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Spirituality and Stress
Relax to be Less Stressful
Spirituality and Stress affects individuals in a unique way
One late afternoon on a sunny April day, he drove from Phoenix, Arizona, north toward Flagstaff, and arrived at Oak Creek Canyon just as the sun was setting.
The canyon wall, created over many centuries, surrounded a natural river that left him breathless.
All the individual could think was, ''The wonder of it all.'' Later that evening, on the ride back to Phoenix, he was accompanied by what seemed like thousands of stars in a crystal clear sky.
Any of you who have been to this part of the United States, know that the stars appear so low in the night sky that that they seem almost touchable.
He could not drive too long it seemed beyond his will before he had to pull the car onto the shoulder of the roadway.
This, he did to get out and marvel at that sky with its twinkling ceiling.
It was possible to be distressed that day.
He was enraptured with these natural wonders and so intently focused upon them that the hassles, and stresses he had experienced before he left Phoenix seemed inconsequential.
Why sweat the small stuff in the face of the big stuff?
Too frequently do you celebrate life's wonders with the attitude of gratitude that they deserve. Parents take their children for granted instead of marveling at their uniqueness and development.
Students become desensitized to the beauty surrounding them on campus, to the quiet walks to the library, and to the opportunity to lie in the grass, reading Plato, Hemingway, or Wadsworth.
Professors forget to appreciate the cloistered environs in which they are honored by being allowed to devote their careers to labors of love.
In creation itself often receives short shrift in a hurried society concerned with fast food, quick weight loss diets, and electrodes.
These can stimulate muscular development without even having to move.
Quicker, faster, more sooner, easier, so little time to nourish the soul, to develop optimal spiritual health.
Spiritual health has been defined in a number of ways.
Some of these definitions recognize the existence of a supreme being, whereas others relate spirituality to one's relationships with others and one's place in this world.
One definition of spiritual health is the adherence to doctrine as prescribed by a religion. The closer the adherence, the greater the spiritual health.
Another definition of spiritual health is the ability to discover and express your purpose in life; to learn how to experience love, joy, peace, and fulfillment; and to help yourself and others to achieve full potential.
The lack of emotional and spiritual health is the basic cause of heart disease, because the stress that develops as a result influences the development of negative health behaviors.
That place the individual at signed to help individuals at risk for heart disease.
Using mindfulness meditation, one is taught to live in the moment, becoming acutely aware of feelings, thoughts, and sensations.
In this process chronic pain is decreased, anxiety, stress and depression.
Spiritual health may include answers to such questions as:
''Who am I?''
''Why am I here?''
''Where am I headed?''
Questions that confront you with the very fact of your existence and the meaning of life. Answers to these questions may comfort you and alleviate stress with assurance that your life is headed in the direction you desire.
On the other hand, your answers may disturb you.
Perhaps you have not previously appreciated your relationship to humankind, to a supreme being, to nature, or to what has preceded you and what will remain when you no longer do.
Should that occur, use that dissonance to make changes in your life so as to be more spiritual, take more walks in the woods, so to speak?
Celebrate loved ones and natural wonders; find activities in which to make a contribution to your world and the people who inhabit it. Leave something of meaning behind, experience that you are and let others experience that as well.
All of these changes will make you less distressed, more satisfied with your life, and more effective in your interactions with both your environment and the people about whom you care.
Religion and Spirituality
It seems clear that religious and spiritual involvement affects health and yet what is not so clear are the differences and similarities between these two terms, religion and spirituality.
Spirituality is a person's orientation toward or experiences with the transcendent existential features of life.
Meaning, direction, purpose, and connectedness, sometimes referred to as the search for the sacred in life.
Religion is an external manifestation of Spiritual experience, or an organized social entity in which individuals share some basic beliefs and practices.
It is possible therefore, to be spiritual but not to be religious, or to even be anti-religious.
It is also possible to engage in a religious practice but to do so in a no secular, spiritual manner, for example, using prayer to meditate rather than pray to a Supreme Being.
Spirituality and Health
Although both religion and spirituality have been associated with various health parameters such as blood pressure, religion and spirituality has been used as interventions to improve health and alleviate stress.
Patients with the same illness were divided into groups, then a group of people who described themselves as religious believers prayed for one group of patients.
Neither group of patients knew whether they were the objects of the believers' prayers, and those praying had no idea for whom they were praying.
Yet the group of patients that was prayed for improved their health to a greater extent than the other group of patients. It is called a double-blind study.
Spirituality or religion related to lower levels of psychological distress, reduced risk of physical illness, and lower mortality rates.
The relationship between spirituality and religion to health is a positive feeling, individuals adopted healthy behaviors in general. Consequently, spiritual and religious people tend to be healthier.
Spiritual health is more predictive of health –promotion behaviors, than are isolated psycho-social variables such as:
Self-esteem, locus of control, connectedness, and sense of coherence.
As regards stress in particular, spiritual health was found significantly related to assuming responsibility to manage one's stress.
How Spirituality and Religion Affects Health
When an individual feels some degree of control over a stressor, that person's health status will be less affected than someone who perceives little or no control.
There are two different approaches to increasing control: primary control and secondary control.
Primary control, similar to problem-focused copying refers to attempts to change the situation, whereas secondary control refers to attempts to affect or control oneself.
Secondary control can be more helpful in low-control situations.
Religion and spirituality can function as either primary control or secondary control.
Intercessory prayer, prayers for divine intervention is a primary control activity.
Re-framing a situation so as to view it as fate or a force of nature is a secondary control activity.
Other secondary control spiritual activities that lessen emotional reactions to stress include meditation, contemplative prayer, rituals, or scripture readings
Religious approaches to increasing control as a copying mechanism.
The individual perceives him or herself as responsible for the outcome, although God or nature has provided the resources the individual needs to be successful.
Individual works together with God or forces of nature to control the situation.
The entire situation is turned over to God or forces of nature, with reliance on external forces of nature to intervene in the situation to resolve it.
The individual begs God or forces of nature to intervene in the situation to resolve it.
The self-directing and collaborative approaches associated with mental health and competence and the deferring approach associated with lower levels of self-competence.
However, a the collaborative or deferring approach may be healthier in situations in which the individual really does have little control for example when about to have a surgery.
In this instance, secondary control is facilitated by a deferring a collaborative approach.
Spirituality and Religion
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© 2013 Devika Primić