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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

 

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Let’s Talk Herb(s)!

Stress Management: Tool #2 – Herbal Aids

Before delving into the discussion and research concerning herbal aids for stress management, it is necessary to issue a word of caution: It is very important for you to check with your doctor and/or pharmacist to ensure there are no interactions between any herbs you are considering taking and any medical conditions you have and/or medications you take.  THIS BLOG POST IS INTENDED TO RELAY RESEARCH RESULTS AND IS NOT AN ATTEMPT TO GIVE MEDICAL ADVICE.

Research has found that herbal aids, when used responsibly, often help people manage stress and the symptoms of stress.  Recently, a study conducted in Europe using self-reported ratings on the PSS-10 scale (Perceived Stress Scale-10) concluded that “the short-term use of herbal remedies seems … effective in reducing perceived stress” (Gasparini, et al., 2016, p. 465).  The study revealed approximately a 50% decrease in perceived stress after consuming certain herbal aids, including hops, valerian and melissa.

Depression.  Studies show a correlation between stress and depression (Clinton and Langberg 2011); therefore, considering herbal aids used to relieve depression may serve to aid in stress reduction.  Depression is often a response to, or effect of, both acute and prolonged stress.  A 2008 Harvard study reported that persons suffering with mild depression found the use of various herbal supplements to be beneficial in helping to relieve their depression (Herbal and Dietary Supplements for Depression, 2008).  The findings of the study include benefit from folic acid, which helps the brain to produce serotonin, which can improve mood, and in many patients, stimulated their response to their prescribed antidepressant medication.  The study reported that similar benefits were produced through supplementation with SAMe (S-adenosyl-L-methionine). As with folic acid, SAMe is reported to help the brain produce neurotransmitters such as dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine, and can bring the brain’s levels of these neurotransmitters to a normal level in patients with a deficiency thereof (Herbal and Dietary Supplements for Depression, 2008).  This report stated that “eight studies compared SAMe to a tricyclic antidepressant; six concluded that SAMe was equivalent to the drug (p. 4).”  Herbal and Dietary Supplements for Depression (2008) reported that St. John’s Wort and Omega-3 fatty acids also have been found beneficial in helping to minimize depression in patients.

Anxiety.  Similarly, Lakhan and Vieria (2010) state that in other research passionflower, kava, St. John’s wort, lysine and magnesium have been effective in the treatment of anxiety.  Clinton, et al. (2005) add that melatonin may be useful in aiding sleep, which may help break the cycle of sleeplessness leading to stress, and stress leading to sleeplessness.

Clearly, many studies have shown that, when used responsibly, herbal aids can often help diminish and control the perception and effects of stress.

Need more information on managing stress?  Contact Angela at AngelaGlickLifeCoach.com for one-on-one and group coaching for stress management.

References

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.

Clinton, T., & Langberg, D. (2011). The quick-reference guide to counseling women: 40 topics, spiritual insights and easy-to-use action steps. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

Gasparini, M., Aurilia, C., Lubian, D., & Testa, M. (2016). Herbal remedies and the self-treatment of stress: An Italian survey. European Journal of Integrative Medicine, 8(4), 465-470.

Herbal and Dietary Supplements for Depression. (2008). Harvard Mental Health Letter, 25(4), 4-5.

Lakhan, S. E., & Vieira, K. F. (2010). Nutritional and herbal supplements for anxiety and anxiety-related disorders: systematic review. Nutrition Journal, 942-55. doi:10.1186/1475-2891-9-42McNealus, K. (2018, February).  Let’s talk about stress. Exceptional Parent Magazine, 16-19. Retrieved from https://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/A530360703/HWRC?u=vic_liberty&sid=HWRC&xid=a6bef996