Managing Chronic Stress with Meditation



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What is Chronic Stress, how does it affect our health?


We have basic instincts to survive, sustain and procreate. On the basis of these instincts we have survived and evolved for thousands of years. The survival instinct has helped us over the ages to save ourselves from dangers, it still helps us on occasions, where our survival depends upon fast response. This 'survival' instinct causes the response, commonly known as 'Fight or Flight'. Since we don't face the same dangerous living situations as our ancestors did, now this 'Fight or Flight' response gets triggered if someone is facing critical project deadline, financial threat or getting into an argument. Often in these situations neither fight or flight is a solution and this response doesn't end but remains chronically active and causes harms to biological systems in long run.

The triggering of this response is mainly caused by misidentification of the threat. It is analogous to the allergic response, in which the immune system misidentifies the simple proteins and substances as potentially harmful and gets activated to fight against them. The allergic reaction does produce immediate symptoms that are easy to identify, but the chronic stress response is more insidious, it is very difficult to identify this and a lot of damage is done once the symptoms appear.

Acute Manifestations of this 'Fight or Flight' response can be seen in 'Panic Attack' and a Chronic Manifestation of this response can be seen as insomnia, anxiety disorder, depression, hypertension, cardiac and psychological disorders. On the contrary the instinct to sustain initiates the processes that replenishes the body and helps rejuvenate. This instinct causes the restful response and fulfills the energy needs of the body.

The two main sources of energy are 'food' that provides nutrition and the 'rest' which helps rejuvenate the body. This restful response consists of both 'Deep Sleep' and the state of 'Restful Awareness'. In this state of 'Restful Awareness' we are awake and aware of the body but the mind is quite. This state of 'Restful Awareness' is known as Meditative state and the process to achieve this state is known as 'Meditation'.

The 'Restful Awareness' marks the end of the 'Fight of Flight' response. As an example if an animal is chasing you and you are running for your life, in this state your 'Fight and Flight' response is serving you well, as the chase ends and you are at a safe place, the first thing you will do is a 'sigh of relief', this marks the end of the 'Fight or Flight' and immediately a process of relaxation starts.

In Modern Times most of the causes that initiate 'Fight and Flight' response like 'critical project deadline' remains active for much longer time thus this response remains Chronically Active and causes harm to body. Doing regular Meditation raises level of Awareness which in turn makes you aware of when this Chronic response of 'Fight or Flight' has gone active. Doing Meditation regularly puts an end to this, thus helping you get into the state of 'Deep Rest'.

I have collected following articles that describe the Stress and it's affect on health. Each of these links will open in a new window, so please make sure that your pop-up blocker is not blocking them, this is as per guidelines from these sites.

MayoClinic.com Stress information