Everywhere we look nowadays, there are warnings against the danger of stress. Stress is making you ill! Don’t get too stressed or you’ll age faster!
Are you stressing out over how bad the effects of all this stress are?! Us too. That’s why we put together this simple, actionable article so you can understand and take control of the situation, fast.
Understanding stress, in a nutshell
Stress has always been around, and it isn’t all bad. In fact, we wouldn’t be alive without it! Stress is what allowed our ancestors to fight off dangerous animals or find safety during a sudden storm. It’s a complex set of mind and body responses which is kicked off when something is threatening our survival, and it helps us do what is needed to get through the situation.
These days however, stress has become ubiquitous and constant. We don’t have actual threats to our survival, but we are running and hiding from our bosses, bill payments and board reports. These ‘paper tigers’ never go away, and we end up with a chronic stress response.
This is a major problem because the human body is not set up to be cranking out this energetically costly stress process all the time. So our bodies and minds are taxed, and we get sick easier and age faster. The body even shuts down non-essential functions such as immunity, digestion and fertility when we are stressed. That’s no fun at all, is it!
The number one best way to fight stress
Just as easily as we can succumb to the horrible effects of stress, we can also ward them off, if we choose to. A simple meditation practice has been scientifically proven to be one of the best ways to shut down that high-gear stress response so many of us are stuck with. In fact, there are well over 3,000 scientific studies proving this point!
Since chronic stress causes changes in brain structure and function, meditation is the perfect antidote. This powerful habit is known to affect the brain and stress response in its own way, preventing and reversing the negative effects caused by stressful modern life.
Fight chronic disease with meditation
Meditation can not only fight stress itself, but also many chronic conditions. Did you know that stress can be one of the root causes behind fibromyalgia, depression, high blood pressure, heart disease and sleep problems?
Studies have found that regular meditation to reduce stress can prevent and reverse these conditions, as well as provide relief from psoriasis, ease the side effects of conventional cancer treatment, and reduce severe anxiety and emotional disorders.
If you think you need to have a long-term meditation habit in order to see any benefits, check this out. A 2011 study published in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that negative biomarkers during a stress-inducing event were significantly improved after just one 20-minute session of guided meditation.
The participants showed reduced signs of the adverse effects of stress – things like heart rate, cortisol levels and psychologic stress measures – when meditation was practiced prior to the stressful event. Interestingly, the ‘beneficial’ effects of stress, such as improved memory scores, were unaffected by meditation.
3 easy steps to reverse the effects of stress
Now that we’ve thoroughly convinced you to start meditating, here’s a quick primer. Don’t worry, there is no new-age music, robe or remote hilltop required. This is one easy way to get started for those who have trouble clearing their minds.
Step 1: Find a quiet place, even if it’s just for a few minutes. (Sitting in the car before going into the office? In the bathroom at Starbucks?)
Step 2: Set a timer so that you can really focus on what you are doing, without being paranoid about how much time is passing. Start with a session of just one or two minutes at a time. Take a comfortable seat, or lie down if you can.
Step 3: Use your breath as the focus for this practice. Breathe in for 4 counts, hold for 4 counts, out for 4 counts, hold for 4 counts. Repeat several times. If your thoughts wonder, don’t worry, just release the thought and bring your focus back to your breath.
How easy was that!
Just one session can see your stress hormone levels improving, blood pressure normalizing, immunity increasing and anxiety disappearing.
Although this practice is simple and costs nothing, don’t under-estimate its power! In fact, well-known integrative physician Dr. Andrew Weil touts breathing meditation as the number one preventative health intervention he has ever known! Make time for meditation today; your body and brain will thank you.