There are situations that cause a sudden onset of stress. Everyone faces them at some point.
It could be as routine as driving through heavy 5 p.m. traffic, or as unexpected as having to speak at a big meeting at the last minute.
Sometimes we can see it coming; and sometimes it appears out of the blue, like bad news or illness.
But it happens to us all. How we deal with in-the-moment stress is a telltale sign of how we operate under pressure.
Luckily, people who regularly practice mindfulness meditation have the biological tools in hand to deal with the situation. Here is how they handle stress in a more productive – and less anxiety ridden – manner.
A Study to Prove That Meditation Helps
A research team at Georgetown University Medical Center explored the science behind meditation and sudden stress, publishing their results in the journal Psychiatry Research.
The team wanted to determine if people just “felt better” after meditation, or if there were measurable changes in stress markers in the body that resulted from regular practice.
The participants in the study were all diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder, which is a fairly common condition. Those who have it suffer with constant worry about the present and the future. They were divided into two groups.
One group went through a mindfulness meditation course. The other completed a general stress management course that covered diet, exercise, sleeping habits and scheduling / or time management. Both courses lasted for eight weeks, with equal amounts of in-classroom work and homework involved.
Both before and after the eight weeks, the participants underwent what is undeniably a stressful situation for just about everyone: they had to perform eight minutes of public speaking. After, they had to take a math test in front of an audience of “leaders” with lab coasts and clipboards.
The Results: Numbers Don’t Lie
The folks who participated in the mindfulness meditation course reported feeling far less stressed during the second, post-class test. But more importantly, their medical measurements backed this up.
The mindfulness meditation participants had lower levels of ACTH in their blood during the second test. ACTH is a stress hormone that is initially released into the brain, and then flows into the bloodstream.
In addition, these participants also had a lower inflammatory response than the first time they underwent the stressful situation.
The control group, on the other hand, actually had higher recordings of ACTH during the second test session. This time around, they knew what was coming and had ample time to worry about the stressful situation.
This recent study is just one of many studies that have found verifiable and scientific evidence of mindfulness meditation changing our chemical responses.
By adjusting the production of stress hormones like ACTH, we are biologically better equipped to deal with those sudden stressful events as they occur. Anyone who regularly practices mindfulness meditation knows that you inherently feel prepared to respond to whatever life throws at you.
But by understanding the link between our brains, bodies, and stress management, it’s easier to understand just why mindfulness meditation is so beneficial across the board.