I’m happy (I think) to report that a major milestone has been reached in my family. My older son is 15 1/2 years old and yesterday got his temporary driver’s permit. So it begins! I may never draw a stress-and-anxiety-free breath again! He hasn’t had his first lesson and already I’m worried…
In the stress and anxiety department I know I’m not alone. Would it be fair to say that all of my readers are under some stress? Yep, pretty much. Stress is a way of life nowadays.
For those of us who are parents, stress makes our tempers short and tolerance low. It makes us snap at our kids and keeps us from enjoying our time with them. It also can lead us to overeat and indulge in other activities that aren’t good for us OR our families.
There are many ways to reduce stress. Learning time and task management skills, decreasing commitments, and practicing gratitude are some ways. Some people choose to take medication.
There is also very good evidence that meditation for stress relief is effective. Why would meditation be helpful when under stress?
First I want to review a little physiology. Bear with me, it will help you understand why meditation is helpful. There is a component of your nervous system that is called the autonomic nervous system. Its job is to control all of the things that happen in your body without you thinking about them, like breathing, heart rate, circulation, digestion, sweating, bowel and bladder function and sexual activity (once triggered by conscious thought).
The autonomic nervous system also is divided into two components: the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system. The sympathetic nervous system is activated with stress, and brings out the “fight or flight” response. Blood pressure, respiratory rate and heart rate go up, pupils dilate, circulation is directed away from the digestive tract and towards the brain and muscles (preparing to fight or flee from a threat). The adrenal glands dump adrenaline into the blood stream. If stress lasts awhile the adrenals also make cortisol to increase blood sugar production by the liver.
Can you see why chronic sympthetic activation is a bad thing? Having the blood pressure and heart rate high is really hard on the circulatory system. Adrenaline itself seems over time to be poisonous to the heart. Chronic stress is hard on the digestive tract, leading to irritable bowel syndrome. High cortisol levels can lead to weight gain and diabetes.
So how do you calm down the sympathetic nervous system?
One way is to activate the parasympathetic nervous system. If sympathetic is “fight or flight,” parasympathetic is “rest and digest.” One of the most effective ways to purposely activate the parasympathetic nervous system is to meditate.
Meditation has been shown to produce improvement in mood disorders, epilepsy, autoimmune symptoms, menopause symptoms and PMS symptoms.
There are many ways to meditate. Some well-known techniques include Transcendental Meditation, mindfulness-based stress reduction, various types of Buddhist meditation, and Metta meditation. All forms of meditation seek to calm the mind, go beyond the mind and enhance concentration. The physical health benefits are very well documented.
Like many other areas of life, to get the most out of meditation you need a good teacher. I’d like to recommend to you that, if you’re in the Cleveland area, you should consider MY teacher. We have a beginning meditation class starting soon.
Dr. Vincent Gentiluomo is a skilled martial artist and spiritual teacher. You can learn more about him and his background at this link. He offers both group classes and individual teaching. If you would like more information, you can contact him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 440–773–4004. He can help you choose the program that’s right for you.
If you’re finding yourself struggling with stress and its effects on your body, meditation is one effective way to reduce your stress and bring your body back into balance.
For more information about the biology of stress, check this link.
QUESTION: Do you meditate? How has it helped you?