Stop Stressing and Start Meditating
The effects of stress, primarily chronic stress, on your health are profound and should not be ignored. Stress serves a purpose relating back to the days of our ancient ancestors when humans had to hunt their own food or outrun predators. But although we no longer live in the times where stress response was needed to thrive, the stress response still exists. Spontaneous stress hormones will raise blood pressure, increase heart rate, make your palms sweaty, boost your energy. Infrequent spontaneous stress responses are normal – but when it no longer happens infrequently, the stress can become chronic, and this is cause for worry.
Chronic stress causes a variety of health issues. Stomach ulcers, headaches and migraines, high blood pressure, irritability, depression, reduced immune function, and even heart attacks. Keeping your stress in check will pay off in spades not only for yourself, but for those around you.
Meditation is a great way to bring down stress levels on a daily basis – even if the form of meditation doesn’t involve finding your zen to hypnotic music while sitting in peace with no distractions. There are many ways to meditate that are great for beginners or just those with the inability to find much distraction-free time.
Here are some of our favorite do-able meditation suggestions:
Breathing Meditation. Get yourself in a comfortable position, close your eyes and begin to observe the sensations of breathing. Pay attention to how it feels as you draw air in through your nose, down into your lungs and back out again through your mouth. You don’t need to control or force your breathing in any way. Just watch. If your mind wanders — and it will — don’t worry or criticize yourself, this is normal in the beginning. Gently bring your attention back to your breathing and continue.
Mindfulness Meditation. This type of meditation allows you to be fully present in the moment by bringing your attention to the sensations within your body. Start by focusing on your breath then allow yourself to become aware of other sensations — how you’re sitting, where you feel tension or tingling or ease. The goal here is to become a neutral observer. Try not to analyze or judge anything you experience or any thought that passes through your mind. Simply observe.
Mantra Meditation. The ancient Sanskrit word, “aum” is a mystical syllable often used in chants or as a meditative mantra. By repeating a sacred word or meaningful phrase (including short affirmations) you can bring your mind to a state of focused tranquility. You can say the mantra aloud or repeat it silently.
Walking Meditation. If sitting still for too long makes you squirm, try the walking meditation technique. You can do this just about anywhere, although a garden or other pleasing environment is ideal. Simply focus on your body as it moves: your arms as they swing, your legs as they lift and extend, your feet as they rise and touch the ground. As with all meditation techniques, when you find your mind wandering, gently bring your attention back to the movement. Try not to judge, just observe the sensation of walking.
Empty Mind Meditation. This meditation technique allows you to be aware without any specific focus. Simply sit quietly with your eyes closed and allow thoughts to float freely in and out of your mind. As they come and go, observe them without judgment or attachment.
If you feel chronic stress is causing health problems, there may be more serious issues that simple meditation will not correct. Working with a functional medicine practitioner, such as Dr. Kim Bruno, would be the first step to regaining your health.