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Stressed? Meditation helps
Consider meditating as way to reduce stress

 Meditating can relieve stress and lower blood pressure.
Peter Brutsch/ISTOCK PHOTOGRAPHY
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Date published: 11/2/2008

PROZAC or the Dalai Lama: Which should you turn to for stress reduction?

If the mention of the Dalai Lama has you envisioning shaving your head, burning incense, sitting with your legs crossed and chanting, keep reading--there is much more to meditation to that.

And there are many reasons to consider trying it, especially this time of year.

We are all anticipating the impending holidays, wondering how we will get through. We need to produce, we need to make money, we need to achieve, we need to cook and entertain, we want to be perfect, yet we forget that we need to care for ourselves and avoid burnout.

'I JUST CAN'T TAKE IT'

The concept of stress varies greatly among my individual patients. For some, it is not very stressful to be a law enforcement officer and defuse a bomb, while another may find balancing his checkbook a reason for a panic attack. Hyperbole? Perhaps. But we all know that stress and anxiety are largely individual experiences and depend on what is going on in our lives at the moment.

Burnout, however, carries a definition that is easier to pin down. The best description of burnout I can recall was from a psychologist who is a friend of mine. It is the moment when the stressors we are trying to work through overwhelm our coping mechanisms. So comes the familiar scream, "I just can't take it anymore!"

So what can you do to increase your ability to cope, improve your emotional resources, and continue to play the hand life has dealt you? Do you join those taking prescription antidepressants?

The data alone are depressing. In 2007, it is estimated that 232 million prescriptions were written in the United States for antidepressants, costing our health care system about $12 billion. So maybe everyone around you is taking one anyway, right?

Without over-generalizing, the answer to whether you should take medication depends largely on your individual circumstances. If you find yourself frequently tearful, unmotivated, panic-stricken, sleeping all the time or not at all, or thinking about suicide, you will need the help of your doctor.


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Stress is constant, but more severe forms of stress are anxiety and depression. Both depression and anxiety can be worsened as daylight decreases and the holidays arrive. Make sure you do not try to go it alone. If you feel that you need help, ask for it. You'll be surprised how many people have experienced what you are going through, and know how to help. Your primary-care doctor can often help you sort out whether you need medicines, counseling or other intervention to allow you to enjoy your life again.

RESOURCES:

The phone number for our local crisis/suicide-prevention hot line is 540/371-1212.

To find a Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction program in Virginia, search at umassmed.edu/cfm/mbsr.