As beautiful and joyous as life can be, it can also be plain ol’ stressful. Whether it’s hefty mortgage payments, killer commutes, or bosses who don’t give us the credit we deserve, stress can come at us from all different angles.
Surveys have uncovered some pretty disturbing statistics about stress. 33% of people feel they live with extreme stress, while 48% believe the stress in their lives has increased over the past five years. And a whopping 77% of people surveyed said they experience physical symptoms caused by stress.
What are some of these physical symptoms linked to chronic stress?
• Pain of any kind
• Sleep problems
• Autoimmune diseases
• Digestive problems
• Skin conditions, such as eczema
• Heart disease
• Weight problems
• Reproductive issues
• Thinking and memory issues
How Meditation Can Help
There is now scientific evidence that meditation is effective against physical symptoms of stress such as IBS, high blood pressure, and ulcerative colitis. Meditation has been linked with improved immune response, reduction in pain sensitivity, and a shift from negativity to positivity.
Further, research has shown that meditation may physically alter the brain and how we are able to cope with chronic stress.
But what exactly is meditation? When many people hear that word, they have instant visions of people sitting in lotus position chanting, “Ohmmm.”
Mindful meditation is simply the practice of harnessing our attention to quiet our chattering minds. Instead of letting our brains run rampant like energetic puppies, sniffing one thought after another and another and another, mindfulness focuses our attention in the now.
The problem is because mediation is so deceptively simple, many people either feel it can’t possibly work in general, or they won’t benefit from it. And because we live in a society that seems to promote instant gratification, other people expect that after their first 20 minutes of meditating, all of their problems will magically dissolve.
But meditation is called a “practice” for a reason. Like anything else that is beneficial to your mind and body (sound nutrition and exercise), it takes commitment to reap those benefits.
Tips for Beginner Meditators
If you are interested in trying meditation for yourself, here are a few key tips:
• Get comfortable – you don’t have to sit in the lotus pose. You can sit in a comfy chair or even lie down. The trick is to be comfortable enough that your body sensations don’t distract you, but not so comfortable that you fall asleep.
• Don’t try and control your breath, just breathe naturally, simply staying aware of your breath.
• Start with just a few minutes and build from there.
• Don’t try to be perfect. There is no perfection in life or meditation, so just keep practicing every day.
If you find after you’ve been meditating for a little while that you could use some extra help dealing with the stress in your life, get in touch with me. I’d be happy to explore treatment options with you and talk about how I may be able to help.
Harini Sukumaran is a Qualified Mental Health Professional and certified Ayurvedic Practitioner who is passionate about helping children to become less stressed by giving them and their parents tools, support and encouragement. Her passion also includes helping Women suffering from trauma, depression, anxiety and Pregnancy/Postpartum mood disorders. She received her Master’s of Science in Counseling Psychology and Master’s in Marriage, Couple’s and Family Counseling with special concentration in Children (Play Therapy), Women and Families.