Most often, when people think about meditation, they think about de-stressing and relaxation. It is true that meditation can bring about these feelings, and mindfulness can help us identify how we are feeling. Why do I think it is important to get in tune with ourselves? Every day life can present many challenges- highs and lows- that can affect out wellbeing. By just drifting through life and never really taking the time to check in with ourselves, how do we know that we are well?
The truth is that stress is a killer, and hurts more than just our health. Stress has been linked to diseases such as cancer, diabetes, obesity, substance abuse and other mental health disorders, and many of these are Australian national health priorities. Stress also has a wider impact on our relationships, time and the economy. Stress is also known to increase the amounts of sick days we take, disrupt schedules (you time and family time too) and contribute to conflict.
The Australian Psychological Society names three different types of stress:
- Acute stress
- Episodic Acute Stress
- Chronic Stress
When we are stressed, several changes occur that are measurable within the body. It has been shown that the stress response is more than just adrenalin. Stress triggers a hormone cascade from the hypothalamic-pituitary adrenal axis (increasing corticotrophin releasing hormone, adrenocorticotrophic hormone, neuropeptides and glucosteroids) and activates the sympathetic nervous system. This cascade influences other systemic processes and can manifest on the skin by affecting keratinocytes, melanocytes and dermal fibroblasts. Not only are there psychological, but also physical changes occurring during stress too.
How do we know that we are well?
The good news is that meditation, mindfulness and other mind-body techniques activate the parasympathetic nervous system. The parasympathetic nervous system kicks in with the opposite response: the relaxation response. Yes, we can learn how to kick-start the relaxation response and start living well!
You never know the answer, until you ask the question. Take some time to be mindful of how you are doing and feeling. There is no need to be judgemental or follow the thoughts, just notice what is going within you and how you feel. Here are some tips to include everyday:
- Set an alarm on your phone to remind you to check in with how you are feeling.
- Take a few deep breathes and do a body scan – are there any points of tension?
- Keep a journal and just write down your train of thought.
- Put sticky notes around your house with the word ‘breathe’ and ‘how are you?’
The Australian Psychological Society has a great factsheet about stress. Read more about stress here: what is stress? – Australian Psychological Society
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While those of us that are participating learn to meditate and be more mindful, our donations and fundraising will ripple across the world, improving the lives of thousands of people affected by the global water crisis.
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