Celebrities like Katy Perry and Madonna do it.
Even manly actors like Hugh Jackman and Clint Eastwood do it.
It seems that meditation is all the rage, and you hear about it everywhere.
What’s all the fuss?
We live in an era of rapid change.
Throughout most of history, life has moved at a snail’s pace and has not prepared us to handle the demands of modern life.
Until the start of the Industrial Age, whole generations and cultures faced similar living conditions, making only small changes from year to year (and possibly century to century).
Change occurred very slowly.
But in the last century, we’ve seen the invention of automobiles, radio, television, airplanes, nuclear weapons, the space program, computers, cell phones, the internet and more.
Life is changing radically within the space of even one generation…seemingly at the speed of light.
Change in itself is a source of stress. All of these rapid changes have created a collective stress amongst our society unprecedented in history.
We are not prepared physically to keep up such a grueling pace of change.
In computer terms, you are constantly having to upgrade your operating system, and yet you’re running it on outdated equipment.
Just as your cellphone has 120 million times more operating power than NASA’s original space computers, your brain, and nervous system are running a caveman-era “fight-or-flight” stress system when you are faced with a space-age barrage of threats.
In caveman days, you would usually have a single short-lived threat, such as being chased by a saber-toothed tiger. As soon as the threat appeared, you would instinctively go into either “flight-or-fight” mode:
Assuming you survived the encounter, your brain and body would return to resting state in about 20 minutes as your cortisol hormone kicked in.
In this space-age era of living at the speed of light, however, there is a constant need to keep updating your operating system, along with its accompanying learning curve. This is adding exponentially to the stress on your system.
Then, you have the modern-day expectations of workplace productivity with very little downtime. You might as well be constantly running from saber-toothed tigers all day, every day.
Your fight-or-flight alarm mechanism works really well to keep you safe for isolated threats and challenges.
In fact, a little stress is good for you and will even give you that edge you need to perform better — and keep you alive if needed.
But when you have one challenge after the other, many of which are prolonged over time, your system doesn’t have a chance to fully reset in between.
That stress then adds up bit by bit — from all the small demands in your life — like the degrees of heat in a saucepan of water on the stove. Little by little, you approach your boiling point and the only warning sign may be a bit of steam.
Then one small thing goes wrong, and you explode! You boil over, just like a faulty radiator on a hot day.
You may also experience one major life change that raises your temperature so much that there’s little room for life’s other minor stressors to raise it any further.
You have now entered the twilight zone of chronic stress.
You have likely been programmed that “to be stressed” is a stigma — a sign of weakness — and that you just need to suck it up to keep moving forward.
And yet, to ignore the warning signs of chronic stress is to invite a whole host of physical, mental and emotional problems into your life.
Have you experienced:
These are the early warning signs of chronic stress and burnout. How?
Chronic stress effectively gives you a lobotomy.
All of the alarm processes which are so effective when running away from a tiger are now a major hindrance.
You can’t concentrate. You can’t make decisions to save your life. You can’t sleep.
You feel like a guinea pig on a wheel going round and round… stuck in a rut. Overwhelmed. You can’t see the big picture, let alone the next step.
Your fight-or-flight emotions are stuck in overdrive and manifest as specific or generalized fears, anxiety, or anger.
Any pain you’re experiencing escalates. You gain weight.
Poorly managed stress degrades the efficiency of every bodily system, including the immune system. Therefore, you get more frequent colds, allergies, or autoimmune conditions.
Even aging is simply the progressive loss of efficiency of all bodily systems.
For a while, you may be able to compensate by using external uppers like caffeine, sugar, cigarettes, drugs, gambling, retail therapy, adrenaline rushes like risk-taking, and even affairs to make you feel better. Then you need external downers like alcohol and sleeping pills to bring you back down.
You have a coffee or two in the morning to get yourself going because you’re so exhausted.
Then you crash around mid-morning, and you need a pick-me-up of more caffeine and carbs. You struggle through the day, cycling between crash and rush until you’re finally able to head home.
Once you’re home, you may have a drink or some pot to counteract the day’s stress and your drive home. Add in a lot of carbs at dinnertime to feel good.
At bedtime, your mind may still be racing so you take a sleeping pill or have another drink.
And then the cycle continues another day.
On you go. Like a roller coaster with ever higher peaks and deeper valleys.
The peaks start to look and feel like anxiety or mania. The valleys feel more and more like depression and exhaustion. Eventually, the rollercoaster takes away your control over your own body, mind, and emotions.
These external helpers are just band-aid solutions and will just contribute to your problems long term. The roller coaster ride of stress will go from being a fun ride to a nightmare ride.
If this cycle continues unabated, burnout manifests after 2-3 years. By this time, your body is well past its early warning signs and you now have a disease, like diabetes, heart disease or even cancer.
Or you fall asleep at the wheel.
Or your marriage falls apart because your (and likely your spouse’s) emotions are out of control.
Or you sink into a depression so deep that you wonder whether life is worth living.
And you wouldn’t be alone.
Almost half of physicians have admitted to having burnout in a 2018 report –and they are role models for their patients. If doctors who know the ramifications of stress and burnout fall victim to it, what hope do you have?
The good news is that no matter where you are on this slippery slope, you can choose to take back control of your life and health.
This is where meditation comes in.
Time to Push the Reset Button
Meditation by definition is the act of giving your attention to only one thing, either as a religious activity or as a way of becoming calm and relaxed.
While meditation is a part of every major religion, it is also used for its therapeutic and wellness benefits.
Your mind is usually “noisy”, full of memories that you are reliving and worries about the future. I call this your Monkey Mind chatter.
Meditation is simply a technique to quiet the Monkey Mind chatter of your mind and let go of the past and of the future. The key is to emphasize the present — to just “be”. This allows your alarm system to reset.
Think of it like rebooting your computer.
Sometimes your computer starts doing weird things and the best solution is to unplug it for a wee bit.
The benefits of allowing your system to reset are huge and worth your time investment.
Benefits of Meditation Include:
With all of these benefits waiting for you, do you believe this could help you and your wellbeing?
Are you ready to take the leap and try meditation for yourself?
If you still feel that you don’t have the time or are just unable to do meditation, stay tuned for Part Two of this series, Text to click on
In this next installment, we are providing you with actual exercises that are fast, easy and can be done almost anywhere. Stay tuned!