From the materials furnished to me years ago from the University of Massachusetts Center for Mindfulness, as part of the teacher training I received in Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction:
WHAT IS STRESS?
“Stress is the nonspecific response of the organism to any pressure or demand. A Stressor is any stimulus, whether in the external or internal environment, that produces the body’s stress response. For example: An overwhelming stress response (caused by prolonged starvation, worry, fatigue, or cold) can break down the body’s protective mechanisms. This is true both of adaptation which depends on chemical immunity and of that due to inflammatory barricades. It is for this reason that so many maladies tend to become rampant during wars and famines. If a microbe is in or around us all the time and yet causes no disease until we are exposed to a stress, what is the “cause” of our illness, the microbe or the stress? I think both are – and equally so. In most instances, disease is due neither to the germ as such, nor to our adaptive reactions as such, but to the inadequacy of our reactions against the germ.”
– Dr. Hans Selye
Exposure to Stressors → Stress Response (release of Cortisol)
Stress Response = ↑ Blood Pressure, ↑ Respiration Rate, ↑ Muscular Tensing, ↑ “Voiding” Response (bowels & bladder), ↓ Sleep, ↓ Gastrointestinal Activity, ↓ Immune System Activity, ↓ Libido.
Chronic exposure to stressors leads to the mind, sympathetic nervous system, and the neuroendocrine system engaging in a feedback loop, initiating a body/mind state of chronic stress:
Chronic Hyper-vigilance (Cognitive) → Chronic Cortisol Release (Neuroendocrine System)
Chronic Cortisol Release → Chronic Bodily Responsiveness (Sympathetic Nervous System)
Chronic Bodily Responsiveness (Sympathetic Nervous System) → Chronic Hyper-vigilance (Cognitive)……
Over a period of time chronic stress, initiated by a chronic stressor, can take on a life of its own as the mind stays in a state of hyper-vigilance, causing the body to go into a stressful state even when the chronic stressor is no longer present.
We often try to escape this stress cycle by trying to think our way out of it. This usually fails, absent doing the work of bringing the body back to a relaxed state. Today’s meditation is a hybrid of the classic body scan and a technique called Progressive Muscular Relaxation. The intention is to teach a tool that can be used to help us recognize when the body is being held with stressful tension, and having an easily applied antidote to relax the body and the mind.
Video of today’s meditation:
Audio of today’s meditation: