No doubt you've felt butterflies before a job interview or knots in your stomach in moments of conflict.
These are momentary events that should subside once that situation is over or resolved. But, what happens when you ruminate on what has happened or dwell on bad things that might happen in the future?
Did you know you can actually worry yourself sick?
Recent research reveals that the stress of chronic worry, fear, anxiety, and pessimism can increase your risk for heart disease by 70 percent, double your risk for Alzheimer's, and increase your risk of death by any disease by 220 percent!
How can your mind and emotions so dramatically affect your health?
It shows that when you are caught up in worry, fear, anxiety, and pessimism, stress hormones signal your body to divert energy away from digestion, repair, and immune responses towards hyper-vigilance to the outer environment and mobilization for action.
If you have a stress-oriented mindset fed by worry about the past, fear of what might happen, and expectations of the worst, you will chronically dampen your immune response and set yourself up for illness.
While the mechanisms are not fully-known, new research shows that the majority of immune response takes place in your gut-and that worry, fear, anxiety, and pessimism increase stress hormones and inflammation that negatively affect gut health and set you up to get sick.
So, reducing your stress just might be the most important step you can take to prevent disease and set yourself up for optimal health!
Fortunately, there's a simple action you can take to calm the stress you feel in the moment, increase stress resilience, and shift how you react to stress in the future. That simple action is meditation.
Here's how meditation helps:
First, meditation initiates your body's natural relaxation response. By consciously relaxing your muscles, re-aligning your posture, slowing and deepening your breathing, and focusing into the present moment, you signal your body that everything is OK right now. This releases you from worry, fear, anxiety, and pessimism into a state of relaxed inner calm.
In this way, meditation lowers your stress several notches and shifts your body into a natural repair and recovery mode in which you can heal. Your body knows how to heal itself. You just need to give it a chance by taking a break and chilling out.
Second, once you have calmed yourself, you are more able to observe the situation you are in from a relaxed perspective. In a state of worry, fear, anxiety, and pessimism you will tend to amplify perceived dangers and blow them out of proportion.
By contrast, in meditation, you consciously adopt a curious observer's point of view that helps you more objectively see what is really going on, so you can make a realistic assessment of positive actions you can take. This lowers your stress even more.
Third, meditation increases your ability to consciously choose what you focus on, which helps you to stay focused on what you can do, rather than being distracted by worries about things that are outside your control. This strong positive focus completes the shift from a state of stress to a state of empowerment.
Finally, meditation familiarizes you with what it's like to be in a relaxed, calm, clear, positive state, so you are able to more quickly recognize moments when slip into worry, fear, anxiety, and pessimism. It gives you the inner skills to step back in those moments, recognize the thoughts that are stressing you out, let those thoughts go, and choose to focus on what you can do to move things forward in a healthy direction.
If it's your health you're worried about, meditation will help you to steer clear of fear and take the actions you know are best to care for yourself well.
So, if you have not yet taken to the meditation habit, I encourage you to check out the link below for an easy, effective way to get started. This simple technique feels great, too!
Enjoy your practice!