Sensory Overload and Stress

As we move into the new millennium, we witness the effects of increasing environmental, economic, and psychological stress. Sensory overload is taxing the human system. The pressures upon all life on earth have reached unparalleled proportions.

As we move into the new millennium, we witness the effects of increasing environmental, economic, and psychological stress. Sensory overload is taxing the human system. The pressures upon all life on earth have reached unparalleled proportions.

Our bodies are subject to an onslaught of man-made stressors: crisscrossing fields of microwave, radio, television, and electronic transmissions, pollution, noise, and traffic, as well as the bombardments of information and advertising, and the requirements to produce more and more efficiently in the face of fierce economic competition.

Add to that the threats of terrorism and war that have created a palpable level of world anxiety and we have a culture dominated by stress, tension, and fear. We are beings of energy vibrating at the edge of disintegration in a sea of over-stimulation.

How do we maintain our balance? What do we do when an intense stressor such as a lost job, divorce, or the death of a loved one lands on top of the load we bear? What if, to complicate matters, this load rests on a personal history of trauma?

One of the main reasons we have a hard time breaking out of this cycle is that we do not realize how deeply we are affected by stress. On the surface, we may speak of being in a time-crunch, feeling burned-out, or needing to get away. We joke about vibrating from all the pressure. When our stress is intensified, we feel that we are going to go ballistic. We blow off steam in more or less productive ways, from exercise to alcohol to road rage, but the underlying pattern of denial remains.

Psychologists describe our perpetual tension, or the fight/flight response, as a reaction to the relentless fronts of over-stimulation. This response pattern is characterized by high-frequency brain waves termed beta waves. We are functioning as if we are on high alert all of the time.

Moreover, medical scientists are discovering how this state of perpetual tension adversely affects our well-being. Stress creates chronic patterns of muscular tension. Muscular tension restricts the flow of blood, lymphatic fluid, and nerve impulses. Cells are deprived of oxygen and nutrients and unable to clear toxic substances. This leads to chronic pain, cellular toxicity, and decreased immune response.

On an emotional level, we experience chronic anxiety and reactive response patterns marked by inappropriate anger and projected blame and criticism. Mentally, we become locked in rigid thinking patterns marked by a defensive mindset governed by fear. Spiritually we resign ourselves to being victims of circumstances and isolate ourselves in a survival mode. While our problems are not new, the pace of modern life has multiplied their negative effects exponentially.

If that sounds overly grim, take heart. It can be motivation to shift our state of awareness. It can intensify the search for ways to live differently. In recent decades, a time-honored light has begun to shine through the dense, tangled lines of our modern networks. This light radiates through a variety of old and new refractions. We see the emergence of a multitude of holistic practices.

In support of these phenomena, research has shown that certain exercises for the mind and body reduce stress and produce deep relaxation via slower alpha-theta brain-wave frequencies. In the states affected by these exercises, such a slowdown simultaneously occurs in many of the body's systems. This slowdown produces integrating, synchronizing, and healing effects. The practice of these exercises can develop capacities within us that will enable us to handle the pressures of our lives.

Taking these exercises even further, we are able to develop senses and modes of perception that have been latent in human evolution, as we know it. We can develop the ability to perceive and cultivate ourselves as the energetic beings that we are on the most fundamental level.

As an entry point to the expansion of the conscious domain, biofeedback research shows that we can positively affect aspects of our lives that we thought were automatic and inaccessible, such as brain-wave frequencies, heart rate, respiration, and chronic muscle-tension, to name a few. Guided-imagery research has proven the power of imagination and visualization in overcoming disease and increasing wellness. Meditation research describes how, through the application of awareness and intention, we can positively affect the intricate pathways that serve as conductors for qi ("chee"), the universal vitalizing force that enlivens our bodies.

Dr. John Sarno, a physician who specializes in pain relief, has shown that emotion and consciousness play a large role in health and disease. He has coined the term Tension Myositis Syndrome (TMS) to describe a host of symptoms that are caused by stress, tension, and repressed rage. To show the direct relationship of consciousness to TMS he found that "Awareness, insight, knowledge, and information were the magic medicines that would cure this disorder" (The Mindbody Prescription, New York: Warner Books, Inc., 1998, p. xxi). This supports what physicists have been saying for many years, which is that consciousness and physical reality are interwoven; mind and matter are inseparable. In the context of the qigong meditation, we see how body, emotion, mind, and spirit form a feedback system that can be used to shift our state of being.

Tension-causing sensory overload is both our most predominant problem and our window of opportunity. It is through a thorough understanding of our stress that we will find a new way. When we uncover the source of stress and take action to release this tension, we open to new possibilities. We recover and develop our fuller sensitivities and feelings of vitality.

These are not the mists of fantasy or the mere ear tickle of sweet sounding words. This is a well-mapped path. The Chinese have used Qigong Meditation as a powerful tool for self-development for thousands of years. You can receive a free introduction to this method and discover a step-by-step program of qigong meditation in my "LEARN QIGONG MEDITATION" course.

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