Spirituality and Stress

Laura and her best friend and healer, Ava
Laura and her best friend and healer, Ava | Source

The Importance of Spirituality in Conquering Unhealthy Stress

Are you feeling overwhelmed and having a lot of difficulty in your life? Stress creeping in your life? Feeling like you’re losing purpose? Stress is different for everyone. What may be stressful for one person may not be stressful for another and stress appears in many different ways. However, chronic unhealthy stress slowly creeps in our lives and is a growing epidemic becoming toxic to our physical health, mental health, and spiritual health. At all times, in order to maintain a healthy mind, body, and spirit, we must be in a constant equilibrium or balance.

Spirituality, separated from Religiousness, can help manage your unhealthy stress, because spirituality in its core helps give your life meaning and purpose regardless of your religious beliefs.

How do I know if my stress is normal or if it is unhealthy? Normal healthy stress occurs during certain events such as child birthing, exercise, or even in cases like winning the lottery. The natural stress response is the body’s reaction to danger, uncertainty or change through various hormonal reactions. That is the first stage of stress, also called the “fight or flight”.

Although stress is a normal natural survival mechanism, it can quickly become toxic to our mind, body, and spirit if kept in overdrive taxing your system. Ever hear anyone say their nerves are fried? Well unhealthy stress puts your nervous system in overdrive. Research suggests that prolonged toxic stress contributes to high blood pressure, heart disease, coronary artery disease, anxiety, depression, obesity, and addiction.

Statistics according to the American Psychological Association:

  • About 25% of Americans are experiencing high levels of stress
  • About 50% report moderate levels of stress
  • Over 76% of Americans cite money as a significant cause of stress.[1]

Research also suggests that time management may be a significant barrier preventing people from taking the necessary steps to improve their health.[2] Most Americans have a general awareness and understand the general health impacts of toxic stress. Unfortunately, studies also show there is a disconnect when it comes to impact stress may have on an individual’s own health.

You cannot avoid stress, but there ways to better manage stress levels and spirituality can help.


First, in order to change the effects of stress, you have to learn to recognize and identify when you're feeling overly stressed and become more aware of the signs, symptoms, and triggers. Your body tells you everything you need to know by sending you signs and signals. Are you listening?

Spirituality can help you become reconnected with yourself. It allows for self discovery, and can assist in helping you build a sense of awareness. Because spirituality focuses on the inner self and our inner world, it encourages a passive shift in our attitude and how we react to certain situations that confront us.

Research suggests that those who believe in God or a higher power or have gone through a spiritual journey experience many benefits to their overall health and wellbeing including a reduction of toxic stress.

Once you identify the stress, next is to choose a way to deal with it. One way is to find something positive in your life no matter how dire your situation may seem. Focus on positives. Find gratitude in the little things in your life that right now may seem mundane.

Another way, is avoidance or removal. However, avoiding your stressors are not always possible especially if the source of your stress is family. So what do we do? We change our thoughts and how we react to people, things or situations. You cannot change how someone treats you or what situations have been given to you, BUT you can choose how you react to them.

As you go through this process pay attention to you - not the ego self, but the inner you! There are various practices associated with spirituality that have also been shown to reduce unhealthy stress including:

  • MeditationMeditation is probably the most researched practice showing profound benefits to improving a variety of chronic health issues such as stress, anxiety, depression, HBP, and improve immunity. The US Army has studied its effectiveness in using it as a treatment method for soldiers returning from battle who suffer from PTSD.
  • YogaYoga is considered a form of complementary alternative medicine using various poses and breathing techniques. Research has shown yoga to reduce stress related symptoms, enhance mood, and improve overall sense of well-being.
  • Tai Chi – When Communist China took over, Tai Chi was the only martial art not banned. It is now considered a meditation in movement. With the use of the gentle flow and movements, Tai Chi can have tremendous health benefits including reducing stress.
  • Breathing Exercises - Mastering the power of the breath with deep breathing techniques is one of the best ways to lower stress and can be done anywhere. This is because how we breathe affects the overall functioning and health of our body.
  • Relaxation – Relaxation Techniques help activate the body’s natural relaxation response to combat stress. Methods include: hypnosis, meditation, breathing exercises, and yoga.
  • Prayer - Prayer has also show to have many of the same benefits as meditation by bringing a sense of calmness that can help buffer stress. Prayer has long been associated with connecting to God.
  • Touch Therapies such as Reiki and Acupuncture have ancient healing roots that promote healing and reduce stress.
  • LaughterLaughter has been shown to cause biochemical changes in the body leading to greater healing and changes of perspective.

Through various spiritual practices, you will quickly be able to restore calm, clarity and serenity to your chaotic life and restore the equilibrium in your body. In the process, your stress will naturally be reduced.

Finally, our mental strength and attitudes can be a deciding factor in identifying a stressor and the nature of our response to it. So becoming aware of our own inner thoughts, maintaining a positive attitude, and learning to laugh more can all help keep our mind, body, and spirit healthy.

So when life throws you a curveball, change how you react to the situation, and find the lesson to be learned. Those who practice some form of spirituality also view these types of situations as a karmic test or lesson to be learned for personal spiritual growth.

As someone once told me when I was at a place where I felt cornered with no possible solutions in sight while stress controlled my life, I was reminded “It is always darkest before it becomes dawn”. The light always triumphs the dark. Always.

Let spirituality and your spiritual path guide you in your life and help you reduce the unhealthy stress you have accumulated before it becomes too late. You will be glad you did. Have a blessed day.

Article by: Laura Bonetzky-Joseph; RMA, RMT, Adjunct Instructor, Holistic Health Professional, Medical Intuitive

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References:

1. American Psychological Association; Managing Your Stress Through Tough Economic Times; November 2010; http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/economic-stress.aspx

2. The Mayo Clinic; Spirituality and Stress Relief: July 23, 2010; http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/stress-relief/SR00035

3. American Pyshcological Association; Stress in America; 2011 http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/stress/index.aspx

4. Life Positive; Spirituality for Stress Relief; http://www.lifepositive.com/mind/psychology/stress/mental-health.asp

5. Columbia Center For Psychiatry; Stress; David Fischer MD, Medical Director; 2011; http://www.columbiapsychiatric.com/stress.html

6. The Free Dictionary by Fairafax; Stress; http://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/stress

7. Harvard Health Publications; Harvard Medical School; Understanding the Stress Response; http://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletters/Harvard_Mental_Health_Letter/2011/March/understanding-the-stress-response

8. Spirituality and health: What we know, what we need to know; Linda K George; David B Larsons; Harold G Koeing; Michael E McCullough; Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology; Spring 2000; 19, 1; Psychology Module; http://www.psy.miami.edu/ehblab/Religion%20Papers/spirituality%20and%20health_george_larson_et%20al._JSCP.pdf

9. Stress Management; Stress Relievers: Top 10 Picks To Tame Stress; Mayo Clinic; http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/stress-relievers/MY01373

10. Stress Management Health Center; Stress Management; Breathing Exercises for Relaxation; WedMD; http://www.webmd.com/balance/stress-management/stress-management-breathing-exercises-for-relaxation

11. The Mayo Clinic; Stress Management; Relaxation Techniques; http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/relaxation-technique/SR00007

12. Conquer Toxic Holiday Stress; Laura Joseph; Healing With Spirit

13. Meditation and Stress; Laura Joseph; Healing With Spirit

14. Reiki; Laura Joseph; Healing With Spirit

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© 2013 Laura Joseph of Healing With Spirit. All Rights Reserved. This information is for general educational uses only. It may not apply to you and your specific medical needs. This information should not be used in place of a visit, call, consultation with or the advice of your physician or health care professional. Communicate promptly with your physician or other health care professional with any health-related questions or concerns. Be sure to follow specific instructions given to you by your physician or health care professional.

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[1] American Pyshcological Association; Stress in America; 2011

[2] American Pyshcological Association; Stress in America; 2011

Featured Volunteer Guest Medium at Diva's Night Out Fundraiser for Massachusetts Survivors Outreach.  Laura is available for speaking and guest events
Featured Volunteer Guest Medium at Diva's Night Out Fundraiser for Massachusetts Survivors Outreach. Laura is available for speaking and guest events | Source

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