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Mental Health Guide

Alison Beaver

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The Stress Balloon

By Marcia G. Yerman
 
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relieve some pressure on your stress balloon
Michael Blann/Digital Vision/Thinkstock

With global conflicts in the headlines and a constant analysis on the health of the economy filling the airwaves, it’s not surprising that people feel anxious about the future ... and increasingly stressed-out about their lives.

I spoke with Sarah McLean, author of Soul-Centered, about the challenge of staying centered in our fast-moving world of information and electronic overload.

“We cannot shut out all bad news. We cannot just delete stress. Stress is a fact of life,” McLean pronounced. Rather, strengthening one’s nervous system through the practice of meditation is a top way to navigate stress.

Each of us has a different mind/body makeup. Therefore, the manifestations of too much stress differ.

One individual may be able to listen to the 11 o’clock news and not lose a wink of sleep. For another, a negative report can keep them ruminating until three in the morning.

Regardless of the source, stress causes discomfort.

McLean uses a metaphor to explain that as the stress level builds, it’s like pumping air into a balloon. Without relief, the balloon gets to a point where it can’t take any more pressure.

Our nervous system operates the same way. When we have reached the point where we can’t take any more taxing input, it can manifest in various ways.

In the emotional realm, people can become overreactive, angry, anxious, or depressed. They may become psychologically paralyzed, or develop panic attacks. Their mental facilities may become confused.

Loss of focus or poor decision-making can be evidenced. In the physical realm, insomnia, migraines, and chronic pain can be experienced.

Yet, when we let a little air out of the balloon — as with meditation, exercise, and sleep — the built-up tension can be relieved.

Meditation leads to an alertness and realization of habitual responses to external cues. This empowers the possibility of making deliberate changes to reactivity.

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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