We live in a society where it’s the norm to feel stressed. When your mind and body feel overloaded, slow down and make space for yourself to just be.
Whether it shows up immediately or down the road, stress can have a profound effect on your entire body. Because we are wired for survival, whether we’re stressed about our finances or stuck in a burning building, our bodies’ physiological response is the same.
Our subconscious brain, or autonomic nervous system, takes over and responds to stress in one of two ways – fight or flight.
The autonomic nervous system produces a hormonal cascade that ultimately results in the release of cortisol and adrenaline, which increases blood flow, heart rate and pulse. Our senses are heightened, muscles tighten, immune system is suppressed and digestion is halted.
While you may think stressing over work deadlines is benign, your body’s stress response can be monumental. Your body is on constant alert, preparing to defend itself for dear life. This state of chronic stress has been linked to increased risk of obesity, heart disease, diabetes, depression and a weakened immune system.
To protect ourselves from what our brain perceives as harmful, we often develop coping mechanisms to deal with chronic stress. The most common coping strategies do not always serve us well, and include:
- Over socialization
- Perpetual busyness
- Binge watching TV
If you relate to any of these ways of coping with stress, you may be asking:
What can you do instead? Meditate.
Meditation is about allowing yourself to step back and observe your thoughts, and to let them come and go without judgement. It gives you more kindness and appreciation for what’s happening in the moment, and the space to, when you need one, let out a good old ugly cry.
Meditation is a time to relax and nurture the mind by providing a greater sense of focus, calm and clarity in life. Research has shown that spending just ten minutes per day in meditation may lead to improved stress response, depression, weight management, immune response, chronic pain, and cardiovascular health.
But for many, it’s easier said than done.
The first objection or hesitation many will experience is that their mind tends to wander and they feel like they’re doing it wrong. However, there is no right or wrong way to meditate. Meditation is not about controlling our thoughts, or never feeling pain. It’s about letting whatever we experience come up.
Meditation allows us to be a curious observer of our thoughts and how it feels in our body. It’s about reconnecting our mind and our body with gentle kindness, and about being present, more mindful, and letting go.
To wander is the nature of the mind.
Your mind will wander, and you may initially feel agitated about sitting still and doing nothing. The gift of meditation is to simply note this wandering, agitated mind and return to your breath. Breath is life and the anchor to continuously reconnect with the present moment.
In the words of Andy Puddicombe, mindfulness expert and founder of Headspace: “We can’t change every little thing that happens to us in life, but we can change the way that we experience it. That’s the potential of meditation.”
If the pace of your life constantly feels frantic and your way of coping with stress isn’t serving you well, then you may want to reconsider giving meditation a try. Now is the perfect time to do something different for better health.
Don’t wait for tomorrow.
Adapted from the original article.
HEADER IMAGE: RUDY AND PETER SKITTERIANS
Basheerah Enahora, MBA, MS, RD, LDN is a Registered Dietitian based in Charlotte, NC with a private practice focused on helping women look past their weight as a measure of success and embrace a holistic, nourishing lifestyle. She empowers women to create embrace a better life by replacing neglect, shame, and negativity around food with self-love and proper nourishment. Learn more about Basheerah at BE Nutrition.