Stress is your body’s way of responding to any kind of demand. It can be caused by both good and bad experiences. When you feel stressed by some experience, good or bad, your body and mind react by releasing chemicals into the blood.
Emotional stress that stays around for weeks or months can weaken your immune system and cause high blood pressure, fatigue, depression, anxiety, and even heart disease.
How can meditation help reduce stress? Meditation is a simple technique that, if practiced for as few as 10 minutes each day, can help you control stress, decrease anxiety, improve cardiovascular health, and achieve a greater capacity for relaxation.
The first step is to recognize that contrary to common misconceptions, stress isn’t a force beyond your control. It doesn’t exist outside of you in the environment or external situations; instead, stress is an internal response to a perceived threat or unmet need.
Here’s why you must stress less to improve your life and increase your lifespan…
We all know that stress is bad for us and this is something we get told very often. However, it’s all too easy to write this off as being a minor nuisance or frustration rather than anything to really worry about. We all get stressed from time to time, right?
In reality, though, this is the wrong way to think about stress. While it is fairly commonplace, that is not to say that it isn’t serious. In fact, stress is incredibly serious and can cause severe problems both in the short term and long term.
Stress can shorten your lifespan. Ruin your enjoyment. Cause serious illness. Shrink your brain. Hurt your performance. Ruin your relationships. Cause Impotence. Do those sound like small matters?
To understand this better, it can help to look more closely at what precisely stress is. How it causes the problems it does and how and why you need to do everything you can to prevent and reduce it.
So what exactly is stress? Why does it really matter to me?
Stress is what we feel when we’re overworked, when we’re dreading something that’s about to happen or when we’re generally unable to relax and stay calm due to an outside or inside factors influencing our thoughts.
But it actually goes beyond this. Stress is a basic physiological reaction that is designed to help us focus and survive. In itself, it is not a bad thing and is actually rather adaptive. The problem is that it has been taken out of context, which means the positive effects become outweighed by the negative.
Meditation helps you to train your brain to stay focused on the task at hand rather than letting our attention be pulled away by every passing thought and distraction. This one-pointed attention makes you more effective and less stressed.
Essentially, stress is what causes the ‘fight or flight response’. This is a physiological response to perceived danger, designed to improve our chances of survival. If you were to see a lion, for example, this would trigger a cascade of effects collectively resulting in the stress response.
This begins when we observe danger or experience fear. Increased activity in our brain, causes the release of adrenaline, as well as dopamine, norepinephrine, and cortisol – our stress hormones. These then trigger a number of physiological changes: increasing our heart rate, making us breathe more quickly and making us more acutely focussed on the potential threat.
A list of the symptoms of stress should include:
• Increased heart rate
• Rapid, shallow breathing
• Muscle contraction
• Tunnel vision
• Heightened sensitivity
• Increased blood viscosity
• Suppression of the pain response
• Suppression of the immune system
• Suppression of the digestive system
• Dilation of the pupils
• Dilation of the blood vessels
• Reduction in prefrontal cortex activity (temporo-hypofrontality)
In the short term, this is good for us. In the short term, these things help us to evade danger and win combative situations. Increased muscle tension makes us stronger. Increased blood viscosity makes our blood more likely to clot in case of an injury. Dilated pupils let more light in to improve our vision.
Suppression of secondary functions means that more blood can be sent to the muscles and the brain. Reduced pain means we can carry on fighting or running despite the injury.
In short, anything that can help you to survive is prioritized, while secondary functions are suppressed. The idea is that once we get to safety, we can then turn off this fight or flight response and instead enter the ‘rest and digest’ state in order to recover. Once the predator is gone, we can recover.
But the problem is that in our modern environments, predators aren’t the main problem.
It’s rare these days for us to be chased, to get into a fight or to need to escape a forest fire. What’s not so rare, is for our boss to shout at us and to tell us that we’re late for our deadline. It’s not rare for us to be in debt. It’s not rare for us to have marital problems.
And unfortunately, the brain interprets all these signals in just the same way: as threats. And this causes the same fight or flight response.
But because these types of threats aren’t so easily resolved, this means we’ll often end up on heightened alert for a longer period of time. This is also why stress causes impotence in men. If you are highly stressed, blood is sent everywhere except the genitals! And this takes a tremendous toll on our bodies.
As you might imagine: it is not good for you when your immune system and digestive system are suppressed for days. It’s also not good for your brain to be flooded with norepinephrine and cortisol. It’s not good for your heart rate to stay elevated, or your blood pressure to stay high.
This is the problem with chronic stress as opposed to acute stress. And it’s the problem with heightened levels of stress, as opposed to the gentle, motivating force of ‘eustress’. We’ll look at all of this more in the long term, but suffice to say that the longer stress like this continues, the more you start to feel drained, malnourished, fatigued, ill and possibly eventually depressed.
How stress damages your brain
When we are stressed, it effectively makes us less intelligent. This is due to the reduction in pre-frontal activity, which in turn is designed to make us more focussed and alert. Essentially, the pre-frontal cortex is the part of the brain responsible for forward planning, creative thinking, and other ‘high-order’ brain activity.
When you are being chased by a lion though, it is really not the time to be thinking about the meaning of life! So shutting down this part of the brain and placing your focus on feedback from your senses makes much more sense.
Of course, that’s not particularly useful in the workplace through: and this is why the stress response is so seriously unhelpful when we have to give a presentation, answer a question on the spot or go on a date. This is when we lose all articulation and start stammering and saying useless things.
Slightly longer-term stress is adrenal fatigue
This is what happens when your brain has exhausted its supply of adrenaline and other stress hormones. That might sound like a good thing but you actually need a little norepinephrine, dopamine, and cortisol to stay motivated – and even to wake up in the morning!
Adrenal fatigue leaves you listless, demotivated and potentially depressed. It can also cause what is known as ‘learned helplessness’ – a condition where you essentially completely give up because your brain has been conditioned to learn that any attempts to change its situation will be met with failure. Not good!
Worse, when you are highly stressed, it can lead to long term problems for your brain health. As we briefly mentioned: it can literally shrink your brain! Studies show that in the long term, it leads to structural changes that shrink the hippocampus and shrink grey matter – the all-important neural connections throughout the brain.
Even a single, severe traumatic event can result in significant reductions in the medial PFC, anterior cingulate and subgenual regions of the brain. The effects of ‘cumulative adversity’ meanwhile, cause smaller volumes in the medial prefrontal cortex (the PFC), insular cortex and anterior cingulate regions.
These regions of the brain correspond with emotional control, decisionmaking, reasoning, and self-control. In other words, the eventual result of stress is to leave you more reactionary, more depressive, more impulsive and less disciplined. From here, every aspect of your life will start to see negative effects.
But there are things you can do about it…
How To Meditate To Reduce Stress
Stress and tension have taken a toll on almost everybody’s life in the present scenario. Everybody seems to be sitting in a pressure cooker and has commitments and deliveries to make in the personal and professional front. There are times when it becomes difficult to handle the pressure anymore and you might have a nervous or a psychological breakdown.
Before reaching that extreme stage, it is always good to find out ways to combat the pressure. In worse situations, it may happen that you will need to see a doctor and take medicines to overcome the stress and tension from your life. It is better to opt for meditation techniques for stress as they are natural and will do only good for you.
Are you a newcomer to the world of meditation? Worry not! There are innumerable kinds of meditation for beginners that you can start with and then you can practice the general meditation procedures, once you are comfortable with the initial meditation techniques.
You must be thinking, what will be the requirements for these meditation techniques for stress. It is simple. You will just need a serene and tranquil ambiance to practice these meditation techniques. You can do these at any time of the day, but doing the exercises right in the morning will keep you fresh and revitalized throughout the day.
Your capacity for handling stress and tension will also improve manifold times. You will feel the change from within and this is where meditation techniques excel over other forms of stress busters.
Here are some very important tips for meditation for beginners for reducing stress:
1. First and foremost, learn to relax. Only when your body is relaxed and free from stress will your mind be able to relax. So the first thing that you need to do is to sit and relax on a chair, bed or mattress, whichever is suitable for you.
2. Pay great attention to your posture. This is one of the most important instructions that come with meditation techniques for stress. You must always sit straight while meditating while maintaining the comfort level of your body. Do not overstress your mind and body while meditating.
3. This is a very common thing that is followed in Meditation for Beginners. You have to move your head slowly in round circles, in upward or downward directions or sidewise very slowly. This helps the neck and the shoulder to relax a bit. However, it is not safe to do this exercise if you are a stroke patient or undergoing some critical treatment.
4. When you are stressed, your shoulders feel stiff and tight. Loosen your shoulders and lower them if possible. Now try and roll them a few times. Many people practice such easy meditation techniques for stress at their office place also as they are very convenient to do at any place.
5. Last, but not least, breathe properly and mindfully. Concentrate on the breathing patterns, on the inhale and exhale rhythms and feel your mind and body relax.
Newer technologies are being invented and implemented each day as meditation techniques for stress. Some of them are also included as tools for beginner meditation There are various kinds of audio meditations like our Deep Meditation Music For Stress Reduction Mp3 that helps in meditating better. These Mp3s are very useful for people adopting beginner meditation techniques.
3 Simple and Easy Techniques to Reduce Everyday Stress
Learning how to deal with stress is something that everybody needs to know. Even our health can suffer the effects of stress which can also make it difficult to think clearly enough to solve even the simplest task. The good news is that there are simple easy techniques for reducing your stress which we will cover in this lesson.
As more studies show the link between stress and many health problems, stress management becomes an important consideration for many people. These 3 top stress management ways can help you to reduce the levels of stress in your life, so make good use of them.
Massage is a great way to reduce stress when done regularly
Go get a massage, this is the first method for reducing and managing stress levels. Massage has often been thought of as a great way to relieve sore muscles, but it can also reduce overall body tension, anxiety and stress too. There are a lot of studies that prove massage is a great way to reduce stress when done regularly.
There are many different types of massage, so you should try several kinds and find the one that you prefer. Nowadays it’s not usually hard to find qualified massage therapists. Massage can release endorphins in the brain which produce pleasure which is helpful in not only stress reduction but also helpful for emotional issues such as anxiety and depression to name a few.
Relaxation techniques and learning how to breathe again
We have all already probably heard of various methods of relaxation. Some of the most popular methods are basic mediation and the various forms of yoga. You can attend online or actual classes to learn the different parts of these methods so you can learn to relax. There are also other options for these major relaxation techniques.
A simpler and more straightforward option would be to learn deep breathing techniques. You can use these even when you are seated in your work station. Progressive muscle relaxation and mental imagery are also possible basic techniques you can use against stress.
Maintaining a regular exercise schedule
It’s just like what your physical education teacher always said. Maintaining a regular exercise schedule can do wonders for your body. The major benefit of exercise is that it can encourage the proper circulation of your blood. This, in turn, ensures that oxygen and nutrients reach the various cells in your body. You need these if you ever hope to fight the bad effects of stress on your health.
You’ve now heard only a few of the most effective stress management tips available there are still other ways to approach the management of your overall stress including enough sleep and eating healthy. What causes your stress can be as important as treating it so you need to know what that is.
Stress management through meditation techniques can take many forms, and the methods you use will depend on your circumstances and what you prefer.
How long before you see the benefits of meditation? It takes around 1 to 2 months for you to enjoy the benefits of meditation. Or 2 weeks if you’re doing everything great. And you know you need to do at least 15 minutes a day for meditation to get anything out of it.
How does meditation reduce stress? A simple meditation technique practiced for as few as 10 minutes per day can help you control stress, decrease anxiety, improve cardiovascular health, and achieve a greater capacity for relaxation. The meditative technique called the “relaxation response” was pioneered in the U.S. by Harvard physician Herbert Benson in the 1970s.
Is mindfulness meditation good for anxiety? By focusing our attention on the present moment, mindfulness counteracts rumination and worry. In such cases, mindfulness can be an important tool for helping us to better focus on the present moment. Research has shown that mindfulness helps us reduce anxiety and depression.