FRUSTRATION, work pressure, relationship issues and worry can stress a person out.
These emotions cause an excessive production of stress hormones, such as cortisol, leading to mental health problems in the long run. It can either be neurotic or psychotic, or both.
According to medical journals, 90 per cent of stress problems are work-related. Statistics show that one in three Malaysians suffers from some form of mental health problem.
It is said that stress is a catalyst for diseases such as cancer, diabetes, as well as cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, respiratory and cognitive problems.
Besides physical complications, stress can affect relationship and productivity.
In the worst-case scenario, it can lead one to commit suicide when he or she is depressed and not able to cope.
As an educator, practitioner and researcher of stress management techniques over the past 15 years, I have found mindfulness to be one of the best techniques to manage stress and build inner happiness.
Mindfulness is a practice based on the fundamentals of concentration. It generally consists of focusing and breathing. It is a deliberate concentration-based process which strengthens the mind and increases inner peace.
Mindfulness can reduce activities in the prefrontal cortex of our brain, which eventually gives rest to the brain and increases neuroplasticity (the brain’s ability to reorganise itself).
Besides destressing, mindfulness also helps one to develop higher-order thinking skills and improve cognitive abilities.
During one of my training sessions, a participant confided in me that mindfulness helped him to stay focused and calm. He was taking medication for bipolar disorder.
It is proven that mindfulness can prevent mental “relapse” for those under medication or diagnosed with mental illness.
Recent studies using functional magnetic resonance imaging found that there was an increase of grey matter in the brain among those who practised mindfulness daily for 30 minutes. Grey matter serves to process information in the brain.
In short, mindfulness can be used as an effective technique in stress management as it improves resilience through neuroplasticity and cognitive development. Just like physical exercise, mindfulness is a mind exercise that requires daily practice if one wants to benefit from it.
Vigneswaran Kannan, Sitiawan, Perak