Image

Stress Management Tool #3 – Meditation

Stop rolling your eyes!  Any healthy conversation about holistic stress management has to turn to meditation sooner or later – and you can do it!  Come on, then, and let’s talk a little about meditation, and hopefully demystify it and make it more accessible…

What Exactly is Meditation?  Chrisman and Blackwell (2018) define meditation as “a practice of concentrated focus upon a sound, object, visualization, the breath, movement, or attention itself in order to increase awareness of the present moment, reduce stress, promote relaxation, and enhance personal and spiritual growth” (p. 2256).  The recommended focus varies among cultures and religions; however, Clinton, et al. (2005) teach that Christian meditation includes meditating on God’s Word and on Christ.

Benefits of Meditation.  The National Institutes of Health (2016) reports a finding that scientific evidence supports that meditation reduces the symptoms of stress, to include depression and anxiety.  In fact, one study found that meditation is among the top-recommended methods of coping with a wide range of stress-related maladies, both physical and emotional (Chrisman & Blackwell, 2018).  Bergland (2013) writes that “any type of meditation will reduce anxiety” and lower the levels of cortisol, the body’s primary stress hormone; Bergland goes on to recommend taking several deep, slow breaths at the first signs of stress.

Methods of Meditation.  Meditation can seem a bit “mystical” and “mysterious” to those who have not practiced it, but it is a valid stress intervention that is readily available to everyone, and it’s more down-to-earth than you may think (i.e., it doesn’t have to be all “woo-woo” – a technical term).  In fact, Christians may be surprised to learn that meditation is a practice supported by Scripture (see Joshua 1:8, Psalm 1:2, Psalm 104:34).

Bergland (2013) offers this encouragement:

“You can meditate anytime and any place. There don’t have to be strict boundaries to when and how you do it. Mindfulness and meditation is a powerful de-stressor and cortisol reducer that is always in your toolbox and at your fingertips. You can squeeze in a few minutes of meditation on the subway, in a waiting room, on a coffee break . . .”

Bergland goes on to write that setting aside as little as ten minutes for meditation can calm the mind and body.

So now that you know what meditation is and how beneficial it can be, you may be wondering how to do it yourself.  Need specific tips to start your own meditation practice to help relieve stress in your life?  Contact me and I’ll be delighted to help you develop your own meditation practice!

 References

Bergland, C. (2013). Cortisol: Why the “stress hormone” is public enemy no. 1: 5 simple ways to lower your cortisol levels without drugs. Psychology Today. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-athletes-way/201301/cortisol-why-the-stress-hormone-is-public-enemy-no-1

Chrisman, L., & Blackwell, A. H. (2018). Meditation. In J. L. Longe (Ed.), The Gale Encyclopedia of Nursing and Allied Health (4th ed., Vol. 4, pp. 2256-2260). Farmington Hills, MI: Gale. Retrieved from https://link-galegroup-com.ezproxy.liberty.edu/apps/doc/CX3662600722/HWRC?u=vic_liberty&sid=HWRC&xid=23ec990f

Clinton, T., Hart, A. and Ohlschlager, G. (2005). Caring for people God’s way: Personal and emotional issues, addictions, grief and trauma.  Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc.

National Institutes of Health. (2016, January). Mind and body approaches for stress: What the science says. NCCIH Clinical Digest for health professionals. Retrieved June 23, 2018, from https://nccih.nih.gov/health/providers/digest/mind-body-stress-science

 

Image

Fear demands courage. Courage requires fear.

Fear demands courage.  Courage requires fear.

They can’t live without each other.  If you’ve ever been afraid and you’re still here, it’s because of courage.  Courage to pray. Courage to put one foot in front of the other. Courage to stand strong, courage to get back on your feet when you fall.

And we wouldn’t need courage if there was no fear. 

Fear is a training ground for courage.  How would we know how strong we truly are, or understand our potential, or begin to grasp God’s greatness if we never experienced fear?

I don’t think it’s fair to tell a person not to be afraid.  Yes, the Bible instructs us not to fear, and purportedly it does so 365 times.  I’ve heard it, and I believe it.  But I don’t think it means to deny our fear.  Denial of our emotions is the beginning of disaster. Denial of our emotions can, and almost certainly will, over time, cause or contribute to potentially severe health issues (high blood pressure, heart attacks, severe and ongoing headaches, diabetes, autoimmune issues and so much more).  Denial of our emotions can, and often does, take a severe and sometimes irreversible toll on our mental health (nervous breakdowns, depression, anxiety, and even suicide).  And then there’s our spiritual life.  Denying our emotions can dramatically strain our relationship with God, our sense of purpose, and the wellness in our soul that comes from being able to live in a place of hope.  Finally, our relational life takes a beating when we deny our emotions (divorce, infidelity, alienation of family and friends and on and on).

Some folks label emotions as “good” and “bad.”  I’ve done it myself, in the interest of brevity and simplicity.  But I think it’s tricky and dangerous to call fear a “bad” emotion.  It’s perfectly valid.  It must be, because it is God-given.  It serves a healthy purpose, to warn us off from taking harmful actions or engaging in detrimental behaviors.  What I think the Scriptures are saying is not to never experience fear, but rather not to unpack and camp out in a place of fear; not to let it take over our emotional, physical, spiritual and relational wellbeing; not to let it drive or control our hearts, minds or actions.

Feel the fear.  Confess the fear.  Pray about the fear.  Find a trusted confidant and talk about/cry about/rail against/scream about the fear.  But let it be like an afternoon thundershower.  When it’s over, see the light of hope.  Feel the freshness of grace on your skin.  Sense the renewal on the horizon.  And then look closer.  Look inside.  Look for him.  Can you see him?  There he is, reaching out to you.  Take his hand.  Let Jesus help you up, and even lean on him.  It’s one of the reasons he’s here.  Allow him to introduce you to the Victor in you (1 Cor. 6:19).  Allow the fear, accept the help, and dig deep for the courage that is in you.  Lift your chin a little higher and march on, wiser and stronger for your inevitable encounter with fear.

Image

Monday Moment at the Well

A few thoughts for you to unwrap and spend some time with today:

Before you were born, before the birth of Jesus, before God created the Earth, before time as we understand it, He has been there.  Look back.  All the trials – the ones you’re amazed you survived … well, you did.  Look back at all those perfect moments in the arms of a loved one, at the beautiful sunsets … He gave you those moments, those sunsets.

God was, and is, always there.  You are never alone.  And there has never been a moment in your life when you were not extravagantly loved.

Merry Christmas from The Well.