Modern culture implies that stress is simply a natural part of life, and many professionals are conditioned to operating in high-pressure situations where deadlines are always around the corner and the need to persevere becomes more important with each passing moment.
Of course, a certain amount of stress is inevitable and an important part of how humans have survived through history. Nevertheless, stress can also interfere with the smooth function of your brain and many of essential body functions when it occurs in excess.
Because of this, learning to regain composure and relax in stressful situations can be a critical skill for maintaining overall health and well-being, and meditation can be an excellent aid for promoting this much-needed relaxation.
What is Stress?
From the scientific perspective, stress is nothing more than a collection of physiological changes that occur in the body in response to perceived threats in the environment. If the mind believes the environment is the threatening personal capacity to cope or even the well-being of someone close to you, the body reacts by going into overdrive.
This allowed for great feats of endurance in hunting and avoiding predators millions of years ago, but doesn’t get that kind of use anymore. Today’s equivalent of this physiological response is most often experienced in professional, academic, and even personal situations, and the effects here are not as beneficial as they were when escaping tooth and claw.
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Stress and stressful situations can easily trigger the “fight or flight” response. This is where the blood and brain are flooded with hormones like adrenaline and cortisol which allow for quick responses and improved energy efficiency.
Again, this response was a beneficial evolutionary mechanism but can be harmful today in cases like chronic stress. For example, excess cortisol is especially bad for the body and can erode certain body tissues and increase the likelihood of heart disease.1
Stress and its effects have been studied at length and many effective remedies have been found to mitigate the harshness of this primal behavior. One prime example is the ancient practice of meditation that not only controls and manages stress but can even work to reverse the damage can create.
According to experts, practiced meditation allows more control over the stress response which begins to reduce the effects of chronic stress in the long term. In the short term, the practice of meditation can be applied at any time, anywhere to begin reversing the stress response with the relaxation response.
Through the practice of meditation, the body undergoes a number of immediate physical changes: heart rate and blood pressure decrease and breathing become slower and deeper. This allows for oxygen in the blood to be distributed more effectively throughout the body and brain. In the long term, these effects can protect the brain and blood vessels from degeneration and allows for an instant cognitive boost, improved clarity in distress, and a healthy helping of serenity.2,3
Using Meditation to Address the Most Common Stressors in Today’s Society
When a bit of stress or anxiety threatens to ruin a perfectly good day, adopting a peaceful mindset can allow you to retain your composure. Naturally, it will be easier to engage a positive outlook on a bleak situation if this habit is cultivated through regular practice.
Highlighted below is an outline of how the cultivated practice of meditation can allow for relief and enhanced function in both mental and physical capacities in the face of modern stressors.
This can be one of the greatest obstacles to a dedicated practice of meditation. However, meditation is not a time-consuming practice but rather a time saver that can allow fora more productive function for the rest of the day.4
Meditation provides great mental flexibility and cognitive improvement which allows for greater efficiency and less mental fatigue. Take the time at the beginning of the day for a quick 10 minutes of meditation based on positivity and gratitude.
While you draw your focus inward, meet whatever you find with happiness for another day of life. This practice will naturally spill out onto the day and ensure your activities and encounters are optimized and facilitated through positivity.
Anger and Frustration
Small daily hassles and annoyances can be just as upsetting to smooth mental function as losing your job or moving to another city. The solution is to begin cultivating a slower and more intuitive approach to your feelings.
Meditation allows all feelings and thoughts to be observed without judgment and better understood. While this may not change feelings of anger and hostility, it does provide essential distance between you and your feelings.
This could allow some feelings to observed objectively and thus defused before they cause stress. Alternatively, it may make the true underlying cause of a persistent annoyance be better understood and therefore avoided.
Feelings of Helplessness and Inadequacy
Sometimes the exact reasons for your feelings of stress are clearly identifiable and can seem equally insurmountable. According to the Holmes-Rahe Scale, which was produced to study the relationship between stress and illness, the highest stress levels that can come from events such as divorce and bereavement.
Other events that can cause considerable stress include taking on a new job or even becoming a parent. No matter the source, when the external difficulties seem to outweigh individual capacity to cope, it can be easy to fall into a cycle of constant anxiety and stress.5
When surrounded by overwhelming feelings that threaten to sweep away all functionality and stability, meditation allows for a much higher perspective. The important solution to anxiety attacks lies in remembering that you are not subject to your feelings: your feelings will pass, you will remain, and life will go on.
You can quickly gain control of the mind and body through this simple meditation technique. Find a spot where you can get comfortable and remain undistracted for a few moments. Sit down and lay your hands lightly in your lap as you bring the focus to your breathing. As the mind begins to draw attention to thoughts and feelings, remain cool and observant. Do not judge or engage these thoughts but allow them to pass.
Begin to become well-acquainted with the illusive self that exists in the quiet of the mind between the chatter of thoughts and feelings. This inner self is an unlimited source of your greatest strength that exists beyond the reach of your exterior obstacles and apparent weaknesses. Cultivating this connection will allow your subconscious to build up a positive mental attitude.
The practices of mindfulness will come easier through greater practice. If you are having a hard time getting a restless mind to focus on awareness, consider adjusting your practice for better concentration. With the prominence of modern stressors, meditation can be an excellent addition to your daily routine if you’re looking to build your resilience in dealing with stressful situations.