One of the stress relievers that I recommend to our physical therapy patients is meditation. Why meditation? Because it decreases pain and relieves stress. In the book, You Are Not Your Pain by V. Burch and D. Penman, “Mindfulness meditation can decrease chronic pain by 57%. Accomplished meditators can reduce it by 90%”.
For me personally, peace comes over me after I meditate. I feel a weight has been lifted. I feel physically and spiritually better… closer to God/universe/source. Why do we want to decrease stress and specifically chronic stress? “Chronic stress compromises the critical symptoms of function (Hormonal, Gastrointestinal, Immune, Detoxification) that must be in harmony for your body to be healthy.” according to Dr. William Timmins. Chronic stress affects everything at all levels. So how do we know when we have chronic stress?
* Chronic Stress
Chronic stress is our response to prolonged emotional pressure. When we begin to feel we have little or no control over what’s occurring in our lives. Inability to pay bills, a difficult relationship, work issues, and mourning a death are some examples. “We are just beginning to understand the ways that stress influences a wide range of diseases of aging including heart disease, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of disability, even early death,”, says Sheldon Cohen, a professor of psychology at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh who has been at the forefront of stress research for 30 years. Other conditions that may be caused by chronic stress are: The common cold, weight gain, slower healing, sleep dysfunction, depression, ulcers and other stomach problems”, according to the article, Stress! Don’t let it make you sick by Elizabeth Agnvall.
* Chronic Stress and Cancer
Chronic stress can also allow cancer to grow. According to Anil K. Sood, M.D., professor of Gynecologic Oncology and Reproductive Medicine at MD Anderson, “Stress hormones can inhibit a process called anoikis, which kills diseased cells and prevents them from spreading… Chronic stress also increases the production of certain growth factors that increase your blood supply. This can speed the development of cancerous tumors”. Meditation changes your body biochemically and places you smack into your Heal good/Feel good place.
* Meditation Can Decrease Stress
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), “Practicing meditation has been shown to induce some changes in the body by reducing activity in the sympathetic nervous system (fight/flight response) and increasing activity in the parasympathetic nervous system ( relaxation response)”. Meditation affects the relationship between these parts of the brain: amygdala (stress) and the prefrontal cortex (relaxation). The amygdala responds automatically to a situation, and the prefrontal cortex makes us stop and think about that action. Meditation changes the relationship by stimulating the prefrontal cortex and suppressing activity in the amygdala.
* How to start Meditating
Sitting comfortably in a chair or on a cushion on the floor and counting your breaths for 3 min is how I began to meditate (after 12 years I can do 10-20 min woohoo!) Setting an intention/mantra keeps the mind focused. Examples are: I am calm, I am at peace, I am connecting with Joy, and I love and accept myself. Inhale for 4 counts and exhale for 4 counts or more allows our mind to focus on breathing instead of thinking. If thoughts pop up then just finish the thought and let it float away like a cloud and return to counting the breaths and your intention. It’s normal for the brain to wander off and think while meditating so don’t worry that you’re not doing it correctly. Simply trying to meditate has tremendous benefits. Allow the thoughts to come. Some of my best ideas have appeared during meditation. Counting each breath is really helpful. Maybe just starting with a goal of 10 breaths then working your way up. A great phone app you will love is Headspace. Enjoy the results ☺ Please share this blog post with anyone you know who is experiencing pain or stress.
With Love and Health, and to book an appointment click here.
PS Stay tuned for my upcoming book, “Healthy Evolving Woman”.