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Meditation and breathing to eliminate anxiety during this stressful time
Linda Togni, Naturopath
In this period of very high stress, uncertainty and instability, practicing meditation and the presence of the breath helps to get in touch with one’s true essence. It is necessary to really understand one’s needs and ease tensions in order to bring order and presence in the “here and now” to the body, mind and spirit.
Very often, in our life, we go forward like automatons, like “war machines” without ever stopping. We do not ask ourselves how we are, what we are feeling, where we are going and with whom. This only increases our stress and anxiety in everyday life and the associated psychosomatic problems.
Meditation brings us back to the present moment, making space for us among the thousand thoughts and limiting mental beliefs. A great Zen master teaches us speaking of breathing: “What we call is just a door that opens and closes when we inhale and exhale, when we do Zazen the mind follows the breath. When we inhale the air enters the internal world. When we exhale it comes out into the outside world.” The real intent of the practice is to observe things as they are and let everything go as it should go, and therefore focusing on the breath while meditating is of great help. of our mind is pure and like water, it has waves and a mind crossed by waves is not disturbed, it is a mind amplified by various experiences (S. Suzuki-roshi “Zen mind, beginner’s mind”).
Do you sometimes wonder how you are? What is your psycho-physical state of health today?
These are questions that as a woman and Naturopath I ask clients in counseling. I try to make people aware that the quantity of life has increased, but the quality of healthy life has deteriorated! We live longer, but less healthy, because we do not focus on our mental health in connection with the body to have a global psycho-physical and energy well-being. In fact, numerous scientific researches show that 77% of the population suffers from stress, 33% complains of a state of chronic stress and 48% believe that stress has worsened in the last 5 years (Statistic Brain Research Institute, of the American Institute of Stress, 2015).
There are also numerous scientific articles that point to the many benefits of meditation for treating anxiety disorders and chronic stress. Such as, for example, a study of 70 adults with anxiety and distress undergoing a stress reduction program, based on awareness and education and management of the same based on awareness interventions (meditation and mindfulness) This study showed, thanks to the analysis stress reactivity, comparing pre-treatment, during, and post-treatment distress and anxiety (Trier Social Stress Test TSST), a significant reduction in anxiety, reduction of adrenocorticotropic hormone ACTH and pro-inflammatory cytokines, and has demonstrated a reduction in stress markers with combined hormonal and immunological evidence and, therefore, that meditation and mindfulness practices can improve resilience to stress (National Institutes of Health, Hoge EA, et al. J Clin Psychiatry, 2018).
As a professional and well-being advocate, I would like to make you aware of the problems associated with stressful situations that almost always involve hyperactivation of the stress axis (increased blood levels, cortisol and noradrenaline) complicit in the onset of many diseases or problems. The systems involved can be: the nervous, metabolic, immune, reproductive, cardiovascular systems, increased risk of cancer and metastases. Even mental and psychological problems with psychosomatic problems (irritable bowel, dermatitis, fibriomyalgia, headaches, lack of memory, menstrual pain) and for pregnant women, chronic stress can affect the unborn child and the fetus during pregnancy.
Just 5 minutes a day of presence and meditation are enough to feel the long-term benefits. It takes practice and value in wanting to get better to prevent certain situations from turning into something more serious.
What is meditation?
- ATTENTION / PRESENCE with the present moment, brings us back to the “HERE and NOW”
- INCLUSION of any emotions or thoughts (not necessarily only positive); I experience any kind of feeling without judgment
- CONCENTRATION on the breath (no thought control) remaining focused in a sustained and prolonged way over time on the object of attention
- CONTEMPLATION: observing through silence without judgment, “is letting myself be, I observe life without pretensions”
- UNION: it is a higher state of consciousness and awareness that happens naturally without us realizing it and happens when we become one with our object of attention
What are the benefits of meditation on the body, brain and emotions?
- lowers cholesterol and hypertension
- decreases stress and inflammation
- improves blood supply to the brain
- improves anxiety, depression, mental brooding and impulsiveness
- harmonizes centering and clarity of thought
- improves sleep, menstrual cycle, fertility
- relieves muscular, nervous and psychological tension
- regulates the hormonal cycle (serotonin, gaba, endorphins, cortisol, melatonin, dopamine, noradrenaline, oxytocin, dhea)
- influences the brain activities that control the painful stimulus by lowering its intensity and acts as a natural pain reliever
In connection with meditation, there are holistic practices to rebalance the body and be more vital, such as, for example, foot reflexology and natural integration with natural supplements that help relieve tension, stress, improve mood, promoting relaxation of body and mind.
Tranquilla Mente supplement with plant extracts and micronutrients does not contain caffeine and helps to counteract anxiety thanks to the presence of Valerian, Hawthorn, Passionflower and Linden extracts that stimulate synergistic GABA, a hormone of calm and natural sedative. It is an excellent adaptogenic mood tonic, thanks to the presence of Griffonia (it raises the levels of serotonin, the hormone of happiness), has a muscle relaxant and antispastic action thanks to the presence of Lemon Balm which has a sedative and relaxing action on the gastrointestinal mucosa, relieving somatic stress disorders. It also has an antioxidant and neuroprotective action, containing Ginkgo biloba associated with Vitamin C, E, A and B with the trace elements Copper, Zinc and Selenium which protect against oxidative stress.
During meditation (and also in daily life at home or in the office) you can use the power of Aromatherapy through a diffuser or by applying locally (topically) under the nostrils a balsamic essence of natural essential oils Sinergia S.A. with expectorant, antimicrobial and decongestant action for the respiratory tract. Sinergia S.A. contains a precious mix of pure essential oils, among which we find Cypress, Eucalyptus, Lavender, Peppermint and Pine, Chamomile, Sage, Rosemary, Lemon, Geranium, essential oils with anti-inflammatory, mucolytic, decongestant, antimicrobial, calming action on the central nervous system.
At the end of your day, I also recommend a little “Ritual Bath” cuddle with Idrobagno i.u. for a purifying and regenerating bath/shower. It is a blend of oils with a balsamic, skin-purifying power, which also stimulates peripheral and vasotonic circulation. Idrobagno i.u. contains a blend of precious essential oils such as Juniper, Lavender, Sage, Thyme, Chamomile, Eucalyptus, Niaouli, Marjoram, Cypress, Cloves, Peppermint that have a balsamic, draining, anti-inflammatory, purifying, soothing, antimicrobial power.
If you feel stress it is time for meditation and breathing to eliminate anxiety!
Cyclooxygenase, lipoxygenase and the inflammatory process
Cyclooxygenase and lipooxygenase are the two families of enzymes that are commonly involved in the inflammatory process, through a complex of reactions which is called arachidonic acid cascade. This complex of reactions develops as follows: a first enzyme, a phospholipase cleaves the phospholipids of biological membranes, releasing arachidonic acid, a polyunsaturated fatty acid with 20 carbon atoms (eicosa-5Z,8Z,11Z,14Z-tetraenoic acid ; C20:4; ω-6). The arachidonic acid is then transformed by two parallel enzymatic pathways, that is, by two families of enzymes: the cyclooxygenase which transforms it into prostaglandins and thromboxanes and the lipooxygenase which transforms it into hydroperoxides which in turn transform into leukotrienes .
There are two cyclooxygenase isoforms indicated with type 1 and type 2, briefly COX-1 and COX-2. COX-1 is the enzyme present in most cells (except red blood cells), and is constitutive, that is, it is always present. COX-2 is an inducible cyclooxygenase isoform: it is constitutively present in some organs such as brain, liver, kidney, stomach, heart and vascular system, while it can be induced (i.e. developed if necessary) following inflammatory stimuli on the skin, white blood cells and muscles.
There are various types of lipooxygenase that lead to different products, the most important in the inflammatory process is 5-lipooxygenase, 5-LOX.
Prostaglandins, Thromboxanes, and Leukotrienes
Prostaglandins, Thromboxanes, and Leukotrienes are chemical messengers or mediators, that is, molecules that bring a message to specific cells and activate or deactivate metabolic responses in these cells. They, therefore, have a function similar to hormones, only that, unlike what hormones do, the chemical message is carried only at a short distance, that is, only to the cells that are in the vicinity of the place where the mediators were produced. There are different prostaglandins, different thromboxanes and different leukotrienes that carry specific messages. In many cases these act as mediators of the inflammatory process , therefore they trigger all the events that are involved in inflammation:
– vasodilation with consequent blood supply (redness),
– increased capillary permeability with consequent fluid exudation (swelling or edema),
– stimulation of nociceptive nerve signals (pain),
– on-site recall of immune system cells that attack a possible invader (chemotactic action)
– activation of the biosynthesis of fibrous tissue to strengthen or repair the affected part (even if there is no need)
– generations of free radicals that can chemically destroy an invader (but also damage our tissues, i.e. they just “shoot in the middle”).
Prostaglandins and thromboxanes, however, also play important physiological roles in normal conditions, i.e. in the absence of inflammation. For example, they regulate the secretion of mucus that protects the walls of the stomach, they regulate the biosynthesis of cartilages and synovial fluid in the joints, they regulate vasodilation, hence the correct flow of blood in the various local districts, and more.
Triglycerides are the main components of most oils and fats. These are heavy, non-volatile and little polar molecules, insoluble in water, made up of glycerol (or glycerin) esterified with three molecules of fatty acids: therefore, it is a tri-ester of glycerin, from which the name derives. Each fatty acid contains 8 to 22 carbon atoms (commonly 16 to 18) and can be saturated, mono-unsaturated or poly-unsaturated. The size of the fatty acids and their saturation determines the physical and sensorial properties of the triglycerides, which can appear as oils (liquids at room temperature) or fats (solid or semi-solid) and can have greater or less greasiness and smoothness on the skin. Unsaturated triglycerides or with shorter fatty acids are more fluid and have greater flowability.
Fatty acids (saturated, mono-unsaturated and poly-unsaturated)
The name fatty acids is commonly used to indicate those organic acids that are found in the composition of lipids, that is, in animal and vegetable oils and fats, both in the free form and in the form of esters with glycerol (e.g. in triglycerides), or they are esterified with “fatty” alcohols, that is, long chain alcohols, to form waxes. Fatty acids are carboxylic acids (formula R-COOH) which have a long carbon chain (R), unlike common organic acids such as acetic acid and propionic acid, which have 2 or 3 carbon atoms in total, respectively. Fatty acids are defined as saturatedif they do not have double carbon-carbon bonds, (called “unsaturations”), they are defined mono-unsaturated if they have only one, they are defined mono-unsaturatedpoly-unsaturated if they have two or more double bonds (see figure). The term omega-3 (ω-3) or omega-6 (ω-3), refers to the position of the first double bond starting from the bottom of the chain of carbon atoms: if the first double bond is encountered after 3 carbon atoms the fatty acid is classified as omega-3 , if after six carbon atoms omega-6 , as shown in the figure. The most common saturated fatty acids are palmitic acid (16 carbon atoms and no double bond, C16: 0) and stearic acid (18 carbon atoms, 18: 0), the most common mono-unsaturated is the oleic acid, typical of olive oil (18 carbon atoms and 1 double bond in position 9, C18: 1; ω-9), while the most common poly-unsaturated are linoleic acid and linolenic acid, progenitors respectively omega-6 and omega-3 (see figure).
Terpenes and terpenoids
Terpenes or terpenoids are a large family of natural molecules, typically containing 10 to 30 carbon atoms, which are biosynthesized from a common “brick”, isopentenyl pyrophosphate (IPP), containing 5 carbon atoms (see figure). The discovery that the repetitive brick consists of 5 carbon atoms is relatively recent, while it was once assumed that the entire family was created by repeating a brick of 10 carbon atoms, which was called “terpene”. Therefore, the molecules with 10 carbon atoms (such as limonene, see figure) were called mono-terpenes, i.e. composed of a single brick, diterpenes those with 20 carbon atoms (e.g. the cafestol that gives the aroma to the coffee), triterpenes those with 30 carbon atoms (e.g. beta-carotene). Since molecules made from 15 carbon atoms were also found (such as bisabolol), it was thought they contained a terpene and a half, and were called sesquiterpenes (from the Latin semis = half + atque = and). Today it is known that the repetitive unit is composed of 5 carbon atoms, therefore it is easy to understand how mono-terpenes contain two (see figure), sesquiterpenes three, diterpenes four, triterpenes six.