Stress is unavoidable in life. Understanding the causes of stress and incorporating stress-reducing activities in life can reduce stress but can also by gratifying. There are many healthy ways of alleviating stress, from art therapy to meditation. Understanding stress and taking the time to slow down and mindfully take each day can help reduce a stressful life and lead to a happy, fulfilled life.
Human spirituality can help to bring meaning to some of the stressors in life that may be unavoidable in life. Spirituality and the meaning of life and its many experiences is something that helps me to enjoy each day and the overall fullness of life and its experiences. Spirituality gives meaning to stressful circumstances. Spirituality through religion or otherwise, can help to answer the question why is this happening and what is the purpose of this situation? More people are turning away from religion looking for more fulfillment but still practicing spirituality in an attempt to answer questions looking for deeper meanings and fulfillment in life.
Psychologist, Carl Jung, believed that everyone possesses a spirituality and that everything that happens has a spiritual aspect to it. People have a need to define what their purpose in life is. This is known as centering or the process of centering thoughts in order to access the unconscious mind and is powers. The next step would be a continuous step of emptying. This process would continuously incorporate the discarding of thoughts, processes, and possibly beliefs or people in order to go through a cleansing of the self. The phase that follows the emptying phase is the grounding phase. This phase is where new insight, beliefs, knowledge of self occurs. In the grounding process, one may also be more aware of the subconscious and intuition. This step is what Oprah would refer to as her lightbulb moment. The last process is referred to as the Connecting process in which one comes to the realization that all are connected and that what affects one, affects all in some way. Some people go through all of these processes and some stay at one their entire life. Spirituality helps one to look internally and at external relationships and beliefs. Faith that all is well and that all of life’s difficulties and rewards are learning experiences goes a long way in relieving the stress of life situations.
Hand in hand with spirituality, go methods of coping with life stressors. Developing and maintaining healthy boundaries in life is one aspect of creating balance in life. Defining our personal values, developing what we believe based on these values, behaving according to our values and our conscious and unconscious behaviors based on our values are the aspects of personality. These values and behaviors are not always positive and many times one picks up negative behaviors in life. This is where chemical and behavioral addictions are developed. Self-perception of those involved in these addictions add to stress because the people involved know that their habits are not healthy, but many times do not know or do not feel they are able to modify their behavior. Behavior modification models are available to help those suffering from these negative behaviors to positively change their lifestyles. Initiating the new behavior is important, but maintaining the behavior is key to changing the lifestyle and ridding one of the stress associated. The various models have stages which include denial, acceptance, motivation to change, finding new ways to behave, maintaining the behavior and evaluating the changes. Changing a number of unwanted behaviors at once is a recipe for failure, so changing one at a time and maintaining those changes help one to be successful at behavior modification.
Since self-esteem plays a major role in how a person decides to behave, taking a look at self is a key aspect of behavior modification. Developing healthy assertiveness by learning how to be diplomatic with others’ is a key personality aspect to relieving oneself of stress. Being able to say no to someone else and still maintain positive relationships is an aspect of assertiveness that relieves stress. Being too passive or being too aggressive causes hardship on the person experiencing the stress or causes additional stress by not maintaining positive relationships. Focusing on the specific issues or problem without getting emotional or focusing on someone else’s behavior is one aspect of healthy assertiveness. Skills at being more diplomatic or assertive with others include the ability to say no, using I statements rather than putting the issue on the other person, eye contact, non-threatening body language, the ability to agree to disagree, leaving attempts at manipulation out, and not reacting, but responding are all skills for people to maintain healthy boundaries and to practice assertiveness in their lives. The result of which will reduce personal stress in life.
Because there is so much external noise going on in life, the ability to concentrate on what is going on at the moment and to quiet all of the outside and internal conflicts is a skill that will help reduce stress. Meditation is a practice that dates back to the sixth century and is designed to help one quiet oneself to allow for clear thinking. Mindfulness is the awareness that yesterday cannot be changed and tomorrow cannot be predicted, so it is best to live in the moment that we are living in currently. Some form of meditation is practice by nearly every religion and while not scientifically proven, is linked to better health. There are many types of meditation ranging from mental repetition, visual concentration, sounds, and physical repetition. One type may work better than another for different individuals.
Researchers studying the brain and meditation found that meditation produces a different type of brainwave than the brain in someone awake or sleeping. In a meditative brain, the waves are slower, rhythmic and there is a sensory decrease. This allows thoughts to enter the mind without judgment, an openness to new thinking, and an openness to suggestion. During meditation, time is insignificant, experiences may occur with which there is no way to explain it to someone else, there is a higher sense off the present, the ego is suspended and there is an openness to new ideas and spiritual enlightenment occurs.
The health effects of meditation include a sense of well-being, calm, improved sleep, positive effects on the immune system, and reduction in chronic pain to name a few. These positive effects are thought to occur as meditation improves one’s sense of well-being and feeling of peace. Studies have been done on brain neuroplasticity and have found improvements. These improvements include an increase in brain wave activity, more activity in the prefrontal and limbic portions of the brain which regulate attention and emotion, parts of the brain used in meditation grow larger and there is evidence of neural rewiring, and the parts of the brain responsible for compassion grow. Further studies have shown that regular meditation change the brain experiencing stress to one of calm contentedness. The ability to re-orient the brain from experiencing stress to one of a sense of calm is promising on a number of levels. To be able to re-orient one’s thinking and emotions of depression or other psychological illnesses through meditation opens much hope to many people. To begin a meditation practice, one needs to choose a quiet time. The best time is in the morning or evening before bed. Sit quietly for as long as you need and focus on your breathing. Release any thoughts that come to your mind. Some repeat mantras to help the brain relax and release thoughts.
I selected the topic of Stress and Human Spirituality because my experiences have taught me that believing in something bigger than what is in front of me gives meaning to my life and having faith that things are happening as they are meant to has gone a long way in understanding stressful occurrences in my life. The topic of Health Boundaries and Behavior Modification was interesting to me due to the dysfunctional relationships that I have encountered in my life and I wanted to learn more about establishing healthy boundaries with others. Of particular interest was the information about assertiveness. I selected Meditation and Mindfulness to write about because I have meditated in the past with exceptional results. I wish to return to a practice of meditation in my daily life again; particularly as I continue through school. A side benefit of this course, I learned about Tai Chi and its benefits and plan on incorporating Tai Chi in my routine for health and stress.
Seaward, Brian, (2018), Managing Stress, Principles and Strategies for Health and Well-Being, Jones and Bartlett Learning, LLC
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