Stress and the Body
To understand the effects of Meditation for Stress Management we must first understand Stress. Stress is not just a thing of the mind. It only affects your mind based on the response it receives from your physiology.
Stress induces the secretion of stress hormones – cortisol and epinephrine in the body. And when there is an excessive amount of these hormones in the body, the outcomes are usually not pleasant.
Cortisol is the culprit for blood sugar level increase in the body and the suppression of the immune system. It also constricts the blood vessels and causes blood-related diseases. On the other hand, epinephrine is responsible for increasing the risk of strokes and heart attacks.
When you are stressed, stress hormones are released into your bloodstream, and the liver produces more glucose. This glucose is utilized for energy during the fight-or-flight response of the body to stress.
Everyone does not face the same stress intensity. Hence, your body’s response to stress will certainly not be the same as the other person. The level of stress you experience and, consequently, your body’s response to it – is significantly affected by your day-to-day activity and how much you have been delegated or decided to accomplish each time.
The logic here is to understand how you are stressed and how your body responds to stress. For you, it may be a headache and sleeplessness, and for others, it may be tension in the muscles and dizziness.
Stress and the Covid-19 Pandemic
There is no doubt that the covid-19 pandemic has induced fear, stress, and anxiety in your lifestyle. Besides its negative consequences on economic and commercial activities, certain conditions surrounding the pandemic can also cause the body to respond negatively. So, if the pandemic unexplainably stresses you, there is absolutely nothing wrong with you.
Fundamentally, uncertainty and the drastic lifestyle change are the main stressors people are dealing with this period.
Over the years, adaptability is one phenomenon that has proven difficult for people to develop. And given that the pandemic led to a rapid change in activities all around the world, many people found this overwhelming. Not having to rise in the morning to a cup of hot coffee and a few minutes in traffic for several months is reason enough for people to get stressed.
Also, it is inherently human to seek solace and comfort from other people in times of difficulties. But given that the pandemic conferred consequences on everyone in different parts of the world, people who depend on others for empathy will get stressed.
The Devastating Effects of Stress
When you do not actively manage stress, it can have several devastating effects on you.
· Stress can drive your mind into a perpetual state of anxiety and depression.
· Persistent stress can also take a toll on your immune system and the secretion of different functional hormones in your body.
· It can induce the production of stress hormones. Increased levels of this hormone in the bloodstream can lead to diseases like stroke, high blood pressure, and heart attack.
· It can negatively affect your productivity as well as your relationships with yourself and other people.
Hence, meditation for stress management becomes necessary to ensure that your lifestyle and productivity is not affected by long term effects.
The Amygdala Effect
The amygdala plays a vital role in the body’s response to stress. It is a pair of nuclei located in the limbic system of the brain. It is also a thermostat that controls emotions, moods, decisions, and memories.
The amygdala is significantly affected by the state of mind. Hence, conditions like stress, anxiety, and fear are known to act on the amygdala.
Whenever the fight-or-flight response is activated in the brain, the amygdala expands. And when you expose yourself to stress regularly, it keeps expanding until it can no longer regulate itself to carry out its functions effectively. This process can lead to neuroplasticity, a condition where the brain starts to function according to the experiences it is continuously exposed to.
Fortunately, the amygdala responds to meditation in the same way it responds to stress. Studies carried out by MRI scans have shown that constant meditation practices significantly reduce its size.
The reduction in the amygdala’s size triggers the thickening of the prefrontal cortex of the brain, the part of the brain known for awareness control.
At the end of the day, meditation gives you an edge over stress. It also helps you to become more aware of your day-to-day activities.
Meditation for Stress Management
Being able to calm the body and mind is one quick way to deal with stress. Meditation is an ancient practice that has proven to improve the lives of those who practice it. As such Meditation for Stress Management can be a good choice.
“To understand the immeasurable, the mind must be extraordinarily quiet, still.”– Jiddu Krishnamurti
First, meditation can be integrated into your day-to-day activity to help you develop efficient resistance to stress. It can also be a go-to activity for when you’re overwhelmed by emotional troubles. You can also maximize meditation to relax your body concerning its stress response.
Meditation involves maintaining a relaxed position and ridding your mind of distracting thoughts. You can choose to focus on things like specific sounds, your breathing, or you can keep your mind completely blank.
Privacy and calm are two basic essential requirements for effective meditation. However, people who have mastered the act will most likely be able to meditate wherever they find themselves.
To effectively harness the benefits of meditation, you should be able to dedicate 5 to 15 minutes of focus to the activity. And while there are no fixed durations for enough meditation, extended meditation sessions are usually more beneficial.
Nevertheless, it is better, to begin with, a short, practicable duration. Starting with lengthy sessions may, in the long run, impose some challenges on your routine.
Meditation takes different forms and requires additional effort from you – you’ll not love every state. Hence, it is safe to stick to whichever variant works fine with you. Suppose you master the practice of meditation when you are not under stress. In that case, you’ll be able to harness it for stress management better.
Choose a Calm Period for Your First Attempt
For your first attempt at meditation, it is more effective to choose a time when you are not under duress. But if it is impossible to get a time when you are not overwhelmed, simply practice whenever you can. Just remember to carve out up to 5 minutes for a session every day.
If you are unsure of how to begin your meditation session, just pay attention to your breathing. Begin by relaxing your body, positioning yourself comfortably, and focusing on your breath. Do this for at least 5 minutes every day. Note that your mind may wander, and you have to make attempts to maintain focus on your breathing. You can even use any of the free apps available and utilize the soothing and natural atmospheric sounds to cut off the noise.
Try Counting for Greater Focus
Focusing on your breath may not readily keep your mind from wandering. Counting each breath is another technique to clear your mind of thought. As you inhale and exhale, try to record the numbers by counting from 1 till your meditation session is over. Whenever you find that you are getting distracted, start the counting afresh.
Follow the Clock or any Movement.
You can also decide to follow the hands of the clock by audibly counting each second. This is even a better way to keep track of your progress as the ticking of the watch will serve as a guide to your mind. You can also use the swinging of a pendulum to guide your mind during meditation.
Some people also prefer to move various parts of their bodies rhythmically and then focus their attention on the movement.
Meditation for Stress Management – how does it works?
While stress induces a fight-and-flight state in the body, meditation manages stress in an opposing manner. Meditation for Stress management helps you combat the effects of stress by returning the body to a calm state.
When you meditate, you induce a direct physical calmness to your body, which helps stress management. The effect of this calmness is better experienced when you make meditation a regular practice.
Studies have shown that regular meditation revamps your body’s response to stress, thereby helping you handle stressful circumstances better. This change in the body’s response stems from the calming and positive effects of meditation. Other studies have also shown that regular meditation programs the brain to react less to stress.
There is also the positive effect of shifting out of the negative thought surrounding stress during meditation. This leads to a more positive thought pattern, and in itself, it can rightly relieve stress.
Meditation Helps Your Body to See Stress Differently
Meditation helps your body to interpret stress differently. Instead of being entangled in the adverse effects of stress, meditation enables you to observe your body’s response pattern. This observation helps you take notes of how your body responds to different situations and reduces the physical effects stress has on your body.
In essence, meditation does not destroy stress and stressors. What it does is to help you manage stress and rightly channel your responses towards stress.
Other Advantages of Meditation
In addition to managing your body’s response to stress, meditation can benefit your body in the following ways.
- It slows down the pace of your mind as you think less or nothing at all.
- Your heart rate, as well as your respiratory rate, reduces when you practice meditation.
- You are also able to use oxygen more efficiently.
- Your body produces less epinephrine and cortisol.
- Meditation also enhances your creativity and imaginative abilities because your mind becomes more transparent and rid of distractions.
- You also sweat less, and your blood pressure returns to normal when you make meditation a constant practice.
Given these advantages of meditation, it is not uncommon to find that people who practice meditation find it less challenging to stop bad habits. You’ll also find that regular meditators are usually resilient in decision-making and tackling the activities of life.
Important Facts about Meditation
You can do Meditation from the very comfort of your home with very little or no supervision. However, consistency in meditation can be quite challenging to achieve. Hence, you must be patient and resilient to be able to achieve stress management through meditation.
Also, meditation involves making out time from your already stressful day to stay calm and relaxed. However, meditation for Stress Management requires you to keep the following points in mind.
Meditation Requires Consistency
The relaxing effect of meditation is better felt with consistent sessions. Short but consistent sessions can gradually drive your body into a state of perpetual relaxation. But lengthy and one-off sessions tend only to relax your body once. Meditating for 5 to 10 minutes every day for one week is better than going 1 hour once a week.
Also, given that meditation requires consistency and discipline, it is easier to get used to short but regular sessions than lengthy, one-off sessions. You’ll also be more likely to make out 5 minutes from your busy schedule than 45 minutes from an even less-demanding day.
The Mind is Meant for Wandering
Don’t get frustrated when you are encountering difficulties in keeping your mind focused. After all, the mind is for thoughts, and wandering is not an alien phenomenon. So, try not to fall into the temptation of directing all your energy into keeping your mind still and neglecting the process’s primary focus.
Focus More on the Act than Perfection
There is absolutely no perfect way to meditate. Whatever technique you decide to use is acceptable, so long as it relaxes your body and effectively reverses the effects of stress.
As you meditate, focus on experiencing the effect of meditation. Rather than focusing on how imperfect or flawed your preferred meditation technique is, focus your mind on what you are doing to the body.
Meditation for Stress Management Vs. Other Stress Relief Methods
Meditation for stress management has the following features over other methods like physical exercises.
- With meditation, the added motivation that comes from working with other people is absent. And as one who practices meditation, you may have to navigate your way around, making meditation a habit. However, you have the option of joining a meditation group to motivate yourself beyond your standard capacity further.
- Compared to drugs and medication for stress relief, meditation does not cause any side effects.
- Unless you would meditate with the help of an expert, meditation is entirely free. You can do it easily from the comfort of your home.
- Meditation can sometimes be more complicated than other methods of letting off steam simply because you may find it challenging to get your mind off the happenings of the day – particularly with peculiar experiences. On the other hand, stress relief methods like humor, physical exercise, and journaling may demand less attention from your mind.
- Another advantage of meditation is that anybody can do it. Physical exercises and activities like yoga may be challenging for physically disadvantaged people to accomplish.
In addition to meditation, other ways you can reduce your stress levels during this pandemic include.
Starting a routine
If you intend to utilize Meditation for stress management during this period, you may want to consider starting a routine to simulate what you had before the pandemic. You can learn a skill or take a course and then make it an integral part of your day-to-day activities. You can also set deadlines and timelines for completing various tasks around your home.
Spend Time with Your Loved Ones.
Spending time with your loved ones will help you overcome the overwhelming effect of the uncertainty accompanying the pandemic. You’ll also be able to share your thoughts and fears, as well as those elements that cause you stress.
Take a break from social media and the News.
As long as you keep feeding yourself with the negativity flying around due to the pandemic, you’ll most likely continue to suffer stress. To rightly handle stress, quit going to the news now and then. And if possible, stick to a news feed that doesn’t further fuel fear and anxiety.
Consider How You Can Help Others.
Happiness comes from making the people around you happy. Think of ways by which you can put a smile on someone’s face, either by checking up on them or providing physical and emotional support to them.
Helping others in this period may be somewhat tricky because everyone is in the same boat. But you’ll find that you will be able to relieve yourself of some stress by doing so.