What is stress?

Our current lifestyle exposes us all to high levels of stress. We hear more and more about burn-outs, depression, and insomnia. Juggling personal and professional life can be a big challenge. A stressful job with many meetings and responsibilities, a family to manage, sports or other activities: How to be on all fronts? Moreover, we are constantly connected: emails, phone, social media, streaming news channels. All these networks are constantly sending us information. In this context, how to aleviate stress, find time to relax, and enjoy the present moment?

Yogilab has the answer, and it can be summed up in one word: meditation.

The body is programmed to react in two ways when faced with a stressful situation: fight or flight. This archaic response is explained by our prehistoric past and the hostile environment in which we have evolved for thousands of years. Our autonomic nervous system allows hormones to trigger a short-term response. This is independent of any voluntary control. Adrenaline plays a large role in acute stress. It helps to:

  • Reduce blood sugar levels to use up energy
  • Send blood to the muscles to be ready to run or fight
  • Maintain an attitude of hyper vigilance to the slightest stimuli

Thanks to this discharge of adrenaline, the body is able to increase its mental and physical strength tenfold. Nevertheless, this is a very costly state of operation in terms of energy, which is exhausting in the long run.

When the stressful situation persists or recurs frequently, the activation of adrenaline is gradually replaced by cortisol. This hormone, also produced by the adrenal gland, degrades the proteins contained in the muscles to produce the energy needed by the body. This degradation results in:

  • An increase in blood sugar levels, but also in triglycerides and cholesterol
  • A decrease in the efficiency of the immune system

The more stressful the situation, the more cortisol production worsens the state of anxiety and depression and can even impair memory and learning abilities. This stage is described as the “exhaustion phase” when the body is overwhelmed and reactions are no longer adapted to the demands of the environment.

pexels-elina-krima-3570362 (1)

What is stress?

Our current lifestyle exposes us all to high levels of stress. We hear more and more about burn-outs, depression, and insomnia. Juggling personal and professional life can be a big challenge. A stressful job with many meetings and responsibilities, a family to manage, sports or other activities: How to be on all fronts? Moreover, we are constantly connected: emails, phone, social media, streaming news channels. All these networks are constantly sending us information. In this context, how to aleviate stress, find time to relax, and enjoy the present moment?

Yogilab has the answer, and it can be summed up in one word: meditation.

The body is programmed to react in two ways when faced with a stressful situation: fight or flight. This archaic response is explained by our prehistoric past and the hostile environment in which we have evolved for thousands of years. Our autonomic nervous system allows hormones to trigger a short-term response. This is independent of any voluntary control. Adrenaline plays a large role in acute stress. It helps to:

  • Reduce blood sugar levels to use up energy
  • Send blood to the muscles to be ready to run or fight
  • Maintain an attitude of hyper vigilance to the slightest stimuli

Thanks to this discharge of adrenaline, the body is able to increase its mental and physical strength tenfold. Nevertheless, this is a very costly state of operation in terms of energy, which is exhausting in the long run.

When the stressful situation persists or recurs frequently, the activation of adrenaline is gradually replaced by cortisol. This hormone, also produced by the adrenal gland, degrades the proteins contained in the muscles to produce the energy needed by the body. This degradation results in:

  • An increase in blood sugar levels, but also in triglycerides and cholesterol
  • A decrease in the efficiency of the immune system

The more stressful the situation, the more cortisol production worsens the state of anxiety and depression and can even impair memory and learning abilities. This stage is described as the “exhaustion phase” when the body is overwhelmed and reactions are no longer adapted to the demands of the environment.

pexels-elina-krima-3570362 (1)

What are the long-term consequences of stress?

When stress persists and no measures have been taken to reduce it on a daily basis, it can lead to real health problems, depending on the predisposition and history of each individual. Even if stress cannot exclusively explain the onset of an illness, it definitely contributes to:

  • Certain digestive diseases such as colopathy, gastritis or peptic ulcers
  • Certain cardiovascular disorders such as palpitations, high blood pressure, angina pectoris or even myocardial infarction
  • Certain dermatological diseases such as eczema, psoriasis, hair loss, or itching
  • Certain recurring infections such as herpes
  • Certain gynecological disorders such as delayed or absent periods

Even if its role in the occurrence of certain cancers is not always proven, it can contribute to them, as for certain autoimmune diseases such as fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, and others.

Knowing this, you might be asking yourself: How does meditation help with stress?

What are the long-term consequences of stress?

When stress persists and no measures have been taken to reduce it on a daily basis, it can lead to real health problems, depending on the predisposition and history of each individual. Even if stress cannot exclusively explain the onset of an illness, it definitely contributes to:

  • Certain digestive diseases such as colopathy, gastritis or peptic ulcers
  • Certain cardiovascular disorders such as palpitations, high blood pressure, angina pectoris or even myocardial infarction
  • Certain dermatological diseases such as eczema, psoriasis, hair loss, or itching
  • Certain recurring infections such as herpes
  • Certain gynecological disorders such as delayed or absent periods

Even if its role in the occurrence of certain cancers is not always proven, it can contribute to them, as for certain autoimmune diseases such as fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, and others.

Knowing this, you might be asking yourself: How does meditation help with stress?

6-020 (1)-min

Meditation for stress: a natural remedy

References to meditation for stress can be found in the oldest written historical sources, and the existence of meditation probably goes back even further. This gives us an idea of how long people have been seeking inner peace and relaxation.

Originally meditation was a spiritual practice, but over time it has evolved into a stress relief technique used throughout the world. And how does meditation reduce stress? Well, the main purpose of meditation is to calm your reactions and gain a deeper awareness of what is happening in the moment. Thus, it is the opposite of the typical state of mind of a person suffering from chronic anxiety. Very often the mind of such a person is overly active and filled with worries about the past or future.

A meta-analysis of 45 studies published in 2017 in the Journal of Psychiatric Research showed that the different forms of meditations for stress relief studied reduced markers of stress:

  • Cortisol
  • CRP or C-reactive protein
  • Blood pressure
  • Heart rate
  • Triglyceride levels
  • TNF-alpha (a pro-inflammatory factor)

The effect of meditations to relieve stress is now tangible. By calming your thoughts and focusing your attention on the present moment, you will get rid of unnecessary tension. This is how meditation reduces stress.

Meditation for stress: a natural remedy

References to meditation for stress can be found in the oldest written historical sources, and the existence of meditation probably goes back even further. This gives us an idea of how long people have been seeking inner peace and relaxation.

Originally meditation was a spiritual practice, but over time it has evolved into a stress relief technique used throughout the world. And how does meditation reduce stress? Well, the main purpose of meditation is to calm your reactions and gain a deeper awareness of what is happening in the moment. Thus, it is the opposite of the typical state of mind of a person suffering from chronic anxiety. Very often the mind of such a person is overly active and filled with worries about the past or future.

A meta-analysis of 45 studies published in 2017 in the Journal of Psychiatric Research showed that the different forms of meditations for stress relief studied reduced markers of stress:

  • Cortisol
  • CRP or C-reactive protein
  • Blood pressure
  • Heart rate
  • Triglyceride levels
  • TNF-alpha (a pro-inflammatory factor)

The effect of meditations to relieve stress is now tangible. By calming your thoughts and focusing your attention on the present moment, you will get rid of unnecessary tension. This is how meditation reduces stress.

Is there a link between meditation and our gut health?

Who has seen his or her metabolism accelerate or slow down when under stress? This is proof that the brain and the intestine exchange information!

The existence of the gut-brain axis would imply that meditation, which helps reduce feelings of anxiety and stress, could influence our gut microbiota. A study published on elderly subjects with mild cognitive decline tends to confirm this hypothesis. The individuals followed a mindfulness program for up to 9 months. The results showed that the practice of mindfulness improved their cognitive functions and that it was also associated with a change in their microbiota.

Meditation would have many virtues and would act globally on the body. It would regulate not only stress markers such as cortisol but also the composition of the intestinal microbiota!

Meditation is a brake for a running mind

Your nervous system consists of a gas pedal (sympathetic nervous system) and a brake (parasympathetic nervous system). When you worry too much, your body acts as if you’re constantly pressing down on the gas pedal. This causes many unpleasant symptoms.

One of the elements common to stress, depression, and anxiety is mental rumination, the tendency to dwell on past events and to over-anticipate future situations. Our thoughts become repetitive, they feed themselves and plunge us into chronic negativity. It then becomes difficult to get out of it and anxiety settles in, or rather, we settle into anxiety.

Relaxation techniques such as progressive muscle relaxation, belly breathing, guided visualization, and meditation activate your body’s natural brake, slowing the nervous system and counteracting the effects of chronic stress.

Meditation allows us to leave these vicious circles of rumination and to get out of the trap of intellectualization, which only leads us back into depreciative judgment. Based on the experience of the present moment, on the observation of oneself, of one’s immediate environment, and on the feeling of the body, the meditative practice is calming precisely because it allows us to refocus on things of great simplicity. Moreover, the mind is perceived like clouds that pass by: they can be dark as hell, but they eventually move away and the sun comes out.

Meditation does not change the pain but our relationship with the pain

The relationship with suffering is at the heart of Buddhist spirituality and meditation is a privileged way to access a peaceful relationship with the world. Experienced meditators were tested to see if their perception of pain was modified by their practice. To do this, the researchers used a device that intermittently provokes a brief pain while a scanner records the activation of brain areas.

What did the researchers observe? The meditators felt the pain with the same intensity as the novices. What differs is the absence of anticipation of the painful stimulus, which is a source of anxiety and stress for the others. It was as if meditation allowed them to objectify the painful sensation and thus avoid interpreting or rejecting it. Another interesting observation is that meditators become accustomed to pain more quickly. In other words, meditation does not change the pain, but our relationship with the pain.

Meditation leads to a 40% reduction in the risk of relapse after severe depression

This result opens promising clinical perspectives in the treatment of chronic pain, but also in the treatment of depression. Meditation allows depressed patients to detach themselves from the negative thoughts and internal rumination that characterize this state.

A Canadian team has shown that six months of mindfulness meditation (associated with cognitive therapy) after an episode of severe depression has reduced the risk of relapse by 40% in depressed patients.

Other studies have looked at the practice of compassion, the most advanced form of Buddhist meditation. They have shown that there are strong oscillations in the electrical activity of the brain in a certain frequency band, a sign of significant synchronization of neuronal activity between different areas of the brain. This phenomenon, which has not yet revealed all its secrets, could explain the expansion of the field of consciousness in experienced meditators.

Is there a link between meditation and our gut health?

Who has seen his or her metabolism accelerate or slow down when under stress? This is proof that the brain and the intestine exchange information!

The existence of the gut-brain axis would imply that meditation, which helps reduce feelings of anxiety and stress, could influence our gut microbiota. A study published on elderly subjects with mild cognitive decline tends to confirm this hypothesis. The individuals followed a mindfulness program for up to 9 months. The results showed that the practice of mindfulness improved their cognitive functions and that it was also associated with a change in their microbiota.

Meditation would have many virtues and would act globally on the body. It would regulate not only stress markers such as cortisol but also the composition of the intestinal microbiota!

Meditation is a brake for a running mind

Your nervous system consists of a gas pedal (sympathetic nervous system) and a brake (parasympathetic nervous system). When you worry too much, your body acts as if you’re constantly pressing down on the gas pedal. This causes many unpleasant symptoms.

One of the elements common to stress, depression, and anxiety is mental rumination, the tendency to dwell on past events and to over-anticipate future situations. Our thoughts become repetitive, they feed themselves and plunge us into chronic negativity. It then becomes difficult to get out of it and anxiety settles in, or rather, we settle into anxiety.

Relaxation techniques such as progressive muscle relaxation, belly breathing, guided visualization, and meditation activate your body’s natural brake, slowing the nervous system and counteracting the effects of chronic stress.

Meditation allows us to leave these vicious circles of rumination and to get out of the trap of intellectualization, which only leads us back into depreciative judgment. Based on the experience of the present moment, on the observation of oneself, of one’s immediate environment, and on the feeling of the body, the meditative practice is calming precisely because it allows us to refocus on things of great simplicity. Moreover, the mind is perceived like clouds that pass by: they can be dark as hell, but they eventually move away and the sun comes out.

Meditation does not change the pain but our relationship with the pain

The relationship with suffering is at the heart of Buddhist spirituality and meditation is a privileged way to access a peaceful relationship with the world. Experienced meditators were tested to see if their perception of pain was modified by their practice. To do this, the researchers used a device that intermittently provokes a brief pain while a scanner records the activation of brain areas.

What did the researchers observe? The meditators felt the pain with the same intensity as the novices. What differs is the absence of anticipation of the painful stimulus, which is a source of anxiety and stress for the others. It was as if meditation allowed them to objectify the painful sensation and thus avoid interpreting or rejecting it. Another interesting observation is that meditators become accustomed to pain more quickly. In other words, meditation does not change the pain, but our relationship with the pain.

Meditation leads to a 40% reduction in the risk of relapse after severe depression

This result opens promising clinical perspectives in the treatment of chronic pain, but also in the treatment of depression. Meditation allows depressed patients to detach themselves from the negative thoughts and internal rumination that characterize this state.

A Canadian team has shown that six months of mindfulness meditation (associated with cognitive therapy) after an episode of severe depression has reduced the risk of relapse by 40% in depressed patients.

Other studies have looked at the practice of compassion, the most advanced form of Buddhist meditation. They have shown that there are strong oscillations in the electrical activity of the brain in a certain frequency band, a sign of significant synchronization of neuronal activity between different areas of the brain. This phenomenon, which has not yet revealed all its secrets, could explain the expansion of the field of consciousness in experienced meditators.

Change the way you think

It is not really our duties and obligations that are stressful, but the way we think about them. When we begin to perceive our life as a threat, our body reacts as it would to a real external danger. The problem is that our bodies and our physiological reactions evolve more slowly than the development of civilization. Our body reacts to, for example, a too high electricity bill in the same way as our ancestor’s body reacted to, for example, the sight of an enraged saber-toothed tiger. The only thing is that the tiger could kill, while the electricity bill cannot. What kills us is the way we think about that bill.

No one can avoid the stresses of the modern world, but we can learn to neutralize them and not let them destroy us. Meditation has a beneficial effect because it clears the consciousness of all distractions and allows us to understand what’s really the issue there. It teaches you to distance yourself from everyday issues and troubles and to activate those parts of the brain that are responsible for the subconscious.

This leads to relaxation and mental rest, allowing you to look at your life from a different perspective. It also allows you to get rid of the feeling of being surrounded and overwhelmed, as every person is internally free to interpret reality as he or she pleases.

November Vipassana Day 11 Photos-42 (1)-min

The Right Rhythm

The practice of meditation is simple, but it is also very demanding. How difficult it is to sit still when so many responsibilities are calling us! There is only one solution to this mental dilemma: consistency.

For stress meditation to be an effective therapy, it must be practiced regularly. It’s like going to the gym to train a specific muscle: the mind. Like for other parts of your body, you’ll only start seeing results after showing up consistently and not giving up in the middle of the workout.

Only a regular practice of meditation neutralizes fatigue, reduces insomnia and tension, counteracts depression, and eliminates the negative effects of stress. Meditation can be practiced by everyone, without the professional supervision of a therapist.

The Right Environment

And precisely, to become regular and not to abandon your meditation routine, nothing is better than a small dedicated corner at home to practice.

Be creative in creating a suitable environment: candles, incense, a portrait of a spiritual master, a picture of a serene landscape, etc. This will be your time and space to find your inner “home” for stress meditations and more.

Give yourself support that is adapted to your abilities: a small bench, a zafu, a thick rolled-up blanket, or a good chair!

But the most important thing during meditation is to be in a calm environment. Meditate in silence, with calming background music, or with a guided meditation for stress. Remember to silence your phone and to inform your household members that you will not be available for the scheduled time. Nothing disturbs meditation so much as the thought that your phone might ring or someone might enter the room.

The Right Positions

For most types of meditation, the position in which you meditate is not important. You definitely have to meditate in a position where you won’t fall asleep, so we avoid meditating lying down, although you can also meditate in this position. Most people meditate in a sitting position.

The most popular meditation positions are:

  • Cross-legged sit
  • Lotus position
  • Half-lotus or quarter-lotus position
  • Burmese position
  • Japanese sitting

If you have back problems use a chair with a backrest. Otherwise, choose any other position that is convenient for you.

The Right Mindset

During meditation, maintain a passive posture. The less you forcefully try to relax, the better you will succeed in truly relaxing.

Your task at the beginning of your meditation journey is to make meditation a habit – this is more important even than meditation itself. It takes about 3-4 weeks to develop the habit. So tell yourself – whatever is going on, for the next month, every day, I’m going to spend a few minutes meditating.

Also start to be interested in meditation books or conferences on the subject, and dare to talk about it around you. You will be surprised to see how many people are already interested in it.

Change the way you think

It is not really our duties and obligations that are stressful, but the way we think about them. When we begin to perceive our life as a threat, our body reacts as it would to a real external danger. The problem is that our bodies and our physiological reactions evolve more slowly than the development of civilization. Our body reacts to, for example, a too high electricity bill in the same way as our ancestor’s body reacted to, for example, the sight of an enraged saber-toothed tiger. The only thing is that the tiger could kill, while the electricity bill cannot. What kills us is the way we think about that bill.

No one can avoid the stresses of the modern world, but we can learn to neutralize them and not let them destroy us. Meditation has a beneficial effect because it clears the consciousness of all distractions and allows us to understand what’s really the issue there. It teaches you to distance yourself from everyday issues and troubles and to activate those parts of the brain that are responsible for the subconscious.

This leads to relaxation and mental rest, allowing you to look at your life from a different perspective. It also allows you to get rid of the feeling of being surrounded and overwhelmed, as every person is internally free to interpret reality as he or she pleases.

The right rhythm

The practice of meditation is simple, but it is also very demanding. How difficult it is to sit still when so many responsibilities are calling us! There is only one solution to this mental dilemma: consistency.

For stress meditation to be an effective therapy, it must be practiced regularly. It’s like going to the gym to train a specific muscle: the mind. Like for other parts of your body, you’ll only start seeing results after showing up consistently and not giving up in the middle of the workout.

Only a regular practice of meditation neutralizes fatigue, reduces insomnia and tension, counteracts depression, and eliminates the negative effects of stress. Meditation can be practiced by everyone, without the professional supervision of a therapist.

The right environment

And precisely, to become regular and not to abandon your meditation routine, nothing is better than a small dedicated corner at home to practice.

Be creative in creating a suitable environment: candles, incense, a portrait of a spiritual master, a picture of a serene landscape, etc. This will be your time and space to find your inner “home” for stress meditations and more.

Give yourself support that is adapted to your abilities: a small bench, a zafu, a thick rolled-up blanket, or a good chair!

But the most important thing during meditation is to be in a calm environment. Meditate in silence, with calming background music, or with a guided meditation for stress. Remember to silence your phone and to inform your household members that you will not be available for the scheduled time. Nothing disturbs meditation so much as the thought that your phone might ring or someone might enter the room.

The right position

For most types of meditation, the position in which you meditate is not important. You definitely have to meditate in a position where you won’t fall asleep, so we avoid meditating lying down, although you can also meditate in this position. Most people meditate in a sitting position.

The most popular meditation positions are:

  • Cross-legged sit
  • Lotus position
  • Half-lotus or quarter-lotus position
  • Burmese position
  • Japanese sitting

The right mindset

During meditation, maintain a passive posture. The less you forcefully try to relax, the better you will succeed in truly relaxing.

Your task at the beginning of your meditation journey is to make meditation a habit – this is more important even than meditation itself. It takes about 3-4 weeks to develop the habit. So tell yourself – whatever is going on, for the next month, every day, I’m going to spend a few minutes meditating.

Also start to be interested in meditation books or conferences on the subject, and dare to talk about it around you. You will be surprised to see how many people are already interested in it.

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