Stress Less and Meditate Already

It’s been a stressful couple of weeks.

I take that back. It’s been a stressful couple of months.

Not surprisingly, I’ve also been feeling like crap most of the time. The impact of stress on the body is tremendous. Just take a look at this infographic to see how much stress can affect more than just your mood on any given day.

http://dailyinfographic.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/infographic-stress-effects.png

We know this. Stress=bad.

The constant advice to “chill out” and not “sweat the small stuff” tends to go in one ear and out the other. I’m guilty of this most of the time even though I find myself doling out that same piece of advice to others, knowing how difficult it is to just let go of the things that cause me to stress out.

There are ways to break this negative cycle.

And guess what: it’s free. No therapist or prescription necessary. Even better, you can start right now. You can start right this minute. Go ahead and stop reading my post if this means you’ll do this exercise to feel better.

What’s this remedy?

Meditation.

I’ve mentioned how I’ve incorporated meditation into my healthy lifestyle as a way to ease some of my tension on a daily basis. It’s a process that I stray from sometimes, but whenever I’m feeling my stress levels peak (take this week for example), I find myself sitting at my desk with my eyes closed, breathing deeply and shutting down for a little while.

If we can hibernate our computers, why can’t we do the same with our minds?

We are constantly buzzing all day with any number of obligations to others, but we underestimate the value of true downtime. And I mean real downtime. Like with no phones or television or tablets to distract us from realigning our minds with our bodies.

I am by no means an expert meditation master. I mainly follow a guided listening sample and try my best to sit still, breathe, and not think so damn much. Some days are much better than others. The important thing is that I’m taking the time to stop, something I never ever on a normal basis.

Let’s be honest here and talk about the total lack of mindfulness we bring to our daily choices. I, for one, grow tired of going through the motions in the process of getting from point A to point B. That lacks depth and it keeps me disconnected, further contributing to my stress and unhappiness.

Being mindful of my surroundings through my meditation practice helps raise my awareness of not only the physical reactions of my body in that moment, but it helps clear my mind of the uncertainties I may be feeling towards a given situation. It regulates my mood while also giving me some time to put things into perspective. What’s even more impressive is that it increases my productively which in turn, makes me feel more successful and more motivated to stay focused on my goals. It’s self-efficacy at its finest.

There are a number of studies linking meditation with a reduction in stress due to decreased levels of the stress hormone cortisol while increasing cognitive function. Some of the other benefits from mediation include:

How can you start mediating?

There are various meditation practices that you can try either alone or with meditation groups. There are dozens of meditation meetups in New York City alone, so it may be worth checking in your area for similar programs.

I practice mindfulness meditation but my style is pretty fluid. I don’t have room for a meditation space, so I’ve learned to adapt to my surroundings and just find a spot where I can sit without distractions for at least 15 minutes. Since my mind is always going, I listen to guided affirmations or meditation music I’ve found on YouTube to establish a peaceful environment where I can let my thoughts drift.

If you’re looking for other types of meditation techniques and ways to get started as a beginner, here’s a great guide from FitSugar.

What does this cost me? Nothing.

My goal isn’t to have a transcendental experience or a conversation with God. I’m not Elizabeth Gilbert nor am I planning on moving to an ashram anytime soon. I just want some peace of mind.

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I seek balance with everything I’m doing. From my diet to my exercise to my mental and emotional well-being; it’s all about keeping things level especially during times when the scales are off and all I want to do is stay under my covers watching Netflix until I pass out (sounds so damn good right now).

The “run and hide” approach may work if your five, but that strategy doesn’t work as well when you’re an adult. Trust me. I’ve tried.

I’ll continue working on my meditation practice and hopefully one day I’ll know enough to come back here and share some more tips on how to get you started. For now I hope that I’ve swayed at least one person to give this meditation thing a try.

Like I said earlier, if this means that you need to stop reading this blog to practice, please don’t hesitate. In fact, go. Get up and just do it already.

Do you meditate?

Would you try meditation to help ease your stress?

How do you cope with stress?

As always, keep paying it forward. Stay healthy! :-)

About Maribel Marmol

Stay positive. Eat well. Travel consciously. Move yourself. Change the world.
This entry was posted in Latest Musings, My Stories, Nutrition and Health, Wellness & Spirituality and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Stress Less and Meditate Already

  1. Very nice post!
    Just heard the Dalai Lama speak in Atlanta Georgia yesterday. The university there (Emory) has established an entire school devoted to the practice of mindfulness. They are currently publishing many research papers on the effect of mindful meditation on the immune system. The studies also show an increase in your sense of compassion because it stimulates (in some cases actually grows) the amygdala, the part of your brain that controls such things. They are also currently working on a curriculum for use in American schools K-12.
    In my cancer survivors book, we discuss the importance of mindfulness and meditation for healing and reducing the risk of all chronic illness especially cancer.

    Hopefully you’ve swayed more than 1 person!

    Like this

    • That is so cool about Emory! Mindfulness and positive psychology are two practices that I’ve given a lot of thought to this past year. It’s incredible how much we can affect our health positively through our thoughts and the way we approach the world around us. After I wrote this piece I thought about writing a follow up to look at how meditation and mindfulness impacts specific populations, namely children and office workers (I’ve read studies where they tested groups of people performing various tasks with and without mindfulness meditation and the group that meditated completely outperformed the others). I’d love to hear more about your book. That sounds incredible! One of my teachers in my wellness coaching course is a cancer survivor and she also spoke about how much mindfulness played a role in her rehabilitation and then in her work with other survivors as well. This is all such fascinating stuff. Thanks so much!!

      Like this

  2. Ilene Evans says:

    I had no idea that the body responds to “big” stressors and “little” stressors as the same. That’s news to me and quite enlightening! This is a great article. I rely on mediation to stay “halfway sane” and honestly, I don’t do enough of it, Thank you for writing this post. Everyone needs to read it.

    Like this

    • The more I learn about how much damage stress can cause to the body, the more I want to nip all that in the bud. Meditation is the first and only practice I’ve tried that actually works. I agree, that I could stand to do it much more than I do now, but the last couple of weeks provided me with a reminder of why I love it so damn much. Thanks Ilene!

      Like this

  3. Pingback: Thankful Thursday: What I’m Thankful for this Week | FOOD4THOUGHTNYC

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