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Spirituality to Help People Cope with Stress

Rising level of pressure in people’s personal lives has resulted in increased level of stress. There can be several factors in a person’s life that can cause stress. To adapt to these pressures is difficult. From a busy work schedule to a lack of balance between person and professional lives and other forms of imbalances are giving rise to severe anxiety and stress. People’s lifestyles have changed a lot and instead of being simple have become more complex. Some of the most common causes of anxiety include lack of job satisfaction, resulting insecurity, toxic relationships and work environment or traumatic events. In any case, the level of stress is so high that the ordinary coping mechanisms may fail. A person may have no other way out but to seek help from a psychiatrist. Our nervous system can fail to cope with the heavy pressure and the result can be high level stress, depression and nervous breakdown. 

 Depression, high blood pressure, heart diseases and  even other major chronic illnesses can result from high level stress.  However, some small changes to one’s lifestyles can help him stress with cope and reduce anxiety. Exercise has been acknowledged to be effective in this area. Apart from keeping you physically fit, it helps you remain mentally healthy. However, apart from physical exercises, spirituality and religion have also been found to be effective at helping people cope with sudden changes in their lives, stress and instability.

We turn to God and religion most often to find inner peace. However, research has showed that spirituality is much more effective at helping people cope with stress and anxiety than people ordinarily believe. Most people who believe in God and religion find it relieving to pray and think of God. Practicing meditation and yoga have also been found to be effective at managing stress. It is also a reason that a larger number of people worldwide are resorting to yoga and meditation in search of calm and stability. Spirituality is a part of every creed and culture. In every nation and culture, people connect with God in their own ways. Whether in Islam, Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism or Sikhism, people try to find relief from daily pressures that torment their minds in prayer and worship.  

Anxiety has commonly been associated with emotional and physical stress. Common symptoms include feeling of loneliness, grief, social apprehension, other types of fear and insecurity. Overtime a lot of research has accumulated related to stress and the healing effect of spirituality. Even if spirituality may not be the one stop solution, it can help cope with stress and build inner strength. It is also an area that people commonly ignore whenever they feel stressed. However, spirituality has now been acknowledged to be effective. Particularly, a lot of qualitative literature argues about the effectiveness of spiritual techniques when it comes to developing stress coping ability. 

When used in conjunction with other methods, spirituality can be effective at reducing pressure and stress.  The association between spirituality and mental peace has been a topic of discussion since long. Even a decade ago, research findings had showed a significant relationship between spirituality and stress coping mechanism. research also argues that the psychiatric community has not completely acknowledged the role of spirituality in coping with stress. However, lack of quantitative evidence can also be a reason behind it. It proves there is a need to conduct more research. In some cases research found that while spirituality generally has a positive influence upon people dealing with stress, its effect is limited. As in case of depression and PTSD, research shows that spirituality can help to a certain extent but does not fully control suicidal feelings.

People are trying every method to reduce the level of stress in their personal lives including exercises and other mechanisms like talking to a counsellor or getting help from their near and dear ones as well as experiencing the peace of Church. Level of stress among people has gone very high. APA (American Psychological Association) conducted the 12th ‘Stressed in America’ survey last year and the results showed that the level of stress across various generations compared to previous years has grown. The range of issues that make people feel worried has also grown. It is not just the adults or the elderly but teens are also experiencing growing stress.  According to the American Institute of Stress, 80% of the workers feel stressed on there jobs and nearly 50% need external help to cope with stress. WHO states that depression is a leading cause of disability around the globe. There are several reasons associated with the rise of stress including social, economic, financial and health related. Stress also arises from other chronic diseases. 

Amid rising stress worldwide, people are trying to find new and inexpensive methods that can help them achieve mental peace and stability. Spirituality is not necessarily an answer to all the causes of stress. However, it can still strengthen one’s inner ability to fight stress and remain stable in trying situations. Now, a  larger number of health institutions are trying to understand the patient’s spiritual needs.  Spiritual and social support is often effective at reducing the level of pressure and stress in people’s lives. Gathering information about the patient’s religious background and experiences helps create better and more effective therapies.

Psychiatrists can gain an understanding of the religious background and experiences of the patient using questionnaires. Discussing spiritual matters will also help the patient therapist relationship and can lead to faster recovery. Sometimes understanding  patient’s religious belief can also help you find better and easier methods to encourage positive thinking. A therapist can find some religious beliefs in a person that might be causing conflicts and affecting his mental health. Other beliefs may be helping him cope and recover. For example, if  a patient says that he finds it good to pray and fast then the therapist should encourage such practices. On the other hand those beliefs that cause inner conflict and confusion should be challenged to help the patient emerge from stress and anxiety. Spirituality if used the right way can help resolve the inner conflict. Passages from Gita, Quran or Bible can be helpful in this area to help patients peace and stability. Several mental health programs including those for the treatment of addiction use these methods to help patients recover.  It is an effective method to resolve the turmoil and fear in people’s lives. 

Alcoholics anonymous is an international program to help people who have had drinking problems. Instead of only using rejection, this program encourages people to leave behind instability and conflict as well as their drinking problem using divine and spiritual support. People grow powerless when it comes to controlling bad habits including alcohol. In such scenario, the best thing is to rely upon God and seek his help to overcome the turmoil. AA is a famous program or a fellowship which helps people rediscover light in their lives once they are unable to control the instability that results from alcohol addiction. Alcoholics Anonymous notes in its Eleventh Step, “Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out”. When you are unable to find will to overcome your fears and resolve the inner conflict, you must rely upon his light to find a way out. 

The focus of AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) is to help people discover love, hope and integrity in their lives and emerge from darkness and depression. Meditation and prayer, in this way become effective tools to find strength and courage to overcome one’s habit of alcohol. 

While a large number of programs and institutions have started incorporating religion and spirituality into therapy, there is need for further search to build a more accurate picture due to the multidimensional nature of spirituality. The easiest method for people in mental health services is to consider the spiritual and religious belief of patient during  the assessment process.  Incorporating these practices is somewhat difficult for the therapists may find it difficult to step out of their area of expertise and lack of awareness. In case of those who are aware of the association between mental health and spirituality, the link is less than clear.

There is also a need for higher awareness among the spiritual leaders regarding the potential benefits of spiritual expression in terms of mental health and stability. Research has not formed a very precise picture of the role spirituality can play in the mental healing process. While in some areas, it has found to be effective, in others its results are less than clear.  The relationship between spirituality and mental health is nonlinear. This nonlinear relationship has kept the psychiatric community from fully acknowledging the benefits of spirituality for mental health. As more research is carried out in this area, therapists will be more open to accommodating considerations related to spirituality in psychotherapy. 







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