Stress and Health
Stress refers to anything that affects one’s mental and physical well-being. Stress is not desirable as it may lead to worse conditions in individuals. It is worth noting that stress may lead to brain damage and even death. Everyone in society tries to maintain proper health by dealing with stress effectively each time it seems to distract the mental and physical well-being. Increasing levels of stress among individuals all over the globe have called for continuous development of stress management techniques that would help maintain and improve the health of individuals. This paper would utilize the meditation/mental imagery/visualization technique of stress management. The technique has religious origins hence ensuring it facilitates effective management of stress among individuals. The method works effectively by alleviating the activity level of the brain hence enabling individuals relieve their stress. Additionally, the technique ensures there is a reduction in the levels of stressors among individuals. This boosts proper health as stress is alleviated. It is noted that the method is effective in the management and reduction of stress among individuals.
This paper explicates the origins, history, applications, and the effectiveness of the meditation/mental imagery/visualization technique of stress management.
The meditation/mental imagery/visualization technique is an ancient technique that has both cultural and religious origins. Karren, Hafen, & Frandsen (2009) assert that early Buddhists, Hindu, Christians, Egyptians, Jews, and Chinese utilized the meditation/mental imagery/visualization technique for both physical and spiritual healing. They all deemed the technique effective in helping alleviate daily stresses among individuals hence promoting the spirituality of individuals and their physical well-being. All these religions and cultures urged individuals to try to find peace in their hearts each time they felt there was anything trying to stop them from upholding their spirituality. Therefore, the meditation/mental imagery/visualization technique was a characteristic of many early believers of different faiths. This is because of the belief that the technique is re-energizing and revives one’s spirituality and hope.
Historically, this technique is influenced by the dogmatic beliefs of both Buddhism and Hinduism. Varvogli & Darviri (2011) reiterate that these religions urged their believers to meditate and visualize images to be in touch with their gods. This was vital in boosting the physical and spiritual well-being of the individual. The drawings bequeathed by the early man indicate that meditation and visualization of images could have emerged many years ago and were highly valued all over society as most cultures made it official in their practice. Early Christians, especially the Roman Catholic also utilized the technique to connect with God effectively and eliminate some of their stressors.
In the 20th century, Sigmund Freud, Roberto Assiagioli, and Carl Jung boosted the development of the technique within the modern field of medicine. Zgourides (2008) confirms that Sigmund Freud played an instrumental role in the development of the technique especially after conducting a groundbreaking research and asserting that the thought process could become conscious through effective use of meditation and visual images among individuals. He reiterated the view that most people would find it appealing to think in terms of pictures. Hjelm (2010) affirms that later on in 1969 Hanscarl Leuner, a German psychiatrist, also conducted research that boosted the development of the technique in stress management within the medical field. Today, the meditation/mental imagery/visualization technique is considered one of the most significant techniques of alleviating stress among patients. It is vital to note that many doctors and nurses have always prescribed this technique to most of their patients suffering from high levels of stress. This is due to the effectiveness of the technique in stress relief.
Patients suffering from stress have always been encouraged to embrace the meditation/mental imagery/visualization technique in the management of their conditions. Therefore, the method is applied widely in most medical facilities around the globe. It works by reducing the metabolic and activity levels of the brain, relaxes the brain using different senses such as the sense of sound and smell, creates mental pictures that help alleviate stress.
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The technique works by reducing metabolic activities and the activity levels of the brain among individuals hence alleviating overall stress. It is worth noting that higher levels of metabolic activities within the body increase the levels of stress among individuals. Concordia University (2007) asserts that using this technique individuals can relax hence slowing their metabolic and mental activities. This implies that all the negative thoughts leading to stress would be eliminated gradually hence leaving the individual at peace. Reduced mental activities boost the alleviation of stress as the individual operates in a relaxation mode that does not entail enormous thinking concerning difficult life and other stressors. The continued reduction of metabolic and mental activities is instrumental in ensuring one is at peace and free from negative thoughts leading to stress. This boosts proper health among individuals.
Notably, the method is applied by encouraging stress patients to stay in isolation for some time and relax their brains using their senses such as the sense of sound and smell. According to Moffit (2009), the meditation/mental imagery/visualization technique would work effectively in cases where an individual can isolate himself/herself and have some private time to relax the brain. Chiesa & Serretti (2009) also opine that this entails utilization of different senses such as the sense of sound and smell to alleviate the levels of stress among individuals. For instance, an individual can utilize the sense of sound to relax the brain by concentrating on the chirping of birds. The sweet scent of a flower can also be used to relax the brain as all the activities are dedicated there hence relaxing the brain. Therefore, stress levels can be effectively minimized by utilizing the different senses to relax the brain and eliminate existing stresses.
The technique also facilitates stress reduction through the creation of mental pictures that help relax (Crampton, 2009). Research asserts that imagery plays a critical role in stress reduction as compared to mediation. This is because the technique entails the formation of peaceful and relaxing images. Further research on guided imagery affirms that mental imagery effectiveness abounds from the fact that there is the creation of nerve impulses, which are essential in the activation of certain parts of the brain that are similar to doing the task. It should be noted that this takes place because the brain lacks the capability of differentiating what is imagined and what is real; thus, that is why the recreation of a relaxing place brings up experiences that relax a person. However, a critical factor regarding this technique is that the intensity of the relaxation experience depends more on the realistic features of the sensory experience. A good example in under this technique abounds from a person imagining that he/she is relaxing on a beach that has warm sand and the sun rays reaching the person’s face as the waves lap the water. This abounds relaxation and helps in asserting that the picture one has in his/her mind’s eye is what results to relaxation and calmness. Thus, this technique is considered to be effective because many people from diverse professions have employed it in the management of stress. These include athletes and business professionals who employ the method as a way of re-living their experiences and reduce stress (Crampton, 2009).
Research also opines that the technique assists in stress reduction through lowering of the pressure and level of stress hormones by inducing relaxation. A good example in this case abounds from the fact that participating in activities assists in the reduction of blood pressure, which is critical in reduction of stress (Ember & Ember, 2003). Research further asserts that when a person is under stress, the body produces a surge of hormones that temporarily lead to an increase in the blood pressure. This makes a person’s heart to beat faster, which results into the narrowing of the blood vessels (McNeill, 2012). Thus, when mediation/guided imagery and visualization are employed they tend to reduce the surge of hormones. This means that relaxation will result when a person forgets what is stressing him/her at that particular moment as one re-lives his/her past experience. Alternatively, a person will relax from the fact that he/she will have new mental pictures that will divert his/her mind from the current situation that might be arousing tension. This will result into no surge of hormones and lowering of blood pressure. Thus, the heart will stop beating faster, which will facilitate broadening of the blood vessels and this alleviates stress (Rockwell, 2004).
The efficacy of the abovementioned techniques is given credence from various literatures. For instance, it is asserted that mental imagery is not a new technique because the system is well developed by Native Americans and other indigenous traditions. The technique has also been reported to have been used in Hinduism and Judeo-Christian religious traditions (Zgourides, 2008). In traditional Chinese medication, it is asserted that the technique main purpose was to heal and maintain health through the unblocking and balancing the energy flow within the body. This is because they thought that illnesses result from blockages of what they termed as “Qi” (flow of energy) in the human body. According to the Chinese Tradition, they believed that a person can have too much, too little or stagnant flow of energy, which is detrimental to health. On the other hand, they believed that a lack of the flow of energy results to a person’s demise. Thus, they employed physical Qigong, which is accomplished through imagery and entailed the re-direction of the flow of energy with the mind. The tradition also believed that a person who has mastered transferring “Qi” was also essential in healing of a person experiencing such a problem. The Chinese also have another form of imagery known as Taiji Chuan. According to the research, this form of imagery is employed to ensure good breathing, which plays a critical role in alleviating stress. Indians also have some history regarding mental imagery. The research indicates that the Sufis employed a term called “traveller” to refer to a person that follows a spiritual path. According to the Sufis, the word “traveller” is more preferred than “patient” as traveller confers a person much dignity. Thus, Indians’ faith in their God Brahman played a critical role in ensuring the healing.
In conclusion, stress refers to anything that affects one’s mental and physical well-being. Stress is not desirable as it may lead to worse conditions among individuals. It is worth noting that stress may lead to brain damage and even death. Meditation/mental imagery/visualization technique alleviates stress working through various means. For instance, mental imagery entails the formation of peaceful and relaxing images. Further research on guided imagery affirms that mental imagery effectiveness abounds from the fact that there is the creation of nerve impulses, which are essential in the activation of certain parts of the brain that are similar to doing the task. Various ancient communities such as the Chinese and the Indians have used the technique.