Stress and anxiety put people in the hospital every day. It may not be common to go to the doctor to say “I think I have stress,” but the National Institutes of Health say that 80% of illnesses are caused by stress, directly or indirectly.
Powerful hormones, including adrenaline, are released into your blood when you’re stressed and anxious. They cause a rise in blood pressure, a faster heart and breathing rate, and faster conversion of glycogen into glucose. These are all good things if you need to escape a charging grizzly bear. Unfortunately, when these effects are prolonged, as they often are in modern life, the immune system is depressed, and the body suffers other negative changes.
Some of the common negative effects of prolonged stress include fatigue, pain in the muscles and joints, depression, anxiety, headache, mental confusion, and irritability. These stress reactions cause your body to use too much energy, which can eventually result in physical and mental weakness.
Stress And Anxiety Relief
At Stanford University, an analysis of 146 meditation studies was done. The conclusion was that meditation was not only beneficial at the time of practice, but that it significantly reduced anxiety as a character trait. Most of the studies focused on transcendental meditation, but it’s probable most methods have similar results. (Reported in the Journal of Clinical Psychology 45: 957974, 1989.)
In other words, meditation really can help you defend yourself against stress and anxiety. Deeper meditation probably has the most beneficial effects, but what if you’re short on time, or uncertain about learning to meditate? No worries. There are two simple techniques you can learn in a few minutes, and start using today.
First, there is a breathing meditation. It starts with just closing your eyes, and letting the tension drain from your muscles. Then let go of your thoughts, as much as you can, and breath deeply through your nose, paying attention to your breath. When thoughts and sensations arise, acknowledge them and return your attention to your breath as it goes in and out. That’s it. Just do this for five or ten minutes.
The second technique is a mindfulness meditation. When you are feeling stress and anxiety, stop whatever you’re doing, and take three deep breaths. Then watch your mind until you identify what is bothering you. Maybe you’re worried about something? There could be a letter you need to write, or your neck could be sore. Try to identify every little irritation.
Then do something with these stressors. Make a call that’s on your mind, take an aspirin, put things on tomorrow’s list. Maybe the best you can do is recognise that there’s nothing you can do right now – so do that. Take care of each irritation, so you can let it go. Your anxiety will diminish immediately.
Practice, and you’ll get better at finding what’s just below the surface of consciousness, bothering you. Once you address these things, close your eyes, take three deep breaths, and you’ll feel more relaxed and able to think clearly. Try it now. It’s a powerful way to reduce your stress and anxiety.