One of the most common health challenges of our time is chronic stress, which, we know can cause, or play a major role in the development of chronic disease. In the midst of multiple demands in today’s world, and the fast pace of life, it’s hard not to be in the ‘fight or flight’ mode most of the time. We all feel the weight of the stress of work, family, health, social stressors, or unexpected events. The process of evolution hasn’t yet caught up to the fast- changing world of multitasking, the speed with which we communicate, make decisions and create and execute our “to-do” lists. It’s hard to be present and appreciate the moment. While naturally programmed to seek security and control, it’s hard for us not to worry about things that are uncertain (read: everything in life!).
It is no surprise that the U.S. adult population reports significant levels of stress about the future, finances, healthcare—to name a few examples—in recent surveys of the American Psychological Association.
We cannot control the outside world, but we CAN CONTROL how we RESPOND to it.
Here are simple, yet powerful tips of how you can cultivate a practice of mindful responsiveness and awareness, rather than be in a loop of never-ending stress, worries and negative thinking.
- Sleep. Sleep is important for our cognitive function, productivity, memory and mood. Althought everyone’s needs are different, aim to get at least 7-8 hours of sleep per night.
- Pay attention to your breathing. It can be as simple as doing the 4-7-8 breath. This has saved my patients from panic attacks and helps me relax, unwind, and switch gears quickly when I am starting a new task. It can be great for insomnia as well.
- Do one thing with awareness every day. Even if it’s brushing your teeth; pay attention to sensations as your brush your teeth. Pay attention to your jaw, your neck, the position of your tongue, and the sensation of the toothbrush in your mouth.
- If you are going to build a meditation routine, which has been shown to reduce stress and the effects of stress, I recommend the following:
- Build a realistic routine. Even if it’s 3 minutes of meditating when you wake up every morning.
- Find a quiet place to do it.
- Do not allow for interruptions.
- Practice patience.
Whether meditation is new for you, or has been something you’ve tried but “couldn’t do”, I invite you to view it with a beginner’s mind. Allow yourself to be patient – even when those thoughts are racing, and you are not paying attention to your breath, mantra, or the object of your meditation. A key aspect of the practice of meditation is that we feel acceptance of discomfort, boredom or distraction. This acceptance will lead to a sense of comfort (even with discomfort!) and greater ease with which we practice, which will lead to a more consistent practice. The results are limitless and can range from improved mood in individuals with depression, better sleep, and less chronic pain. Beware, consistent practice can also lead to a complete mind and body transformation and a more optimistic outlook on life!
Here are some of my favorite meditation resources:
- Deepak Chopra and Oprah 21 day meditation experience
- Insight Timer App
- Calm App
- Headspace App
In order to realize our full potential and ease our bodies into the healing mode, it is necessary that we turn down the “always on” fight or flight mechanism, and activate our parasympathetic nervous system. Regular mindfulness and meditation practice will help with this.
I hope that as you create your own mindfulness journey, you let your inner beauty, love and compassion shine, and that you illuminate this world with kindness and wisdom that are more powerful than ever. I trust that you will find more peace and more ease, as you follow the steps here. Keep me posted on your journey!