Yoga and Meditation are the Best Stress Management Practices for First Responders

Date:  2021-06-01 17:26:54
6 pages  (1467 words)
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In the present competitive and highly dynamic business world, the present individual is in constant exposure to all types of stressors that have adverse impacts on all aspects of their lives. In this regards, stress can be defined as a dynamic and complex interaction between an individual and their environment. Hence, stress has effects on ones personal relationships, health, work performance, and social life. Subsequently, the emotional response to stress is also complex and produces psychological changes that prepare one for a fight or flight action. Consequently, without the proper management skills, stress can and is in most cases a silent killer with prolonged exposure to stressors leading to poor physical, emotional, psychological and behavioral health.

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According to a study by Hill (2010), an average of eighty percent of the employees experience on the job stress. Furthermore, Maharana, Patra, Srinivasan, and Nagendra (2014) shows that stress is as a result of heavy work demands in the workplace, which the employees has little to no control over how the work has been laid out by the management. The nature of todays workplace is characterized by the exponential change of the modern working life that requires one to constantly adapt to new forms of tasks, and to constantly learn new skills to cope with the introduction of new job descriptions. All these changes, in turn, introduce new work pressures of higher productivity and the quality of work thus leading to a perpetual hectic work environment. Thus, all these factors contribute to stress in the workplace thus necessitating the need for an effective stress management strategies.

In response to dealing with stress at the workplace, certain strategies have gained traction for the effectiveness. One such stress management practice is the use of yoga and meditation. Yoga is increasingly emerging in the workplace as a discipline that integrates the mind and the and body into a harmonious union. When properly integrated as a way of life, yoga has had positive results in improving the health of the spirit, intellect, mind and body. Numerous studies have demonstrated the efficiency of yoga on mood-related disorders as well as on the reducing anxiety, depression, and stress. Presently, the treatment and management of stress are through the use pharmacological and psychological interventions. However, the adoption of mind and body interventions through the use of meditation and yoga are quickly gaining popularity as a stress management practice (Cadloff, 2016).

In its most basic form, yoga, a mind-body exercise is a discipline designed to foster a balance between the mind and the body thus promoting health to the physical emotional and mental and spiritual health. Although the practice of yoga has been in existence for over five thousand years, it is only recently that the Indian-native practice of yoga is gaining popularity in the United States and Europe as a mind and body exercise that maintains wellness and alleviates a variety of health ailments and problems. In a survey carried out to investigate its penetration into the Western world, it was determined that about four percent of the respondents reported using yoga in the last year with sixty-four percent acting wellness as and forty-eight percent citing health problems as the reason for turning to yoga (Naveen, Rao, Vishal, Thirthalli, Varambally, and Gangadhar, 2013).

The growing popularity of yoga and meditation as a means of combating stress and other mental issues is supported by the growing body of research on the practice. Several studies have presented that various yoga techniques have led to the improvement of mental and physical health via the down-regulation of the hypothalamic pituitary adrenal axis and the sympathetic nervous system (Gangadhar, Naveen, Rao, Thirthalli, and Varambally, 2013). The two, the hypothalamic pituitary adrenal (HPA) axis and the sympathetic nervous system (SNS), are triggered in response to a stressor that leads to a cascading psychological, behavioral and physiologic effects. This effect leads to the mobilization of energy in readiness to combat the stressor in either fight or flight. This constant hypervigilance due to continued exposure to particular stressors leads to continuous firing of the HPA axis and SNS that leads to a deregulated system thus promoting such ailments as obesity, diabetes, depression, autoimmune disorders to mention a few (Cadloff 2016).

Yoga has also been shown to reduce the heart rate and blood pressure significantly. Research studies have suggested that the use of yoga and meditation leads to a reversal of the adverse effects of stress on the immune system by increasing the levels of immunoglobulin A and natural killer cells (Maharana, Patra, Srinivasan, and Nagendra, 2014). Furthermore, yoga also has a hand in reducing markers of inflammation. Therefore, yoga, as suggested by studies, has an immediate quieting effect on the SNS-HPA axis stress response. Although the exact mechanism of actions has not yet been determined, it is deducted that certain yoga movements and exercises lead to a shift toward parasympathetic nervous system dominance through direct vagal stimulation. Such as deduction is supported by a study by Gangadhar (2013) which notes significant drops in low-frequency heart rate variability, signaling sympathetic nervous system activation in a study of depressed patients that were subjected to an eight-week yoga intervention.

Regardless of the pathopsychological route. The use of meditation and yoga has been proved to have positive psychological effects in reducing anxiety while improving emotional feelings, spiritual and social well-being. There have been a variety of reviews that have been conducted to examine the effect of yoga on certain health conditions such as cancer, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and anxiety. In this regard, a study on the mental health of both the young and old was conducted to reveal whether three is a difference in how yoga affects both the young and the old. The study focused on the Saliva Alpha Amylase, a biomarker for stress. The study revealed that yoga reduces stress for the young and old alike. During the course of the study, the Saliva Alpha Amylase (SAA) levels were observed to decrease after yoga exercise in both groups of the young and the old. It was observed that the SAA levels of the old were higher compared to those in the young participants. These high levels could be attributed to increased sympathetic activity or epinephrine levels associated with senior citizens.

Also, it was observed that during the first classes of yoga, some of the senior citizens SAA levels increased after the yoga exercises. This increase was however attributed to the pain due to these initial and new yoga practices. Also, the levels were attributed to the fact that the participants were anxious and did not relax during the meditation. However, as the yoga exercises progressed, the SAA levels of the senior citizens eventually reduced in line with the reduction observed in the young participants. As such, the study concluded that yoga and meditation has a significant effect on the improvement of mental health and in overcoming routine stress. Both groups showed a significant decrease in anxiety and participants felt relaxed after practicing yoga. Thus, yoga brings about both immediate and long terms positive impacts in the reduction of anxiety and stress. Furthermore, yoga and meditation help to foster behavioral changes to handle and control any type of stress (Hill, 2010).

In accordance with the World Health Organizations definition of health, Yoga is a complete science as it addresses individuals at the social, psychological and physical levels. Stress does not discriminate and affects all the age groups and people in all sectors of the society and occupations including first responders. Although, there are numerous medical methods for combating stress, more and more people and organizations are looking into alternative means of treating and managing stress without the use of medication. As such, yoga, which has been in existence for five thousand years, now has the scientific backing as a viable stress management practice. Through numerous studies, yoga has been proved effective in combining numerous psychological and physical ailments. Furthermore, it has also proved to be effective in improving and maintaining positive physical health and quality of life.

References

Cadloff, E. B. (2016, March 20). Stretch Relief: Using Yoga to Overcome Trauma. Retrieved from Telegraph Journal: https://www.telegraphjournal.com/greater-saint-john/story/46207377/weekend-reading-stretch-relief

Gangadhar, B., Naveen, G., Rao, M., Thirthalli, J., & Varambally, S. (2013). Positive antidepressant effects of generic yoga in depressive out-patients: A comparative study. Indian Journal of Psychiatry, 55, 369-373. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.4103/0019-5545.116312

Hill, A. (2010). Yoga and meditation for nontraditional populations (Doctoral dissertation, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill).

Maharana, P., Patra, S., Srinivasan, T. M., & Nagendra, H. R. (2014). General health of mid-career leaders: An objective and subjective observation through yoga. International Journal of Education and Management Studies, 4(3), 187-190.

Naveen, G., Rao, M., Vishal, V., Thirthalli, J., Varambally, S., & Gangadhar, B. (2013). Development and feasibility of yoga therapy module for out-patients with depression in India. Indian Journal of Psychiatry, 55, 350-356. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.4103/0019-5545.116305

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