It seems like everyone is trying to deal with stress these days—stress management is a 21st century survival skill. There is your own stress of trying to cope with too much to do and not enough time in the day, and also the stress and frustration of a struggling economy, governmental gridlock, sky-rocketing health-care costs, etc. Then there are natural disasters like Hurricane Sandy, droughts, fires, tornadoes, etc. Veterans everywhere are struggling with Post Traumatic Stress. The list of the many problems we face individually, nationally, and globally goes on and on.
Most self-help advocates promote ways to manage stress—mentally tell yourself not to get angry, stop and take a few deep breaths before you say something that you will regret afterwards, etc. Why not get rid of our stress at the root? I heard someone say that there is no such thing as stress, only our inability to deal with situations.
WHAT IS STRESS?
Stress occurs when we are unable to fully process life’s varied experiences; it results from overwhelming impressions that leave a mark on our system—mental, physical, or emotional. Stress is a physiological phenomenon (see blog post: Enlightened Health Care—Self-Care) that manifests as dis-ease and reduced mental and physical functioning.
As long as stress is in the nervous system, it weakens our nervous system and it makes it difficult to manage our emotions and outer situations. The pre-frontal cortex of our brain governs decision-making, executive control, and higher-order planning. Under high stress, the pre-frontal cortex actually shuts down, rendering us incapable of making wise decisions and functioning in an optimal way. Even without knowing what is happening in the brain, I am sure everyone has noticed that you are less effective when your temper suddenly bursts or you become very tense and anxious.
When we are overwhelmed by a situation, we put that stress into our environment and then the environment throws that negativity back to us, creating a vicious cycle of increasing stress.
REDUCING AND ELIMINATING STRESS
There are certainly things we can do to help minimize stress. Activities like exercise or camping in nature are great ways to reduce stress. Recently, Arianna Huffington has been advocating the importance of getting a good night’s sleep and being well-rested to combat the stress we face each day. Having a rested physiology definitely helps us cope with stress, but do we want to just cope or really eliminate stress?
Proper sleep and a balanced routine help prevent burnout, but in order to get rid of the deeper knots of stress or anger that bubble up when certain life situations press our buttons, we need deeper rest. The experience of transcending, a unique fourth state of consciousness characterized by restful alertness, reduces mental and physical stress.
Over 350 peer reviewed studies on Transcendental Meditation show that it is a powerful technique to get rid of stress in our physiology. Research shows:
- Faster recovery from stress
- Decreased anxiety and insomnia
- Reduced substance abuse
- Decreased depression
- Reduction in high blood pressure
When our mind and body are integrated and resistant to disorder, life becomes easier, richer, and more joyful. The outer situations that used to bother us no longer cause us stress—we are able to face them head on. Eventually we get to a point where even intense stressful situations do not make us anxious.
The more positive and happy we are, the more our environment reflects that back to us. We all deserve to enjoy our life, so let’s not just manage the stress that bombards us from all directions, but actually neutralize it in a calm, effective way!