Do you find yourself feeling angrier, agitated, and short of patience? Is it becoming more difficult to relax and focus on the things you enjoy? Do you lay awake at night dwelling on the day’s conflicts, unpaid bills, or other common stressors? When stress becomes overpowering it can leave us feeling powerless. It can cloud our judgment, and limit our ability to think lucidly. Moreover, allowing ourselves to become puppets in the hands of our stressors can take a heavy toll on both our physical and mental health.
If I told you I’d found a new miracle drug that relieved most, if not all, of my stress and anxiety, without any adverse side effects, would you rush out and purchase a bottle? I would. Unfortunately, easy fixes are hard to come by, and I tend to be a skeptic when it comes to companies and individuals making such broad, unsubstantiated claims. I’ve grown weary of the numerous ads and advice columns advocating additional supplements, quick fixes, and in many instances, what amounts to pure quackery to “cure” my stress. While medical science may provide some relief, turning to prescription drugs often times can result in unforeseen side effects. Fortunately, there is something you can do to curb anxiety, reduce blood pressure, and eliminate that feeling of powerlessness. Enter meditation, an age old technique for combatting stress.
So how does meditation actually help us reduce stress? First and foremost, it takes the attention away from the source of your stress; the constant repetition involved blocks the brain’s ability to focus on its worries. This quiets the mind, giving you an opportunity to change your perspective and bring objectivity to the situation you are addressing.
According to Hyman (2012) the power of mediation has been verified through science, and it’s application has been successful in treating a wide range of ailments and illnesses, including chronic pain, blood pressure, headaches, and anxiety / stress.
Often, stress is caused when we perceive a situation to be beyond our capacity or control, and this perception may or may not be based on reality. The secret to coping with stress lies in training our minds to remain calm, altering our initial reactions, and enabling us to make more realistic assessments of the demands being placed on us. This in turn helps our bodies and minds to formulate a more reasoned coping strategy.
According to Prasad, Wahner-Roedler, & Sood, (2011) “...stress is a ubiquitous problem and a mediator of symptoms for a variety of medical conditions. Excessive stress is associated with adverse medical outcomes, unhealthy coping mechanisms, symptoms of anxiety and depression, and overall poor quality of life (QOL). No specific pharmacologic treatment is available for treating stress. Further, it is often difficult or impossible to change the reality of circumstances causing stress in an individual. Therefore, increasing individual coping mechanisms and the ability of a person to handle stress might be a reasonable strategy to adapt toward reducing stress.”
Additionally, meditation can also help us foster better anger control mechanisms. Whether it’s driving through rush hour traffic, dealing with an annoying boss, or watching the latest political ads, anger gets the best of all of us at times. As noted by Gold (2010), “meditation does have health benefits, particularly for neurotics with anger and anxiety issues. The American academics published the results of their research into the joys of transcendental meditation (TM). Apparently guinea pigs (human ones) who practiced TM showed a 48% decline in depressive symptoms. Last year another study indicated that there were 47% fewer heart attacks, strokes and premature deaths among transcendental meditation.”
Meditation is also a great tool for understanding anger and its root causes, as noted by Nanaimo News (2007). “Whenever you see anger arise either within yourself or within another, understand that what you are seeing is the frustration of losing perceived control of the experience.” As a result, meditation will produce a kinder, wiser you, putting you in control of your thoughts and emotions.
There are several schools of thought surrounding meditation, and each puts forward its own particular technique. But the basic concept of focusing on a particular object is common to all. Below are a few techniques to try on your own:
- Beginners are generally advised to focus on their breathing and count each exhalation from 1 to 10 and then begin from 1 again.
- Another very effective technique to achieve a meditative state is reciting a mantra. This mantra may be chosen from your own scriptures, either religious or secular, depending on your belief system.
- For those who find mantras distracting, a common effective technique is to focus on a dot on a sheet kept a meter away from you.
- Meditation advises you to observe your thoughts and the awareness that is created by focusing on your thoughts and emotions. As you become aware of your true thoughts and reactions, you can begin to come under your control.
- People who have a strong imagination and are very susceptible to negative situations find guided imagery extremely helpful. This can be practiced in a group or with the help of DVDs.
- Music meditation with its binaural beats is a good way to practice meditation and induce relaxation.
Avoid anger by embracing yoga and meditation. (2007, Jun 05). Nanaimo News Bulletin. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/374281491?accountid=28844
Gold, T. (2010, Apr 09). G2: Shhh, I'm in my happy place: Meditation, says a new report, can do wonders for anger, anxiety and depression. but could it rid Tanya Gold of her constant bad temper? The Guardian. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/246910129?accountid=28844
Hyman, M. (2012, Jun 18). Why doing nothing is the key to happiness. Dr. Hyman’s Blog. Retrieved from http://drhyman.com/blog/2012/06/18/why-doing-nothing-is-the-key-to-happiness/
Prasad, K., Wahner-Roedler, D., Cha, S. S., M.S., & Sood, A. (2011). Effect of a single-session meditation training to reduce stress and improve the quality of life among health care professionals: A "dose-ranging" feasibility study. Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, 17(3), 46-9. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/892742751?accountid=28844
More than a little stressed out? by Brenda Rivera-Billings, M.Sc is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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