The Benefits of Meditation for Stress

Meditation is often used as a way to relax and when we are relaxed that means we aren’t stressed. And that feels good. Meditation can be used to calm you down in a heated moment by reversing your body’s stress response and relax your physical body, as a daily routine it helps build resilience to stress, and it can get you back to balance if thrown off by emotional stress. 

As a result of our modern lifestyles, most people carry quite a burden of physical, mental and emotional tensions that have built up over so many years and become so familiar that it’s no longer even noticed or is considered normal. When the body and mind are in this habitual state of restlessness, our natural state of ease appears to be veiled, which is why all of our meditations at Rest & Be include a deep relaxation of the body-mind. The restoration of body and mind to their natural state of relaxation during True Rest makes way for the insight, clarity, understanding, and peace of meditation.  

Here’s what your body goes through when stressed or anxious, ‘when our bodies are exposed to a sudden stress or threat, we respond with a characteristic "fight or flight" response. The ''adrenaline rush'' we experience is a result of the release of the hormones epinephrine (adrenaline) and norepinephrine. They cause an increase in blood pressure and pulse rate, faster breathing, and increased blood flow to the muscles.’[1] In dangerous situations our ‘fight, flight or even freeze’ response can be helpful and is intended to save us. However, when our bodies are in a habitual state of stress or anxiety, it is damaging to our whole being. 

Deep relaxation for the body and mind

Meditation for stress, even with using various techniques or types of meditation (such as mindfulness, following the breath, sound, focusing your vision on an object or saying a mantra), is ‘designed to elicit the opposite bodily reaction from the "fight or flight" response -- a state of deep relaxation in which our breathing, pulse rate, blood pressure, and metabolism are decreased.’ [2]

Research has shown that those who practice meditation regularly begin to experience changes in their response to stress that allow them to recover from stressful situations more easily and experience less stress from the challenges they face in their everyday lives.[3]

I practice meditation daily and some days at least twice basically, because I like the benefits. ‘Training our bodies on a daily basis to achieve this state of relaxation can lead to enhanced mood, lower blood pressure, improved digestion, and a reduction of everyday stress.’[4]

Meditation for stress relief can be combined with a spiritual practice but is equally beneficially to your mind and body as a relaxation technique. I find a sitting meditation of 5-10 minutes in the morning the best way to start the day and again at night before going to sleep, so lying down is a great option. When I have longer periods of time or feel the need, I meditate longer. 

I have found that my regular practice also keeps my thoughts from running wild with me. When the frantic, negative or overwhelming thoughts start to come in, I become aware of them quicker. Once I’m aware of them, I can chose not to grasp on and follow them on their crazy ride as one thought morphs into another and in the next moment I’m stressing about something that isn’t even happening in that time. I am certain that my days go smoother and my overall outlook of life is gentler because of my meditation practice. 

With gratitude, Theresa

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