Can meditation really help reduce stress?
Mindfulness training, yoga, meditation: tips against stress
Mindfulness courses, yoga and meditation: relaxation techniques are popular and in demand with more and more people, because the need to reduce stress is growing in many.
According to a study by Techniker Krankenkasse, two thirds of Germans sometimes or often feel stressed. You are under time pressure, do not allow yourself any breaks and overwhelm yourself. In addition, there is frustration because what has been planned does not work, and uncertainty. The result: the body is under massive stress.
Escape reaction releases stress hormones in the body
The reactions of our body to stress are based on evolutionary biology, they are supposed to prepare people for a fight or flight reaction in order to cope with dangerous situations.
These reactions work at lightning speed, because energy is required immediately for the upcoming struggle for survival: the sympathetic nervous system is activated, the adrenal glands release the stress hormones adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol. Blood pressure and pulse rise, breathing becomes faster, muscles tense. The result: We can react faster and better.
Constant stress causes irritability and sleep disorders
Getting into stress for a short time is not bad. If we are constantly under stress, however, the stress hormones become a problem. A permanently high cortisol level damages nerve cells in the hippocampus - a part of the brain that is responsible for learning, memory and emotions.
Persistently too much adrenaline can lead to heart failure and high blood sugar levels. Symptoms of persistent stress can include irritability, nightmares, difficulty sleeping, gastrointestinal problems, and high blood pressure.
Burn-out and a weak immune system due to stress
In addition, constant stress weakens the immune system and promotes back pain. Continuous stress also threatens a feeling of losing control, which is very unhealthy for the human psyche and can lead to anxiety disorders or even to a depression of exhaustion, the so-called burn-out.
Taking a deep breath helps with acute stress
If you react correctly in the stressful situation, you can lower the stress level. The stress emergency plan: breathe! Three times deep in, three times deep out. At least. That sounds simple, but it has astonishing effects: deep breathing in and out can noticeably lower blood pressure and pulse after just one to three breaths.
This is how mental relaxation techniques work
Mental exercises such as mindfulness training, meditation, autogenic training and yoga work through various messenger systems in the body, but also through the vegetative nervous system, which is a kind of control center in the central nervous system and controls vital processes such as breathing, heartbeat and blood pressure.
The training activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which takes on the role of the "resting nerve" in the autonomic nervous system. This means that it dampens certain body processes such as breathing, heartbeat and muscle tension and ensures that we relax and recover.
Mental techniques for relaxation in everyday life
- meditation is a mental training that should help to become calmer and more relaxed inside - not only during practice, but also during the stressful situation in everyday life. What all meditation methods have in common is that the practitioner focuses on one thing. Many exercises focus on conscious breathing.
- yoga is an Indian teaching that includes mental and physical exercises.
- MBSR stands for "Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction", ie coping with stress through mindfulness. The method combines traditional meditation exercises with breathing exercises and yoga.
- Autogenic training: Autogenic training, like meditation, is a mental relaxation technique. With this light form of self-hypnosis, the body is switched to recovery, heartbeat, blood pressure and breathing can be specifically influenced.
Just as the body responds to stress with the typical fight or flight reaction, i.e. increases the heartbeat and blood pressure, the opposite can be consciously evoked with mental exercises:
- The emission of the stress hormone adrenaline is reduced.
- The cortisol level drops - in some meditation exercises even by 50 percent, as studies by the Max Planck Institute for Cognitive and Neurosciences in Leipzig show.
- After just eight weeks of training with a daily exercise duration of 45 minutes, scientists were able to observe a significant compression of the gray matter in the hippocampus.
- Relaxation methods such as yoga and meditation can also help with cardiological complaints such as cardiac arrhythmias and high blood pressure.
- It is scientifically proven that regular meditation can lower the heart rate in a way that is otherwise only seen in endurance athletes.
Improve concentration with meditation
Meditation can not only reduce the release of stress hormones, but also positively influence the ability to concentrate and the feeling of pain:
- MRI recordings show that the area of the brain is particularly active during mindfulness meditation, the so-called prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for the Ability to concentrate controls. The more active he is, the easier it is to focus attention on one thing. At the same time, the area in the brain that continually triggers the thought carousel shuts down. Those who meditate regularly are not so easily carried away by distracting thoughts in everyday life.
- Meditation changes that Sensation of painAs brain researchers found: Those affected experience pure pain more intensely, but the suffering or the negative evaluation of pain can be reduced through meditation.
Meditate properly with the app and in the yoga class
We can learn to meditate - in a course, in individual lessons, but also on the Internet via podcast or meditation app. An example of mindfulness meditation is the body scan: Meditators practice lying down, paying attention to themselves and gradually feeling the whole body - from the feet to the head.
Anyone who needs movement to let go is in good hands in the yoga class: With meditative movements and breathing exercises, it is easier to switch off your thoughts and concentrate entirely on your own breathing, for example.
With sport and exercise for mental relaxation
Anyone who regularly ensures relaxation in everyday life learns to generally become calmer and to react more calmly in stressful situations. With various body techniques, physical relaxation can also bring about mental relaxation. These techniques are for example:
- Tai chi: In the so-called internal martial art from China, the body builds up tension in various styles and exercises and then releases it again.
- Qigong: With the 3,000-year-old Chinese technique, flowing movements and calm breathing should make the practitioner feel more vital and balanced. The movements are connected with inner images and little stories. They stimulate the circulation, the heart and muscles work, the happiness hormone dopamine is released and strengthens the immune system against stress. In addition, Qi Gong has a meditative effect through flowing breathing and concentration, and strengthens self-awareness and compassion in the brain by activating the hippocampus.
- Pilates: Similar to yoga, Pilates is a full-body workout that primarily strengthens the deep core muscles. Conscious letting go should help to detect and relieve tension.
- Progressive Muscle Relaxation According to Jacobsen: The practitioner tenses various large muscle groups in the body and lets them go again after a short time. Due to the constant alternation of tension and letting go, the feeling of relaxation is perceived more intensely. Many studies have shown that tensing and relaxing various muscle groups reduce stress symptoms such as palpitations, sweating or tremors. This method also works great in acute stress situations, when the family is really annoying again on Christmas Eve: Simply inconspicuously clench your fist or tense your lower leg - and let it go again.
- To sing: When we sing, we automatically breathe deeper and more intensely. Studies have shown that music reduces the stress hormone cortisol. In addition, well-known songs can awaken positive memories and associations - and that distracts and relaxes, not only at Christmas time.
- Move: In general, sport and moderate exercise - preferably in the fresh air - are an effective means of reducing stress and counteracting high blood pressure, for example.
Experts on the subject
Dr. Jan Kalbitzer, specialist in psychiatry and psychotherapy
Head of stress medicine at the Oberberg Kliniken
Day Clinic Kurfürstendamm
Dr. Melanie Hümmelgen, specialist in internal medicine and cardiology
Senior physician in the cardiology department and deputy medical director
Anja Thiesbürger, nutritionist, relaxation therapist
Trainer for stress management, mindfulness and meditation
Neumünstersche Strasse 14
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Visit | 12/22/2020 | 8:15 pm
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