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How to Pray when Stressed

Updated: Mar 31

As we center our attention on Christ or Mary, who brings us to Jesus, our brain/body automatically enters into a reset, process of 'calming' down. These reported experiences of peace during prayer have been observed in clinical settings, which has resulted in an increase in positive health outcomes in most patients.

Methods of Prayer to Reset the Nervous System Mitigating Some of the Negative Effects of Stress and Distractions in Prayer

These methods during prayer provide a reset towards increasing the activity of the parasympathetic nervous system, offering an actual physical change in the brain/body systems.

1. The Jesus Prayer

We are all familiar with the Jesus prayer - a continuous way of prayer which scientists have 'proven' that such a method calms the sympathetic nervous system thus increasing resiliency and reducing the negative effects of stress.

2. Measured Prayer Method of St. Ignatius

St. Ignatius, in his Spiritual Exercises, has a section devoted to 3 methods of prayer: one is titled

A Measured Rhythmical Recitation (SE# 258-260).

"This is as follows: With each breath or respiration, one should pray mentally while saying a single word of the Our Father, or another prayer that is being recited, in such a way that from one breath to another, a single word is said. For this same space of time, the attention is chiefly directed to the meaning of the word, to the person who is addressed, to our own lowliness, or the difference between the greatness of the person and our own littleness. In this way, observing the same measure of time, he should go through the other words of the Our Father. Let the other prayers, the Hail Mary, the Soul of Christ, the Creed, and the Hail Holy Queen, be recited in the ordinary way." Taken for Puhl's translation.

3. The Trinity Prayer: Dr. Karen's Recommendation

In praying the Glory Be, be mindful of our breath as we apply St. Ignatius' Measured Rhythmical Recitation approach with one Inhale on each phrase, then an exhale 2x as long as inhale before proceeding to the next phrase of the prayer*.

  • Glory be to the Father

  • Glory be to the Son

  • Glory be to the Holy Spirit

As it was in the beginning is now and forever shall be, world without end. Amen.

*Why 2x as long on an exhale?

Inhaling stimulates the sympathetic nervous system (our readiness system (for flight or fight)

Exhaling stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system ( our relaxing calming system)

4. The Rosary


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