Nicole Benjamin de Perez, M.S.
With the hectic pace and demands of modern life, many people feel stressed and overworked. Our stress and tiredness make us unhappy, impatient and frustrated. It can even affect our health.
Do any of these symptoms of stress pertain to you?
- Regularly walking, eating or working in a rushed way.
- Regularly thinking and worrying about the past or future.
- Frequent tension in the body (especially neck, shoulders, back and stomach).
- Feeling the weight of the world on your shoulders.
- Emotionally on edge.
- Regular tiredness during the day.
- Significant need for outside stimulation to feel good (e.g., coffee, sugar, sex, TV, etc.).
Taking steps to relax body and mind (in addition to getting adequate sleep) can be enormously healing and is highly recommended for those interested in healing acute or serious chronic illnesses or preventing future illnesses.
Whenever we encounter a stressful event, our bodies undergo a series of hormonal and biochemical changes that put us in ‘alarm mode’. Our heart rate increases, adrenaline rushes through our blood stream and our digestive and immune systems temporarily shut down. If the stressors continue and we stay on high alert for a prolonged period of time, we experience exhaustion and burn out. None of us can avoid stress but we can return to a state of balance and regulation through a variety of means including meditation.
When practicing meditation, your heart rate and breathing slow down, your blood pressure normalizes, you use oxygen more efficiently and you sweat less. You produce more positive hormones, your body ages at a slower rate and your immune function improves.
When you meditate you bring together all the mind’s energies and focus them on a word, a sound, a symbol, a comforting image, or your own breathing. The optimal setting for meditation is a quiet, clean place. People typically meditate sitting on the floor or in a chair with their eyes closed.
Meditation involves both effort and passive participation. It takes effort to bring your attention back to your chosen focus but you also become simply a witness to everything that happens: random thoughts, sensory input, body sensations such as itches and cramps and external stimuli. As a result, you incorporate them into the meditation experience. All meditation practices involve the development of mindfulness – being fully engaged in whatever is happening in the present moment, without analyzing or otherwise over thinking the experience.
Meditation is wonderful because it is free; it’s always available and is amazingly effective in short-term stress reduction and long-term health. Benefits can be felt in just one session. Meditation has no potential side effects. People with physical limitations may find it easier to practice than strenuous physical exercise for stress relief and no special equipment is needed. However, it does take discipline, commitment and motivation.