We are a stressed out society, and even more so in these pandemic times. When we are stressed, our bodies shut down important systems like digestion, nutrient absorption and fertility, among other things. According to the Psychological Association, chronic stress is linked to the six leading causes of death: heart disease, cancer, lung ailments, accidents, cirrhosis of the liver, and suicide. More than 75% of all physician office visits are for stress related ailments and complaints.
Many people think they have “trained” their bodies to thrive in stress mode, but this could not be further from the truth.
It is only in the calm parasympathetic nervous system mode that we can truly rest, digest, and make babies. There must be balance between the two for us to live optimally.
Meditation is one of the most common recommendations for people who are stressed out, tired or in need of some self-care. It’s especially useful for individuals mitigating chronic pain, depression, anxiety, high blood pressure, and even chronic diseases. In fact, meditation is the fastest-growing health trend in the U.S.!
We get it though, meditation is not easy. It’s kind of like eating your leafy greens. Here’s the real question, though: What if you absolutely hate meditating? What if every time you sit down on your yoga mat, you sweat and twitch while thinking about your massive pile of dirty laundry? Or all the meetings you have at work that day? Is it even worth your time?
Here’s the thing, meditation is difficult for everyone, according to Dr. Subhadra Evans, a researcher and lecturer at Deakin University in Australia. “The mind is by nature incredibly restless.” Like anything, learning to be the observer of your thoughts and choosing to let them go to come back to your breath and your body takes practice. Being able to calm and rest the mind is an important part of engaging the natural healing within you.
Help you to be more compassionate, patient and loving towards yourself and others as you strengthen the your ability to operate from your heart space instead of through your ego mind.
Increase your resiliency, adaptability and confidence in the face of uncomfortable life situations
Help increase your self esteem by helping you to become more aware of your thought patterns and empowering you to make different thought choices
Enhance your connection to your body and understanding your body’s messages
Improve your ability to focus and concentrate. The hardest thing about meditation is keeping your mind from wandering. By practicing bringing your attention and focus back to your body and/or breath, you’re strengthening your focus/concentration muscle.
Reduces insomnia by decreasing stress hormones in the body allowing you to calm and unwind your body and mind naturally
There are so many great benefits from meditation, though from experience, we know that sitting quietly isn’t for everyone. Other forms of meditation and stress relief can be just as effective as sitting with your thoughts. For those of you who dread meditating, we’re going to provide you with some other tools to experiment with.
Guided Meditations: Uses a narrator or teacher to guide the user through the meditation. It’s one of the easiest ways to enter into a state of deep relaxation and inner stillness. Here are a few morning ones that I really enjoy:
Breathwork: The breath supplies oxygen to our entire body and mind. It gives us energy and it keeps us alive. Breathing meditation is a conscious way to practice deep, intentional breaths. When we become anxious or stressed, our breaths become short and shallow. Practicing deep, slow breathing helps us activate our parasympathetic nervous system - our calm, heal, rest and digest mode. Insight Timer is a free app that has access to thousands of meditations and guided breathwork. YouTube also has numerous free guided breathing meditations. Click here for access.
Gratitude Practice: “It’s not happy people that are grateful, it is grateful people who are happy.” Practicing gratitude can be meditative and have similar benefits to meditation. Living your life with gratitude helps you notice the little wins like the warmth of the sun on your face or someone holding the door for you. Living in the moment and appreciating the good things that. According to mindful.org, here are a couple tips to help you build your gratitude muscle:
Start by observing: Notice when you say “thank you.” How are you feeling when you express thanks in small transactions? Stressed, uptight, a little absent-minded? Do a quick scan of your body—are you already physically moving on to your next interaction?
Pick one interaction per day: When your instinct to say “thanks” arises, stop for a moment and take note. Can you name what you feel grateful for, even beyond the gesture that’s been extended? Then say thank you.
We also recommend gratitude journaling: Choose a time of day to write in your journal and write as many things as you desire. While writing try to feel how the moments and things you’re grateful for make you feel. Helpful tips for getting started.
Tapping: Also known as Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT). Tapping is based on the combined principles of ancient Chinese acupressure and modern psychology and is used to reduce cortisol and may even alter brainwave activity. Interested in knowing more? This is a good place to start.
Journal While Writing Music: This is a really neat website that creates instrumental piano music from the words you type. It’s beautiful to hear your thoughts, feelings, and insights be turned into music.
All these forms of stress relief are like hitting a reset for your brain and your nervous system allowing you to feel more peace and calm - and activate the healer within you. As the quote says “you should sit in meditation for 20 minutes, unless you’re too busy then you should sit for an hour.” Make the courageous choice to create calm and healing in this world that prides itself on stress. You are worth it.
It’s important you know that this blog post is for informational and educational purposes. It’s not meant to treat any health condition or to be prescriptive for anyone.
Always be sure to work with your healthcare practitioner. I highly recommend trying all new recommendations and/or supplements slowly to make sure they are ok for you.