We stay stressed, like 24/7. Whether it's dealing with our jobs, families, bills, or juggling a busy schedule, it is non-stop which can be devastating to our bodies and our minds. The stress hormone, cortisol, is in overdrive wreaking havoc internally leading to issues like high blood pressure, muscle weakness, bone deterioration, mood swings; it’s linked to depression, anxiety, irritability, rapid weight changes, and... need we go on?
The good news is that we can reduce cortisol levels and manage the impact of chronic stress with a little breathing and focus otherwise known as meditation. We know, meditation may not sound like the most exciting way to cope with stress but believe us (and all the studies that agree)- it works! And the best part is that it’s easy to get started.
Meditation is the practice of finding stillness, quiet, and peace in our minds. Easier said than done, right? When we meditate, we direct our attention to something specific so that other distracting thoughts can flow out, or at least get put aside for a while. The more we do it, the better we’ll feel - mentally and physically.
Here's a very simple meditative practice to try. It’s short and can fit it into our already packed daily routines- 3 minutes is all that’s needed. Take a few minutes during the day or right before bed to find a quiet space. Sit in a chair or on the side of the bed, light a candle and, while sitting up straight, simply stare at the candle flame for about 3 minutes. Blinking is ok just keep focusing on the flame; observe the colors and how it flickers. While focusing intently on the candle start to take deep noticeable breaths. Continue to pay attention to these two things: the candle flame and breathing for the 3 minutes. That's it- done! At first, it may not feel like much happened but stick with it. Regular practice every day will begin to have an impact on our minds and bodies.
Meditative practices like this Candle Gazing exercise direct our mental thoughts to one object. By doing so, our minds feel ‘less full’ of the stressful thoughts. Try this exercise for a few days and notice the quality sleep at night and energy during the day. We can even use this meditative practice during the day. Now, we're not expected to drop everything and light a candle when we're feeling stressed out, but we can do something else that is just as effective. Take a moment, eyes closed, imagine the candle flame and focus on taking deep breaths. Do this for about 30 seconds to a minute to help clear the mental fog.
Meditation is an accessible way to help manage stress and there are different ways to do it. What works for me may not have the same impact on you so experiment to find your most effective meditation practice.