How many of us can claim that the everyday challenges of life do not leave us stressed? Stress has become a part and parcel of our lives in the 21st century. What is stress? How does it impact us in the long run? How can we eliminate it from our lives?
Stress and Disease
Doctors and medical researchers have discovered that stress has a role to play in our health. They have learned that stress can cause a breakdown of our immune system and open the door to a variety of ailments. Stress interferes with the healthy functioning of some of our bodily systems required to resist disease. It activates the “fight or flight” response causing certain biochemical reactions in our body. When we are in a state of stress, our heart beats faster. Certain hormones are released to get us ready to protect ourselves. Once released, they cannot be recalled. A ready-alert system that was originally intended to help us escape physical harm becomes activated even in the presence of day-to-day situations that do not pose any threat to our life.
Thus, we carry within us a state of stress, or a state in which our body is responding to fear and threat even in situations that are only problems for our mind. Because we are not fighting or fleeing, our body has no way to dissipate the bottled up stress and we carry it around with us throughout the day. Ultimately, it begins to cause problems for us internally, and different organs begin reacting to that stress. Thus, stress that is unchecked and not dissipated can affect our heart, our lungs, our circulatory system, our digestive system, our skin, and our nervous system. We may suffer from stress-related headaches, stomachaches, breathing problems, and nervousness.
Controlling Stress to Heal the Body
We may not be able to control the contraction of certain diseases which are genetic or which are spread from the air, but we can have a measure of control over our own personal stress. There are ways to reduce and even eliminate stress in our lives. When we talk of eliminating stress, we do not mean eliminating problems. Problems will always be there. But we can eliminate our unhealthy physical response to the problems.
There is a technique we can try in our lives that I have personally found to be helpful in dealing with stress. That technique is meditation. By learning the art of meditation, we will have a defense system against stress. The key is to have another kind of response to problems that will not stimulate these physical reactions in the body.
If we can learn to meditate, then we can confront problems in a way that does not upset our physiological systems. Meditation provides a way for us to learn to control our reactions.
Meditation: The Antidote to Stress
When we are in a state of meditation, our heart beats slower. Our body and mind are relaxed. It is in a state of calm. When our body is peaceful and calm, the physical reactions to stress are stilled. It is said that we also get more rest in meditation than the same amount of time spent in sleep. Why? In sleep, we may dream. The dreams may be good or they may be stressful. Our body may react in sleep to our dreams as it would if awake. We toss and turn in our sleep. In meditation, though, we are perfectly still. Our mind is still so there are no stressful thoughts or dreams in which we can react. Thus, it is a time of peace for our body.
If we become habituated to meditation, we may call upon that same response when we are in a difficult situation. Rather than reacting immediately, we can take a moment of silent meditation before reacting. We can put ourselves in that state of meditation and stillness any time we want as a defense against reacting in a way that causes us stress. We can even learn to put ourselves in that state with open eyes in the midst of a tense situation. It is a response that we can carry with us throughout the day that can keep us calm in the face of tension. At first, it may take a while to get used to it. But the more we meditate, the more easily we can access that state and use it throughout the day.
If each of us, individually, learned how to meditate, and applied it to help us through our day-to-day challenges, we would find ourselves calmer and more effective in what we do. Others would come to see how calmly we react and would be positively influenced to try the same in their own lives. By our own example, we are more influential in inspiring others to do likewise. In this way, over time, we can inspire many others to also try meditation as a way to reduce their physical stress and we will find more calmness in our personal environment.