WHY YOU SHOULD WORRY WHAT STRESS AND ANXIETY ARE DOING TO YOUR HEALTH
Life is full of situations that have you reacting by becoming stressed out. Modern life is filled with stress and everyone complains how stressed they are.
The Term “Stress” Can be Defined Two Ways:
Stressors: the environments or events perceived by our bodies as dangerous and cause a reaction in us. These stressors can include anything from a near-miss car accident to riding in a crowded elevator.
Stress Reaction: the reaction of our mind and body to these dangerous things.
Our stress reactions, if we don’t have control over them, can be a major cause of chronic disease. We are always surrounded by dangerous things but we don’t always react to them. We are able to control our stress reactions to stressors, sometimes for the better, and sometimes not so much. But if we don’t understand the whys, we can be a victim of the stressors. If a major life change, such as the death of a loved one or a move to another state, if it happens when we are already stressed, it can be the tipping point and cause a major reaction such as depression or anxiety attacks.
Many stressors come from a difficult situation at home, an unhappy marriage and a feeling that there is no way out. Women, in particular, will stay in such situations for years, and the cumulative effect of that stress reaction can kill, from a heart attack or high blood pressure. Stress can be a direct cause of coronary heart disease and affects the immune system by lowering its ability to fight off infection and disease.
Stress can cause decreased nutrition uptake by causing decreased blood flow to the digestive area and that lowers your metabolism. With decreased enzyme activity and decrease in intestinal flora, problems like stomach ulcers or IBS can also initiate.
When we get headaches, backaches, and are irritable, we need to see that these are only the outward signs of stress. Chronic stress is working to destroy our bodies from the inside out. It not only causes physical effects but also changes our body chemistry, turning it against itself and causing disease. Our only way to eliminate the stress and anxiety is to look for ways to relax and minimize the stress reaction.
Proaction: controlling a situation by making things happen or by preparing for possible future problems.
In the end, it is what we choose to react to and how, that causes our own stress. We hold the keys in how we react.
Take a moment and analyze what it really is that makes you upset by a certain stressor and why your stress reaction displays outwardly in a certain way and see that you have a choice. Choose to stay in control, proactively fix the situation causing you to react in a stressful way and direct your life in the way you want it to go. Loss of control is stress, taking the reins of life is the way out. Action gives you the right to say “no, I will not let this situation cause me to be stressed out and I will diffuse how I normally react and take a proactive part in changing the outcome.”
RELAXATION TECHNIQUES TO USE
A relaxation Technique can be almost anything that makes you attain a calm state. While some experts will say you must be trained in how to use R techniques, you can do whatever helps you. Many people turn towards hobbies like knitting, gardening, or activities like taking a warm bath before bedtime or listening to calming music.
Whatever routine you use for calming down is ok, and you only need to seek something else if you’re calming routine stops working, or doesn’t work for a new kind of stress.
Relaxation training is a more effective way of dealing with stress and anxiety when you have no way already set. You may be facing a situation you have never had before and are looking for something you can do to relieve the feelings you are having. Trying to ignore it or “push it down” will just internalize your stress and end up harming your body eventually.
Here are some ideas for relaxation techniques that have worked for many others. Since everyone responds differently, becoming overwhelmed or depressed, or both, you can try a few of these and see what works for you.
Movement Based Methods include:
• T’ai Chi
Bodywork Methods include:
Mind/Body Methods include:
• Listening to music
We all basically respond to stress the same way on the inside – our blood pressure rises, our muscles constrict, our heart beats faster. When our bodies are working so hard, our immunity systems get drained.
But on the outside, we can mask the stress, even to ourselves. You can use your senses to help you deal with unexpected stress. When you are not sure if a situation is causing you stress, take a moment and ask yourself: Are your muscles tight or does your stomach hurt? Have you clenched your fists? Is your breath shallow? If so, you have stress lurking beneath your calm exterior.
For those of you who do express the stress outwardly, there are three ways we show stress:
You can get angry and irritated. You can get stress relief from Bodywork and Mind/Body methods.
You can get depressed and withdrawn. You can get stress relief from Movement Based methods.
You can freeze and get agitated AND withdrawn. You could benefit from all three methods of stress relief. You need to find what works for your unique stress reaction.
If stress continues for a long time with no letup we can feel burned out.
This is when you are emotionally, mentally and physically exhausted. Your whole body has been affected by unrelenting chronic stress. Usually, we have a feeling of there being no way out and we are shutting down, not able to deal with the tension anymore. You need to slow down and seek support from friends and family or even a professional. Apply some of these relaxation techniques before you reach the burnout stage.
MEDITATION FOR BEGINNERS
Meditation has a calming effect on your body and your thoughts. It helps you to stop thinking and shows you how to just “be”, in an aware state of mindfulness. You slow your mind chatter by just being in the moment, noticing thoughts and putting them to the side until you just are conscious but your mind is still.
Many people have different reasons for learning to meditate, so first, think about your reason. This will help you know which direction you want your first meditations to go and give you an objective for each. This is to say, a general goal such as relaxation, or how you can cope with a problem at work, or even, to think about what you want to do with your life if you have just graduated high school or college.
Meditation is a great way to quiet your mind and think of what to do in important life choices. By listening on a deeper level you will get a truer sense of what your real desire is.
Before You Start Your Session
You can shower or just wash your face, splashing clean water on it. The water will neutralize negative vibrations. Wear comfortable clothing and have a light snack and go to the bathroom before you settle down to meditate. If you are at home, tell your family not to disturb you for a while.
When to Meditate
You can meditate whenever you want to. Each time of the day has its own reason. After you wake up in the morning is when your mind is at its calmest because you have not entered into the day and all its activities. Also, you have just slept, so it is most likely you will not go to sleep while meditating.
In the evening, as the activity of the day is winding down, so you, too, are winding down and it is easier for some to relax and do some meditation. Sunset seems an ideal time and it is thought that a metaphysical doorway opens then.
How Long to Meditate
There is no limit to how long you should meditate. It is generally for fifteen minutes to an hour. After that, if you are new, you fall the risk of falling asleep. Sleep is not meditation, so keep in a sitting pose and do not meditate if you really need to sleep instead.
Where to Meditate
If you have a quiet place in your home, then make a meditation center for yourself there. Outdoors is always an alternative, but is weather dependent.
How to Meditate
To start off, if you are a beginner, just sit up straight, either on the floor with legs crossed, on a cushion, or in a chair. Some chose a kneeling position on a meditation bench. Use whatever is more comfortable for you. Close your eyes and repeat a mantra, like a favorite word, repeated over and over to yourself or aloud. Then, change from saying your mantra to focusing on something.
Do this for about ten to fifteen minutes: just focus on your breathing, breathe in, breathe out, and quiet your mind. When thoughts rush in, don’t think about them, but say to yourself, “not now”, and put them aside. Continue focusing on breathing until you fall into its rhythm, and are not thinking, just breathing. Don’t expect to be able to shut all your thoughts off, it takes years of practice, but you can calm most of them and push others aside while you are in meditation. That’s all for your first sessions.
Another time, instead of your breathing, focus on a candle flame, or the wind, if it is especially blustery. The idea is to learn to focus on something else besides your thoughts, to learn to quiet them and to be able to focus on one thing for a time span. This will bring tremendous value to your everyday life.
There are 3 stages of meditation you go thru as you progress. Stage one is about ignoring your thoughts and finding there is something beyond them. Stage two is when you can stop your thoughts. The third stage is when there is no thought. Your mind is totally at peace and tranquil. You have attained the next level of meditation and are ready to find a master teacher. These stages take many years, even a lifetime. Most of us are fine at stage one. Meditation is really about changing your life and can last as long. Go slow and take instruction from many sources.
WAYS TO FACILITATE RELAXATION AND MEDITATION
Facilitating meditation is about making ways to easily switch from the everyday world and get settled down to meditate. Using rituals will help you in establishing a contemplative state. Start some rituals now so that you can call upon them when you need to later.
You can start playing some meditation music while you are getting ready to meditate. That should help you relax and get in the mood. Make sure they are long tracks so when you go right into meditation, the music will still play until you are finished with your session. There are very long 3 hour and even 9-hour tracks on the internet.
You can start your session by concentrating on a candle flame or a peaceful tableau of plants and statuary to engage your waking mind. Just seeing your table setup can initiate thoughts of peace and relaxation to your conscious mind and help you enter your contemplative state.
One of the first things you need to learn is how to quiet your mind. As you clear out one thought, endless other thoughts and mind chatter squeeze in. It seems like a daunting task, but you need to persevere. You need to understand that you can’t force your mind to stop. You can do different techniques, such as watching your breath, using a chant or word, repeated over and over, to engage the conscious mind, so the unconscious mind can come through. When any thoughts slip in, just put them to the side, in your mind. Don’t force them out, just tell yourself, “not now”.
Some Ideas to Help Facilitate a Meditative State:
• Meditate in a quiet room without distractions. Dim the lights if you need to tune out your surroundings.
• Let your family members know you need some time and not to disturb you.
• Eat lightly if you are hungry before you meditate. Nothing is more of a distraction than a grumbling tummy. Same goes for going to the bathroom before you settle in for meditation.
• Do any nagging task, like making that phone call, or adding that item to your grocery list, and whatever else may interrupt your thoughts later, do them now so you can be undistracted.
• When your thoughts begin to wander, and they will, just keep returning to the focus of your meditation for that session and that will pull your thoughts into line. Don’t think about thinking, think about being.
Ending your meditation session can be just as important as beginning it and you can reverse what you did in the beginning by looking at your plants and statues, or gazing at the candle’s flame for a few moments before you blow it out. Adjusting back into the world around you will continue the peace and relaxation you gained and bring it back into the world with you.
OTHER WAYS TO USE RELAXATION AND MEDITATION TECHNIQUES
The techniques you learned for relaxation and meditation can also be used in your everyday life. Being able to relax at a moment’s notice will be an asset you come to use, now that you have found the way to let go of situations that bothered you in the past. There will always be stressors that you have no control over, like money issues, the death of a loved one, your teenagers, etc., but at least you have a tool to use to get you through these and to overcome the stressors you can conquer.
Relaxation training will come in handy for job reviews and other stressors found in the office and in daily life. Confrontations come up suddenly and keeping a cool head and staying relaxed will often diffuse a situation before it gets out of hand. You will also be able to tell when others are becoming stressed at work and acting out, and you will understand and be able to deal with these people more easily now.
Does going to the doctor or dentist cause you stress? Now you have a way to handle another one of life’s little bothers. You may also be able to help other members of your family shrug off the anxiety of doctor and dentist appointments.
You will be able to help your children weather whatever life throws at them if you teach them the techniques of relaxation. Your children won’t need to get uptight about exams at school, or other school matters, even to college and through to their adult years.
Sleep disorders will no longer be an issue for you, either. It will come easily as a result of the relaxation techniques you have learned. All the training will make it very easy to just fall asleep when you need to and wake up refreshed every day. You will find that you have more energy since you are not using it all fighting stress and getting tensed muscles. You can also use the aromatherapy scents you use for meditation to help turn off your mind for sleeping as well. The breathing techniques will also help you calm your body and get to sleep quickly.
Another way to use relaxation training is to relax and meditate before you make any financial or major life choices. It’s always better to think out these big decisions with a clear head.
Interpersonal relationships will benefit from your training. Whether between your family or friends, those little spats and uncomfortable situations should disappear and not cause you worry anymore. It won’t happen magically, but others will not be able to push your buttons so easily and they will wonder why. Over time, even your marriage will flourish and you will have a calmer, more satisfying life.