Life can be stressful! Whether it’s finances, work, health issues or family issues, there are times where it just feels like too much. Sometimes we get used to chronic stress and don’t even realize how much it is impacting us. Stress has a powerful effect on our emotional and physical health, and if we ignore the smaller signs, we eventually get bigger ones.
Surveys reveal some disturbing statistics about stress: 33% of people feel they live with extreme stress, while 48% believe the stress in their lives has increased over the past five years. And 77% of people surveyed said they experience physical symptoms caused by stress.
Physical symptoms linked to chronic stress include:
• Pain of any kind
• Sleep problems
• Autoimmune diseases
• Digestive problems
• Skin conditions, such as eczema
• Heart disease
• Weight problems
• Reproductive issues
• Thinking and memory issues
Fortunately, there are ways to work on stress and improve the way we cope with it. Mindfulness and meditation are two important tools and a good place to start.
How Meditation Can Help
There is now scientific evidence that meditation is effective against physical symptoms of stress such as IBS, high blood pressure, and ulcerative colitis. Meditation has been linked with improved immune response, reduction in pain sensitivity, and a shift from negativity to positivity.
Further, research has shown that meditation may physically alter the brain and how we are able to cope with chronic stress.
But what exactly is meditation? There are different types but a good one start with is mindful breathing. Mindful meditation is simply the practice of harnessing our attention to quiet our chattering minds. Instead of letting our brains run rampant like energetic puppies, sniffing one thought after another and another and another, mindfulness focuses our attention in the now moment.
The problem is because mediation is so deceptively simple, many people either feel it can’t possibly work in general, or they won’t benefit from it. And because we live in a society that seems to promote instant gratification, other people expect that after their few minutes of meditating, all problems will magically dissolve.
But meditation is called a “practice” for a reason. Like anything else that is beneficial to your mind and body (i.e.nutrition and exercise), it takes time and commitment to reap those benefits.
Tips to Get Started
If you are interested in trying meditation for yourself, here are a few key tips:
• Get comfortable – you don’t have to sit in the lotus pose – just sit in a comfortable chair. Try to be comfortable enough that your body sensations don’t distract you, but not so comfortable that you fall asleep.
• Don’t try and control your breath, just breathe naturally, simply staying aware of your breath. Notice the inhale and the exhale.
• For some, it helps to count while breathing. Try inhaling for 4, holding for 4 and exhaling for 5.
• Start with just a few minutes and build from there.
• Don’t try to be perfect, just keep practicing every day. It is inevitable that your mind will wonder. Just notice without judgement and gently redirect your awareness back to your breath.
If you find that you could use some extra help dealing with the stress in your life, get in touch with me. I’d be happy to explore treatment options with you and talk about how I may be able to help.
Benefits of Meditation: 12 Science-Based Benefits of Meditation (healthline.com)
Explaining The Difference Between Mindfulness & Meditation (chopra.com)
What meditation can do for your mind, mood, and health – Harvard Health
Quotes & Inspiration
“Happiness is a journey, not a destination.” (Buddha)
“Quiet the mind, and the soul will speak.” (Ma Jaya Sati Bhagavati)
“The goal of meditation isn’t to control your thoughts, it’s to stop letting them control you.” (Unknown author)
“You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes a day. Unless you’re too busy. Then you should sit for one hour.” (Old Zen saying)
“If you have time to breathe, you have time to meditate.” (Ajahn Chah)