By: Marcia Keilen
Our bodies have been hard-wired for survival and self-preservation through a reflex known as the fight-or-flight response. This reflex kicks in when we perceive a threat to our physical body and our body responds in one of two ways: to fight or to run. Basically, our body responds to this threat physiologically by pumping out stress hormones, specifically, adrenaline and cortisol, which in turn causes our blood pressure to rise, our heart rate and blood sugar to increase, the blood circulation to our digestion to decrease, suppresses our immune system, and increases the stickiness of our platelets. After the threat passes our bodies should return to their normal state of homeostasis. This is certainly important if we are indeed faced with bodily harm, but unfortunately, this stress response can become chronic in our everyday life when we are faced with the many stresses we encounter everyday. Dr. David Simon, M.D., one of the co-founders of the Chopra Center for Well Being, gave this definition of stress, “how we respond when our needs are not met.” How many times do we deal with unmet needs? For example, someone cuts you off on the roadway, your workload becomes overwhelming, you’re running late for an appointment and there is a traffic jam that makes you even later. There are many, many examples of these unmet needs that we face everyday. The important question is, how are we going to respond to these situations? That is what determines our emotional and physical health. Over time chronic stress can lead to a myriad of health problems such as cardiovascular disease, anxiety, insomnia, poor digestion, infections, strokes and heart attacks, to name a few.
One of the best antidotes to stress is meditation. When we meditate, our body’s chemistry actually changes as we move into a state of restful awareness. Meditation helps us to respond in a more mindful way to the world around us, we can’t control what goes on around us, BUT we can choose how we respond to what is happening around us and meditation helps us to be less reactive and more reflective, we are less impulsive and more intuitive, and we make more conscious choices. As meditation reverses the negative effects of chronic stress, we find more peace of mind and a healthier state of being as well as many other benefits. Learn about these benefits of meditation as well as how to meditate by taking a meditation class or booking a private session to learn how easy it is to meditate and how you can fit a meditation practice into your everyday schedule.