the strains that we live with can cause damage to our physical and psychological health.


 

How meditation affects our homeostasis?

Meditation has been practiced for thousands of years. It’s a simple technique that when practiced for as few as 10-20 minutes once or twice per day can control stress, decrease anxiety, improve cardiovascular stress, and achieve a greater capacity for relaxation. The relaxation response is trying to bring the body back to homeostasis (after the adrenaline rush) through eliciting opposite response from the “fight or flight” response. The breathing, pulse rate, blood pressure, and metabolism are decreased. Practicing our bodies to achieve this state of relaxation on a daily basis can lead to enhanced mood, lower blood pressure, improved digestion, and a reduction of everyday stress.

With meditation you are taking responsibility for your own mental state. We can become more aware of how we indulge in anxious thoughts, so that a neutral thought about something we have to do leads to worrying about what will happen if we don’t do it, and how this leads in turn to us actively seeking out things to worry about. Once you become aware of these internal activities, we clearly are in a better position to do something about them. Without awareness you don’t have a choice.


 

How to provoke the relaxation response

Get yourself in q place that’s quite and with no distractions. Sitting is preferred to lying in order to avoid falling asleep. The relaxations technique consists of the silent repetition of a word, sound, or phrase while you sit in a good and comfortable posture with your eyes closed for about 10-20 minutes. Relax your muscles by first starting with your feet and then progressing up all the way till your face. Breathe through your nose and breathe out through your mouth (preferable, but you can expire through your nose for beginning) in a free and natural way. Don’t force any type of slow, intended breathing. Let go of your worries, ignore everything and just focus on your word, sound, or phrase. When you have finished, gradually allow your thoughts to return to your reality, slowly open your eyes.

 

 

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