Stress, Mind-body interconnection
and the effect of meditation
Mindfulness-based Meditation is a well scientifically documented therapeutic tool offered to many patients suffering from acute or chronic stress since the work of Jon Kabat Zinn in 1991
What is stress?
The term “stress” was coined for the first time in 1926 by a Canadian Hans Selye MD an endocrinologist at McGill University. The definition of stress associates the following:
Definition of stressors:
Anything that we are experiencing negatively such as beyond our power to control, to deal with,
to understand, to solve, or accept. Stressors have many origins. Here are some of them:
a) Stressors coming from Self:
b) Stressors coming from around self: Family/society/work/environment:
The most frequent.
Relationship/family issues, loss of a loved one, job-related, time management, info/ media overload,
local disaster, war, etc.. etc...
Is it possible to control our stressors?
No, since they are constant, always in or around us, and will change all the time.
But it is possible to deal with their impacts.
What is mind-body?
Using a computer analogy:
Body = our “hardware” that is our organs including the brain and our 5 senses
Mind* = our “software” such a
Intellectual (concentration, analysis, judgment, decision)
*Mind: Please note: there is not yet a clear definition of what the mind is.
Consensus: Awareness, consciousness.
An immaterial entity allowing us to perceive our internal and external worlds in order
to interact with.?
Western view: Mind & body are 2 separate but interrelated entities.
Eastern view: Mind & body are ONE entity and cannot be separated.
All of us have experienced the fact that:
Pain from the body affects the mind such as depression.
Thought/emotions coming from the mind affect the body.
i.e. thoughts of chewing a slice of lemon produce salivation.
So, our mind controls our body and our body controls our mind.
This is obvious and yet our Cartesian Western medicine remains somewhat dualistic.
This mind-body = one is the key to understanding how meditation works to reduce the effects of stress.
How stress reactions are generated?
Not yet well understood. Stressors trigger complex chemical reactions in many parts of our brain.
What are the clinical manifestations of stress?
Stress can express itself in a multitude of ways and its manifestations can be unique to each individual.
They also vary greatly with the type of stressor and whether or not the stressor is acute or chronic
Stress affecting the mind:
Intellectual: affecting our concentration, analysis, judgment, memory, creativity, etc.
Psychological by far the most frequent:
Anxiety, depression, denial, poor self-image, feeling of failure, frustration, anger, aggressiveness,
resentment, guilt, helplessness, addictions, burnout, lack of libido, PTSD, etc.
Stress affecting the body is also called psychosomatic disorder.
Eating/sleeping disorders, chronic fatigue, lack of energy, high blood pressure, diabetes,
sexual dysfunction, chronic pain (headache, neck, back ), gastro-intestinal ( digestion, transit, etc.),
skin disease, immune depression.
Stress affecting our societal interaction:
Low productivity, loss of interpersonal skills, antisocial behavior, compulsive behavior such as work,
spending, gambling, shopping and sex, loss of empathy, withdrawal, etc.
8. Application of mindfulness meditation for stress management:
Mindfulness meditation has been used since 1991 as an effective therapy for most stress-related conditions. The pioneer in this field is Dr. Jon Kabat Zinn (Boston) who was the first one to
apply mindfulness meditation in our Western world.
Most healthcare centers are now offering mindfulness-based meditation programs for staff and patients.
Again, the basis of mindfulness meditation is:
Paying attention and letting go of incoming thoughts/emotions while focusing on something such
as breathing acts as a mind anchor to slow down the flow of thoughts.
Therefore, meditating is a practice of controlling thoughts and feelings.
Since stress is the consequence of a detrimental emotional activity z, y, z, one can understand the
therapeutic value of meditation as long as it is done on a regular basis.
It has been shown that mindfulness meditation affects neuroplasticity especially new adaptive re-wiring from the levels of our emotional limbic to the prefrontal areas
We cannot eradicate our stressors because they are infinite and around us, like the air, we are breathing.
However, we can reduce, if not eliminate, our stressors on our body and mind by modulating their impact using meditation-based re-wiring neuroplasticity.