By Ian Santos; First Year Project Manager
Ask anyone what their typical day is like and I can guarantee that a good percentage of them will tell you that they have way too much on their plate, and a long to-do list. All these tasks, events, upcoming quizzes or exams can make anyone feel extremely stressed. It would be safe to say that many people are stressed constantly and that is very unhealthy. According to Dr. Jay Winner, author of Take the Stress Out of Your life, “stress doesn’t only make us feel awful emotionally, it can also exacerbate just about any health condition you can think of.” Dr. Winner is right. Studies have found that many health problems are related to stress. Stress can contribute to chronic conditions such as obesity, diabetes, and heart disease, just to list a few(1). This should be very alarming to people who are consistently stressed. Of course, there are ways to manage stress. Every day people are prescribed medications to manage their stress, but for many, there are ways to manage and avoid stress using prescription drugs. Specifically, there are natural and healthier ways to manage stress. One alternative method for managing or relieving stress naturally is through meditation.
The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine defines meditation as a category of complementary and alternative medicine that include interventions that employ a variety of techniques that facilitate the mind’s capacity to affect bodily function and symptoms(2). Basically, meditation is a mind-body exercise. According to the Cleveland Clinic, meditation will allow you to use your thoughts to positively influence some of your body’s physical responses, thereby decreasing stress(3). Some forms of meditation include relaxation breathing, mind relaxation, guided imagery, and music therapy, just to name a few. The goal is to help change the way you perceive a situation and react to it(3). Studies have found that these mind-body exercises that you can try have the potential to decrease anxiety, enhance sleep, and strengthen the immune system(3). Thus, less stress may lead to a lower chance of developing chronic diseases.
For those who practice meditation, it is truly a great stress reliever. Some people might think it’s weird or feel that they wouldn’t be able to do it, but it’s fun and easy with faith and practice. Personally, I have done meditation and can vouch for its stress-relieving capabilities. Now, I’m no expert, but I do meditate in times of extreme stress. Especially, around midterms and finals. When I meditate, I do self-transcendence mind-body exercises. I’ll sit down cross-legged and put on some music that includes the sounds of waves. I picture myself sitting on a beach just looking out into the ocean and then I begin to think. I begin to think that everything is going to be okay. I’m where I want to be. I just need to keep telling myself to do the best I can, work hard, and everything I’m doing will be accomplished. While I’m meditating, I like to take some deep breaths every once in awhile. When I finally open my eyes, I can feel much of the weight on my shoulder just go away. My attitude changes and I feel recharged.
Try it! Sit down and just close your eyes. Start to focus on yourself and your breathing. Now, picture yourself in your favorite place in the world. Imagine that nothing else matters and you’re just enjoying the view. Take some deep breaths and feel the stress leave your body when you exhale. Once you keep doing it, I promise you’ll be able to get lost in the place you are thinking of. You can actually feel yourself there at the place you’re imagining. Meditation is that powerful. Ten minutes is all most people need, and after they are done they will feel relaxed and calm. If you try it, you will probably feel more refreshed and ready to get back to work!
With finals on the horizon, students everywhere I’m sure are getting increasingly stressed out. Many of them don’t know how to deal with this level of stress and it almost consumes them negatively. Dealing with that stress in a natural way by meditating can help students feel more relaxed and confident before finals. Managing that stress naturally, I feel can be more positive and possibly more effective rather than taking prescription medication. In addition, by avoiding medication, you can avoid the side effects that come with the medications. In the long term, natural methods, like meditation may help people lower their chances of developing chronic diseases. So, if you’re ever feeling really stressed out, try meditation! Your future self will thank you later. Good luck with accomplishing all your goals. You can do it!
Mayo Clinic Staff. “Stress Symptoms: Effects on your body and behavior.” Healthy Lifestyle: Stress Management. April 28, 2016. Web.
Effective Health Care Program. “Meditation Programs for Psychological Stress and Well-Being”. Effective Health Care Program. Comparative Effectiveness Review. Number 124.
Cleveland Clinic Staff. “Harnessing the Power of the Mind-Body Connection”. Mind Body Exercises. Web.