Meditation Practice Calms Stress and Anxiety
I don’t think anyone would argue that we live in an anxiety-ridden world. Within the better part of two decades, the pace of technology, climate change, the news cycle and proliferation of entertainment has accelerated. The result is that unless you live in a cave somewhere, your nervous system is over-stimulated. In fact, it would be amazing if we took it all in stride. Getting a meditation practice is the most efficient way to counterbalance all the craziness, inside and out.
You Can Make the Adjustment
I’ve written a lot about the nervous system on this blog over the years. My intention was to educate the reader about the basics because I find comfort in maps: once I know where I am, I can plot my course to where I want to go.
The reason I’ve been writing about the nervous system so much is because I know stress is the underlying cause of chronic diseases.
How can we turn things around so stress is kept at bay? By understanding the basics of “fight or flight,” aka the sympathetic response, versus “rest and digest,” aka the parasympathetic response. Generally speaking, acupuncture gives the parasympathetic supremacy. This is one of the reasons peole who love acupuncture treatment come back again and again. If you’re local and have never experienced acupuncture, try our special package, dedicated to reducing stress.
You can do it on your own with a meditation practice, too. Meditation changes the brain: just look at the research.
How to Influence Your Nervous System
Everyone has their way of coping with stress and anxiety. On my intake form, the three most common answers people give are 1) they talk it out 2) they exercise 3) they read or watch tv.
My best way to manage stress is to search for the breath, then drill down into it, which empties my mind of thought and dominant emotion. I find coming back into the present moment reminds me I’ve been in this mood many times and it hasn’t crushed me, I’m still here. Once I am grounded my perceptions are much more balanced, which is ultimately a better state of mind to make decisions to act upon.
Meditation and rhythmic forms of movement are my go-to’s that never fail. That’s saying a lot! I continue to try many forms of movement but always come back to qigong, yoga, walking/jogging, and swimming.
Meditation for 20 minutes a day allows my mind a respite and “jump tracks” from the constant swirl of thought to a lovely oasis where breathing in and out are all I need to do for 20 minutes. Not every day is great, but I think of each day as a brush stroke on a landscape painting, building a masterpiece a little bit at a time. And meditation practice gives a benchmark for mood and level of stress.
How to Get Started
I left NYC just as the mindfulness movement was gaining momentum and meditation centers were springing up around the city. Whether you live in a big city or not, you can find a meditation group locally on Meetup, try a variety on YouTube, or download an app for your phone such as Calm or Headspace.
Another great way to start is to find online support. For awhile I got a tremendous boost from Kelly Morris’s The Infinity Call. Each session follows a consistent pattern yet each day is different. Not only does Kelly guide you through the meditation, she gives a talk after the session outlining the many facets of the practice.
Two of the most common complaints I hear from patients are that their thinking is foggy and they have difficulty concentrating. Yes, acupuncture and herbs help but having a practice is about finding, maintaining and strenghtening your sense of self-agency.
The short break in the action you take during meditation practice is something you do on your own, for yourself. You can’t shortcut the process and with some discipline you’ll have the added benefit of experiencing self-agency.
Choosing to do one thing for yourself that calms your mind spills into every other area of your life because you are not waiting for something to act upon you but instead are initiating an action that is an intended choice. And the research cited, above, shows that in 8 weeks your brain will be altered for the good.
Find what works for you through experimentation. My advice is to settle on one method or technique for a month and see where it takes you.
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