We know stress can cause all sorts of health problems. But it’s not so much the stress that’s the cause; it’s our reaction to it. The stress is often beyond our control, whereas we can control our thoughts and reactions. Techniques like mini-meditations, affirmations and visualization can help reduce your stress response to allow you to deal with challenges in a more relaxed and intelligent manner.
First off, what is the stress response?
The stress response is a very important evolutionary process that acted as our alarm to danger. It’s the flight or fight response, a cascade of hormones that affects digestion, brain function, heart function, muscle tone, etc. The opposite of that reaction is the relaxation response (coined by Dr. Herbert Benson), which calms the stress response and releases feel good hormones.
Whereas the stress response was very beneficial to warn us against immediate danger and get us moving to react, our current stresses are not as dynamic. It’s not a saber tooth tiger around the corner; it’s the economy, the IRS, our spouse, job insecurities, our kids, our boss, daily stresses that don’t seem to subside. When we don’t get a break from our reaction to that stress it starts to manifest as problems in our bodies. Studies have shown that increasing the relaxation response not only slows heart rate and decreases blood pressure but also slows the genetic expression of aging. That’s right. Relax more…age slower.
Even though we think we know when we are stressed, sometimes we ignore the signs and power through them. Symptoms of stress can be everything from headaches and indigestion to teeth grinding, overindulgence in alcohol, sleeplessness, muscle tension and road rage.
Any of those sound familiar? Then you are probably stressed. So let’s see how you can add some of the relaxation response invokers to your day.
Mini-Meditations, Affirmations and Visualization
Let’s start with meditation. When we think of meditation, we picture someone sitting perfectly still on a pillow, eyes closed, hands in the lap, perhaps some chanting and om-ing. But there is a simple form of meditation called a mini.
These mini-meditations take just a few minutes to do. And you can do them almost anywhere. There have been several times that I’ve taken a minute or two before an important lecture, standing in line at the post office or even when I’m driving, to ...
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