Everyone is feeling the effects of stress these days. Whether you are one of the 70% of Americans that suffer from stress or are simply acquainted or intimate with one of them, you probably know that this condition, in high dosages and too frequently, is not a good thing.
Stress, in itself, is not a bad thing and can actually provide increased stamina and endurance and even the capacity to go long hours without sleep or even food while you press toward an important goal, typically survival.
Stress causes the body to enter a form of “overdrive” and allows great feats of physical and mental performance, but can have long-term disadvantages if this function is abused. Stress is not supposed to be used frequently and it is essential that the sympathetic activity that causes the physiological manifestations of stress (heavy breathing, accelerated heart rate, increased neurotransmitters in the blood, etc.) are also countered with parasympathetic activity which reverses the symptoms of stress.
One way to accomplish this task is through the cultivation of mindfulness and meditation practices. In the following article we will take a closer look at some of the most common and severe conditions of stress as well as some medically-backed recommendations for mitigating their harshness.
Meditation will be the flavor of the cordial and as we can see, this age-old mental remedy is exactly what the doctor’s prescribed for the most severe stress-related ailments.1
The most commonly suffered type of stress is acute stress. This is experienced as the body’s reaction to demands, impending danger and even simples events that often happen regularly. The rush of adrenaline as you barely escape a reckless motorist or the flurry of emotions experienced after a confrontation are both related to the body utilizing a singular response, stress.
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Even acute stress is not actually a bad thing. When you hear of people who operate well under pressure and in stressful environments you see acute stress being applied in a productive and even positive way. Managed well, acute stress can allow the body to study its reactions and develop an appropriate response to avoid future stress.
Then, roller coasters are fun because the body suffers a severe shock of stress as the G-force is fully experienced. Scary movies also generate this response and it would hardly be fun to view a thriller without some sympathetic activity.
The problems start to come around when stress levels are not managed well, or the causes of the stress are far beyond previously experienced, for example, the death of a loved one, the experience of being assaulted or other traumatic situations. If stress is not managed well they can lead to a variety of serious mental conditions.
Mindfulness Meditation for Managing Acute Stress
Taking a break from the consistent stress and attrition of the exterior world is possible through the practice of mindfulness meditation. Mindfulness has been practiced in many cultures as a way to glimpse a side of the self-most are unaware of. Spiritualists call this the spiritual self, and have applied this practice to reaching spiritual awakenings, resisting temptations and understanding the connection between the self and the much larger self, which could be simplified as the universe but probably much more than this.
There are many different practices and philosophies of mindfulness as it has been practiced in many different cultures and in many different countries. Nevertheless, most of them involve some or all of the following principles:
Awareness is Essential
Mindfulness requires gathering your awareness and focusing on an aspect of the body such as the breathing or even sometimes an external element such as your environment.
When developing mindfulness, it is essential to building a non-judgmental awareness of what is happening in your practice. It is easy to feel troubled by thoughts and distracted by the past or future, but this is common to all and what the practice is all about. The key is building the patience and endurance to return your awareness to your breathing (for instance) as the thoughts pass by un-judged and un-criticized.
The Benefit— Greater Peace and Self-Awareness
As your practice in mindfulness increases, a sort of detachment becomes evident in all types of situations many of which would be extremely stressing. This detachment allows for better management of stress and increased capacity to resume balanced emotional and physiological conditions. The immune functions are improved, the heart protected from diseases and those stressing chemicals are cleansed from the blood. 2,3
Episodic acute stress
If acute stress levels are not balanced well they can lead to a more severe conditional called “Episodic Acute Stress”. This condition is characterized by the feelings that seem to be out of control or exaggerated more often than not. Those suffering from episodic acute stress, are short-tempered, anxious and irritable. Depressive symptoms can also be symptomatic of this condition.
Poor health habits are quite common in those suffering from episodic acute stress. This is often because they feel incapable of making any positive changes in their environment.
Transcendental Meditation for Episodic Acute Stress
One of the most effective forms of meditation and also the most effortless is Transcendental Meditation, better known as TM. Even the most experienced practitioners of meditation are often shocked at how simplistic and revolutionary this practice is in comparison with the other types generally practiced.
TM is not about concentration, contemplation, building awareness or even mindfulness. TM is all about allowing the mind to rest on a special transport that lifts the consciousness upwards. This vehicle is often a mantra or sometimes the sounds of bells, nature or chanting that carries the focus in a decidedly positive and happy direction. The only thing that must be done is to allow the mind and awareness to rest in this positive direction.
The Benefit— Peaceful Rest and Deep Inner Cleansing
The immediate result of TM is a deeper rest made possible through a blissful awareness that subconsciously removes accumulated stressors and traumas from your past. It should be noted that most of the greatest result become apparent over many years of consistent practice.
After long episodes of EAS, it is more likely to become a more advanced condition called chronic stress. This is the type of stress that doesn’t seem to go away no matter what. Chronic stress can be felt on a special date, during the holidays and anytime the mind is even reminded that things are less than perfect.
Some of the most common causes of chronic stress include:
- On-going Financial Difficulties
- Troubles at home
- Dissatisfaction at work
While these conditions can be difficult, chronic stress can lead to far worse conditions as it begins to affect the health directly causing diseases of the heart, cirrhosis of the liver, accidents, cancers, and even suicidal depression and morbidity.
While it is no longer possible to eliminate the stress that attempts to sweep away all functionality and positivity, there are some things that can be done to reverse the physiological responses to stress. By activating the relaxation response in the mind, the body will soon follow suit by initiating parasympathetic activity which “normalizes” body conditions.
Loving Kindness Meditation for Dealing with Chronic Stress
When things look darkest taking the time to surround yourself with positivity can seem like a difficult quest. Especially because those suffering from chronic stress are often not exuding much they are also not likely to be receiving much in return.
Loving Kindness Meditation begins to reverse this negative cycle by reflecting a positive attitude and feelings of love and kindness into everything around. More importantly, it is a practice in receiving this positive energy in a larger variety of ways than ever before.
There are many different forms and practices that can be applied, but most often they involve focusing on the feelings of love and kindness you feel inside and beginning to build from there. Build awareness on the reserves of love and kindness within you and the greatest sources of these energies in your environment. Focus on the love you feel and then match this with the love you receive.
This often begins by forming simple messages and repeating them out loud to consolidate their message. The ultimate goal will be to develop these feelings for the things that stress you out, after all, if they are not good for you in some way, they shouldn’t be in your life.
Now, it may be really difficult to put in a kind message for your surly boss or inconsiderate neighbor, but this is where the true transformation takes place. 4
Essential oils are an excellent tool, not only for meditation but for stress relief as well. Check out our Zen blend either in a bottle or a personal diffuser to get to a more centered and peaceful place and combat the stresses in your life, whether acute or chronic.
Photo Credits: Pangea8/shutterstock.com, JPC-PROD/shutterstock.com, fizkes/shutterstock.com