There is no question that stress is playing a major role in the collective ill health of our hyperactive, high-achieving, future-focused modern society. According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW), almost half of all Australians aged 16-85 have now experienced a mental disorder such as anxiety, depression, or substance abuse disorder at some time in their lives, writes Nicho Plowman
Pile onto that environmental stress, mortgage and financial stress, and the continuing emotional fall-out from COVID-19 and you are dealing with a stress epidemic of mega proportions; and while there’s a fine line between what we understand to be the causes of stress and anxiety (and other mental or mood disorders), they are all now so closely woven into the fabric of our daily lives that it’s difficult to see where one ends and the other begins.
I should know. I’ve been there. I spent over two decades – half my life – chronically stressed in a demanding business career. My high-flying lifestyle became so ingrained I was burning the candle at both ends on autopilot. I was married to a highly successful entrepreneur. We had two small children. Life wasn’t just fast, it felt supersonic.
Not surprisingly, throughout these years, my body experienced increasing levels of stress, injury, and fatigue. By my late 30s, despite my ongoing best efforts to incorporate a wide range of wellness pursuits into an otherwise pretty chaotic life, I was living with chronic, debilitating back pain, with alcohol and drugs mixed in. Intuitively, I knew it was unsustainable. Something had to give.
Finally, at 38 years old, I learned the very simple practice of Vedic Meditation, and everything changed. Within a few months of daily practice, I began to experience game-changing transformations in my health, mindset, and potential. Meditation healed me, and so I resolved to commit my life to sharing the practice with others.
Why is there a stress epidemic?
Life is so fast, we’re forgetting ourselves. Detached from our communities, nature, our inner selves, we’ve lost perspective. Bad food, drugs and alcohol, social media, and technology are all symptoms of this underlying ‘forgetfulness’ of ourselves and our capacity for love.
The demands on your time and headspace, the stressors of daily life – work, kids, partners, pets, friendships, ageing parents, passions – are not going away. Far from it.
Overcoming stress starts with loving oneself. Simply by looking after ourselves better, slowing down, and cultivating a conscious state that is more mindful through daily practices such as meditation, we can reduce our stress responses to stress-filled lives. When we’re less stressed, we alter how we respond to stressors in our environment.
Not all stress is created equal
Stress is essentially a maladaptive response to demands however a level of response is often unavoidable, it’s actually essential for managing everything that life throws at us – except many of us are now trapped in a constant cycle of fight or flight, without giving our bodies an opportunity to rebalance, recover, or repair.
Chronic stress, caused by the excess production of cortisol (which triggers our body’s biological fight-flight-freeze response) causes inflammation in the short-term and has been linked to a number of serious health conditions and diseases, including high blood pressure, sleep disorders, sexual dysfunction, heart disease, diabetes, and digestive issues.
In addition to how stress impacts our physical health, it also takes its toll on our relationships with each other. Living every day, as so many do, in ‘survival mode’, life becomes more ‘me’ than ‘we’. When we’re overwhelmed, our capacity to relate to each other in loving, healthy ways becomes clouded by our need to survive as individuals.
How meditation helps to heal
Remarkably (especially if you’re new to the concept of meditation), when we meditate it allows our body to not only rest, but also to relieve stress, tension, and fatigue. Chemically, our body learns to offset stress hormones with endorphins and serotonin, your body’s natural pain-killers and stress-relievers.
Meditation has been shown to lower blood pressure, helps us regulate our breathing, helps to balance metabolism, reduce anxiety, and increase our brain activity. I have taught people of all ages to meditate, some of them with chronic anxiety issues, sleep issues, migraines, the list goes on. Those who have become regular meditators have experienced a complete recovery from those issues.
How long before I see the benefits?
The only commitment Vedic Meditation requires of you is 20 minutes, twice a day, anywhere. We are householders, not monks and Vedic Meditation is an ancient practice that enables us to blend our meditation practice with our busy lives. Rather than detracting from life, it actually enables us to dial it up and get the absolute most out of it.
For some people, it might take a month or two to start reaping the rewards. It can vary depending on the type of person and to what extent we were overdue to learn. Some people will really need it, some people won’t, but within 30 days of meditating twice a day, the positive impact will be undeniable.
The knock-on effect of regular meditation
Not only will regular meditators discover fresh reserves of inner resources, they will begin to notice a similarly positive impact on those around them, particularly family, friends, and work colleagues because they manage stress so much better and aren’t so fatigued.
Likewise, the enhanced level of self-awareness that grows from regular meditation practice leads us to be more mindful of what we put in our bodies, why, and even when. And with better self-care comes a greater capacity to care for others, including their community and environment.
I’m a firm believer and living proof that regular mediation will transform your life and, by extension, that of those around you, and that between us we can start to heal and raise the collective consciousness of our community and the world around us. All it takes is 20 minutes, twice a day. It really is that easy!
Disclaimer: This article provides general information only, and does not constitute health or medical advice. If you have any concerns regarding your physical or mental health, seek immediate medical attention.