By: Lauren Rae, CPT at TRYM Fitness and Sunwarrior Contributing Writer
If you are breathing, it is likely that during your lifetime you’ve experienced the result of physical and emotional ailments caused by stress. High levels of stress can hinder your ability to thrive to the fullest, affect your vitality and longevity, and scariest of all, stress can be deadly. Stress manifests itself both emotionally and physically. Signs of physical stress include: headaches, muscle aches and pains, obesity, problems sleeping, poor digestion, and intestinal issues. Signs of mental and emotional stress can include feelings of depression or anxiety and can overwhelm you, causing relationships to suffer and generating a general sense of frustration.
If you are hard to be around and it is hard to be in your own skin, it is likely that you are stressed. However, when bad feelings arise regardless of the source, many people turn to prescription medications to ease their symptoms rather than exploring how to relieve the symptoms where they started. The practice of meditation allows the individual to explore their subconscious and experience periods of quiet and contentment. Both are a natural state for humans, yet frequently avoided and underestimated.
While medication and meditation provide effective relief to the symptoms and occasionally the causes of stress, it is important to explore the risks as well as the options available to you.
Prescription medications can be extremely costly while others are available in a generic form. Both, however, require a prescription from a licensed doctor. In rare cases, medication can be incorrectly or over-prescribed, causing more of a lifestyle interruption than the stress originally created. Long term use of prescription medications can be harmful and is ill advised in certain cases. In others, medications can prove to be effective for a temporary relief of symptoms. In either case, prescription medications just treat the symptoms, and after you stop taking them the symptoms are sure to return in full-force until the source of your discomfort is addressed.
Natural over the counter remedies can be used to help ease your symptoms. For example, essential oils can be added to baths, massage oil, or infusers. Essential oils used for anxiety and nervous tension are bergamot, cypress, geranium, jasmine, lavender, melissa, neroli, rose, sandalwood, ylang-ylang. Lavender is the most common and forms the base of many relaxing blends. Naturally occurring stress relief supplements like Valerian Root, or certain amino acids like Gamma-aminobutyric Acid (GABA) can also be taken under the supervision of a medical professional to ease stress, anxiety, and tension.
Meditation is a natural and ancient tradition that allows us to tap into greater awareness. The mind can powerfully affect the body, and that mindfulness can bring to light the issues causing the stress; therefore allowing us to address them and create a greater balance in life. The naturally occurring state of relaxation during your practice will arise on its own in time. This allows for a calmer, more energized state because of the personal attention it requires. Other benefits of meditation practice: it will allow you to stay strong during times of emotional stress and teach you how to manifest creative solutions to problems that present themselves. Anyone can practice meditation, and it is an inexpensive, easily accessible tool whether you are out for a walk, in the comfort of your own home, or even in the middle of a stressful situation. There are many meditation practices suitable for beginners and other deeper spiritual practices for the experienced. Whatever level, the goal is to allow yourself to enter the most natural state of relaxation and awareness.
Which should you choose?
While there is no easy answer, the bottom line is this: if you’re noticing the physical or emotional manifestation of stress in your body and your life, it is important to address your symptoms regardless of which tools you choose to utilize. One practice or a combination of both medication and meditation can help reduce your risk for stress related health issues and enable you to live more comfortably and enjoy life more fully.