How to Manage Stress Here's the Solution
If there is something everyone has nowadays… it's stress. So what can we do when we start feeling on edge, that intense heart beating, and like the weight of the world is on our shoulders? Breathe. Yes. Just stop. And breathe.
Breath work, meditation, and mindfulness have been on the rise as a means to cope with stress. But what exactly is stopping to listen to your own inhale and exhale going to do for your body? Allow me to elaborate.
To begin, we’re going to have to discuss what stress is and what it does to the body. Stress can be any outside influence that affects one’s well being, in a positive or negative way. How can stress be positive? Stress is consistently involved in change. In order for certain things to happen, an outside stressor must occur. Stress is needed to preserve homeostasis in living organisms. If there was no stressor, the mechanism to bring the body back to normal functioning levels would cease to exist. On the flip side, however, stress can do some damage to the body.
When faced with stressful situations, we’re sent into our instinctual “fight or flight” mode, which triggers the body’s system to do several things. The heart rate will begin to increase, as well as blood pressure, and breaths per minute. Not only that, but our bodies begin to produce a hormone called cortisol. Cortisol is useful during stressful situations because it slows down processes that aren’t deemed “essential” for survival, for example: food digestion. However, cortisol also increases glucose in the bloodstream. When glucose isn’t utilized by the body (i.e. in the form of exercise) that glucose is then converted into glycogen which is stored as fat. It’s easy to see now how chronic levels of high stress, which we are all feeling right now, can relate to your health and fitness levels.
So how do we manage it? Quite literally, stress management can be accomplished by doing nothing. Do you know that feeling of a really good night’s sleep? Have you ever wondered why that is? The difference between a good night’s sleep and an average night, is because our inner consciousness is not functioning at all. We are not experiencing any emotion during our sleep cycle because that part of the brain is just not on. The inner self is not aware of what is going on, it is just the body… being. We can recreate that feeling through meditation.
Meditation is an ancient practice, and there’s many different forms of it. No, you don’t have to sit cross legged and repeat “om” over and over. Meditation can be in the form of yoga, working out, reading a book, journaling, or even going for a walk and just disconnecting. While in a meditative state, we experience our deep inner self (the one who does not experience emotion) while being fully aware and not asleep. By being in this peaceful state, experiencing our deep inner self, we are able to unify all of our levels of consciousness. Meditation has the ability to modify and unite our inner faculty, or the way in which our brain works, which in turn affects our physical, mental, and emotional self.
Physically, meditation is able to reduce cholesterol levels, which is what produces that cortisol, or stress hormone. Meditation also has been proven to lower blood pressure, heart rate, and blood lactate levels while increasing melatonin (the sleep hormone) and blood flow to the brain. The list of health benefits from practicing meditation go on and on. If you’re looking for a way to manage your stress, and you haven’t tried meditation yet, now is the time. Stay healthy.