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Touching Stillness to Assuage Stress

by Kay Zega(more info)

listed in stress, originally published in issue 144 - February 2008

The impact of stress overload is a major concern in Britain. Stress symptoms not only cause individuals and their families considerable suffering and distress, they also create a substantial burden on the community, as well as significant effects on absenteeism and productivity within organizations.

The 2006/07 HSE (Health and Safety Executive) survey SWI06/07 cites that 420,000 individuals in Britain believed they were experiencing work-related stress at a level that was making them ill.[1] It identified that work-related stress, depression or anxiety account for an estimated 13.8 million reported lost working days per year in Britain.

And stress overload is not confined to adults. The educational environment, with its emphasis on achievement, often engenders high stress levels for learners and staff. Even primary school children and their parents are reported to be suffering deep anxiety, according to a study of education in England.[2]

Of concern also is that official government figures show that four times as many under 16s have been prescribed anti-depressants and behavioural drugs than ten years ago; further that there were more than 631,000 prescriptions for such medication recorded in the financial year 2006/07 compared to 146,000 in 1996/97.[3]

What is Stress?

Stress is defined as the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressures or other types of demand placed on them (HSE 2001), and is caused when there is a mismatch between demands made and the individual’s needs and their abilities and resources to meet those demands.

We can all benefit from healthy pressure that stimulates and motivates, that provides the incentive to achieve and to overcome challenging situations. Extreme, persistent and unrelieved pressure, however, can lead to stress, feelings of anger, fear and frustration and can cause a variety of short- and long-term illnesses with damaging effects on individual mental and physical wellbeing.[4]

Holistic Approaches to Stress

True wellness involves a healthy balance between mind, body and spirit. Thoughts, emotions and beliefs have a fundamental impact on our basic wellbeing, our immune system and our innate healing mechanisms.[5]

Relaxing the mind is the natural complement to relaxing the body. When we are deeply relaxed, or when we are involved in any form of strenuous endurance exercise, the pituitary gland releases endorphins, chemicals which produce overall feelings of euphoria and which can block sensations of pain.[6] The brain works hand in hand with the nervous system, controlling our thoughts, feelings and sensory experiences, co-ordinating our bodily functions, and sending and receiving messages to every part of the body. Brain cells producw tiny electrical impulses; the electrical activity of the brain is affected by deep meditation which stimulates production of high intensity alpha and theta waves (brain waves associated with deep relaxation and mental alertness). These help us manage habitual stressed responses to danger and difficulties.

Analysis of the brains of people who meditate regularly indicate an ability to stimulate the left prefrontal lobe, generating positive emotions and feelings of wellbeing, as well as increasing the ability to control aggressive instincts.[7] Referring to the use of certain drugs in alleviating negative emotions, Professor Owen Flanagan says “…no anti-depressant makes a person happy. On the other hand, meditation and mindfulness which were developed 2,500 years before Prozac can lead to profound happiness”.

Benefits of Touching Stillness

For some years my associates and I have had considerable success training schoolchildren, college students, and staff at all levels, in public and private sector organizations, how to ‘Chill Out and Wise Up’ in order to improve both wellbeing and performance. (Chilling out through deep relaxation, meditation, guided visualization and complementary therapies; wising up on the detrimental effects on wellbeing and performance of self-defeating inner dialogues, poor nutrition and inadequate fresh air and exercise.)

Deep meditation raises consciousness to a higher frequency, expanding awareness and broadening perception. It enables access to subtle levels of reality, connection with a blessedly peaceful and harmonious different dimension of self. Internal changes are effected that increase sensitivity and encourage deeper understanding of and love for yourself. Daily interactions take on new and deeper meaning, altering the dynamics of relationships with yourself and others.

Here are some of the reported benefits from regular meditation:

On a Purely Physical Level

  • Lowered blood pressure;
  • Reduced anxiety and stress;
  • Improved immune system;
  • Reduced allergic reactions;
  • Better asthma management;
  • Improved pain management;
  • Increased energy and stamina.

Mental and Psychological Benefits

  • Increased ability to be calm;
  • Greater empathy/compassion;
  • Clearer sense of personal goals and improved mental focus;
  • Expanded perspectives;
  • Enhanced creativity;
  • Improved memory and ability to concentrate;
  • Improved sleep;
  • Deeper contact with own spiritual essence;
  • Greater feelings of optimism;
  • Increased efficiency at work or study;
  • Reduced reliance on drugs and alcohol.
Whether we call it meditation, reverie, going deep within, mindful awareness… I see it as essential to dedicate quiet time alone daily to ‘touch stillness’; to silence the ‘chattering mind’ that forever pesters with reminders of what hasn’t been done, what could have been done better, that criticizes in myriad ways, all of which directly affect stress levels. Regular practice touching stillness is much more than just a means to assuages stress; as the mind is stilled the body begins to heal and replenish itself; metabolic and hormonal systems become more balanced and harmonized, heart rate slows down and the automatic nervous system strengthens.[8]

It is, therefore, a simple yet profound way of boosting wellbeing, of achieving holistic balance and helping to find your true purpose in life. And one is never too young or old to benefit from touching stillness.

References

1.    HSE 2006/07. Survey of Self-Reported Work-Related Illness (SWI06/07) Stress-related and Psychological Disorders. http://www.hse.gov.uk/statistics/causdis/stress/index.htm
2.    BBC Breakfast. Excessive Pressure on Schoolchildren. 12 Nov 2007. The Primary Review: The condition and future of primary education in England. University of Cambridge and Esmee Fairbairn Foundation. 2006-2008. http://www.primaryreview.org.uk/
3.    The Mirror. GPs Give Children More Pills. 24 July 2007.
4.    Giga SI, Faragher B and Cooper CL. A Participative Approach to Developing Comprehensive Stress Management Interventions in Occupational Health Psychology: Empowerment, Participation and Health at Work. European Academy of Occupational Health Psychology Conference Proceedings Series. (1473-0200) pp 72-75. 2002.
5.    Emoto M. Hidden Messages in Water. Beyond Words Publishing. ISBN-10: 1582701148. 2004.
6.    Bloom W. Feeling Safe. Piatkus Books. ISBN 0-7499-2371-7. 2002.
7.    Flanagan O. The Colour of Happiness: What Can Neuroscientists Learn From Buddhists? New Scientist Magazine. Issue 2396. 24 May 2003.
8.    Chan J. Be Still on a Daily Basis. Positive Health Magazine. Issue 124. June 2006.

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About Kay Zega

Kay Zega MA DMS CertEd Adv Dip (Couns) MCS (Acc) MBACP is a registered Angelic Reiki teacher, accredited counsellor, registered holistic multi-therapist, wellness and positive life change specialist and lecturer. She has a gentle motivational approach and a track record helping others to achieve empowering positive life change. She offers a range of wellness boosting workshops for individuals and organizations and assists companies to integrate counselling and complementary therapies into their wellbeing programmes and occupational therapy provision. Kay practises and teaches a number of holistic therapies (including Angelic Reiki®), in the UK and abroad, offers Retreats in Worcester, Glastonbury, The Netherlands and South West France, and has her own private practice in Worcester. She can be contacted on Tel: +44 (0)1905 26002; enquiries@angelicreiki.net  www.wellnessnow.co.uk    www.angelicreiki.net

 

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