We all deal with stress and mental health issues in our daily lives, but after watching two weeks of the Olympics this summer, it’s impossible not to imagine the amount of stress going through the mind of an athlete before a final… or even a referee. In fact, a recent Wall Street Journal report dove into the stress and anxiety that volleyball referees were dealing with at the games and how they were coping with it using simple but time-tested natural remedies: yoga and meditation.
Though pharmaceuticals are often touted as the answer to mental health issues, options like yoga and meditation can offer surprisingly effective solutions to cope with stress and anxiety, which can lead to better physical health overall.
According to the American Osteopathic Association, regularly practiced yoga can lead to myriad benefits such as increased flexibility, increased muscle strength and tone, improved respiration, energy and vitality, maintaining a balanced metabolism, weight reduction, and cardio and circulatory health, all of which can help improve overall mood and mental health. A 2002 study found that yoga can “play an important role in risk modification for cardiovascular diseases in mild to moderate hypertension,” which are the kinds of physical maladies that stress and anxiety can exacerbate.
Aside from the argument that a health body means a healthy mind, a Harvard Mental Health Letter from the Harvard Medical School investigated a number of studies and drew the conclusion that yoga “can reduce the impact of exaggerated stress responses and may be helpful for both anxiety and depression.” An American Psychology Association report also pointed to yoga as a way to “cope with stress and anxieties, and even heal emotional wounds.”
Going hand-in-hand with the mental focus required of yoga, meditation has also be found to have documented positive effects on stress and anxiety. A 2014 study published in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology found that even “brief mindfulness meditation” can help promote active coping efforts to mitigate stress and deal with stressful situations. Another study published in the JAMA Internal Medicine found that “mindfulness meditation can help ease psychological stresses like anxiety, depression, and pain,” according to the Harvard Heart Letter.
Meanwhile a 2011 study published in the The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine concluded that meditation could help reduce physiologic stress responses without taking away any of the benefits of stress (like improved memory), even for people who’ve never practiced meditation before. That means even trying meditation just a couple times could help you deal with your stress.
So where to start? Yoga and meditation sounds like easy, relaxing ways to reduce stress and improve your mental health, but for someone who’s never tried them before, it can be difficult to know where to begin. Luckily, since you’re reading this blog online, you’re already looking in the right place: the internet. The internet is filled with a number of excellent resources to point you in the right direction. YouTube has countless yoga routine videos ranging from beginner to advanced, as well as a number of guided meditation videos of varying lengths. Websites like Greatist.com can also be a wealth of resources for anyone looking to learn more abouy these kinds of topics and understand where to start.
Though we unfortunately sometimes neglect our mental health, keeping our minds in shape can be just as critical to our overall health as keeping our bodies in shape. SingleCare offers mental health services such as Psychiatry and Psychology specialists at an affordable rate for in-office visits, as well as through our telehealth partnership with American Well for online evaluations and therapy. All these services are accessible through SingleCare’s free member network that offers serious savings for anyone who’s seriously interested in a healthier mind and body.