Everyone has experienced STRESS in their lives. We usually experience stress when there is an imbalance between demands and our resources to cope with those demands. These resources can be physical, financial and even emotional or mental. Everyone deals with stress in different ways. For instance, one person could have the financial resources to cope with a situation but may lack the emotional resources – while this could be the other way around for the next person. For both people, stress is still being experienced, just in a different way. An event that may be extremely stressful for one person can be a mere hiccup in another person’s life.
Stress is not a diagnosis, but rather an ongoing normal part of human life that we all have to deal with. Stress can cause increased levels of the stress hormone ‘cortisol’. This produces many of the harmful effects, such as the release of inflammation-promoting chemicals. If not appropriately managed, large amounts of ongoing stress can detrimental effects to our mental health, and correlates with anxiety, depression and anger. It can also affect our thoughts (e.g. poor concentration, forgetfulness, hopelessness) and may lead to risk-taking behaviours for an outlet (e.g. drinking, smoking).
So, how can we reduce stress? One of the most commonly used techniques is MEDITATION. Meditation is the practice of training attention and awareness in order to achieve mental and emotional clarity. Some techniques include mindfulness, body scanning, breathing awareness and loving-kindness meditation. Research shows that meditation can assist in the reduction of stress after only 8 weeks of consistent practice.
Meditation is a skill that needs to be practiced in order to benefit from its effects. It can be difficult, uncomfortable and even boring when starting out. So, start small and ease into it. Try 5 minutes a day for a few days a week, then increase the duration and frequency the more comfortable you get.
It can be difficult to know how to start your meditation practice. However, there are now some excellent, free apps that you can download that can assist you with guided meditation. Some of these apps include:
- Stop, Breath, Think
Alternatively, ask your psychologist and they might be able to provide you with some MP3s or other useful links for guided meditation.
There is even new technology out there that can assist your meditation practice. The ‘Muse’ device uses EEG to monitor the electrical activity of the brain and to help guide your meditation. It translates your brain activity to weather sounds so that you know when your brain is settled or overactive. You hear peaceful weather when your mind is calm and stormy weather when your mind is busy, which indicates that you need to draw attention back to your breath.
If you are interested in finding out more about stress relief and meditation, then like Natalie Turvey’s Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/NATnurturinghealthycommunities/) and keep an eye out for her upcoming FREE 5 DAY STRESS REDUCTION CHALLENGE. Natalie’s challenge will teach you the tools she uses with her clients in her practice.