Practice the 80/20 Rule
"Through the actions of stress hormones, stress has numerous negative effects on immune function, which in turn have health implications. It has been demonstrated that relaxation techniques can reverse some of these negative effects on immune function. Therefore, the role of stress in disease should not be underestimated, nor should the value of stress-reduction techniques."
I had the fantastic opportunity to study with Dr. Herbert Benson, MD, at Harvard Medical School in 2008, 2018, and 2020. Dr. Benson lead the field with 40+ years of research into the efficacy of meditation to counteract the harmful effects of stress. Dr. Benson referred to his technique as the" relaxation response", which is the inverse of the fight-or-flight response. However, unlike a stressful situation, which causes the body to automatically raise its heart rate and release adrenaline, cortisol, etc., the relaxation response must be consciously invoked. In his 1975 book "The Relaxation Response," Benson demonstrated precisely how to do so. Dr. Benson passed on February 2, 2022, at 86. Rest in peace, Dear Dr. Benson.
"Any condition that's caused or worsened by stress can be alleviated through meditation", said cardiologist Herbert Benson, MD of Harvard Medical School, well known for four decades of research into the health effects of meditation.
I started exploring and practicing meditation when I was 19, and I've been relatively consistent since then. I can personally attest to the benefits of regular meditation practice and how it facilitates stress relief. When stressed, our sympathetic nervous system produces the well-known "fight or flight" response, in which our entire body shifts all our energy into either fighting or fleeing from a perceived enemy. To deal with the threat, adrenaline and cortisol are released, the heart beats faster, you breathe faster, blood vessels in your extremities dilate, and digestion changes to release more glucose. Results from a study, published in the Journal Psychiatry Research, suggest that exposure to mild to moderate stress may help people become more resilient and lessen their likelihood of acquiring mental health problems including depression and antisocial behaviors. Individuals can learn to better handle future stress by experiencing low to moderate levels of stress. However, there is a fine balance between healthy stress and unhealthy levels of stress.
If you live in a chronic stress state, all those processes are continuous and create wear and tear on your body. You may gain weight from too much cortisol production, your skin may dry out or become oily, your bowels can’t correctly regulate digestion, and you may become constipated or have diarrhea, you may experience tension or migraine headaches, your resistance to bugs and viruses is diminished, and the list can go on and on! How, then, do we handle it?
Starting with your nutrition can be a simple first step. The key to reducing stress is eating wholesome, nutritious foods that will provide your body with the essential nutrients it needs. When you're under stress, your body uses a significant amount of energy, and you need to rebuild that damage from the inside out. Your body will start to heal if you reduce any allergens you may have and consume fewer processed foods in favor of vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, fatty fish such as wild-caught salmon, and other high-quality proteins.
A consistent meditation practice can help improve how you react to stressful situations. Setting your intentions for the day can be accomplished through meditation in as little as ten minutes before you start your day. Going for a (mindful) walk in nature is another great opportunity to practice mindfulness. This helps reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which can have a negative impact on both your physical and mental state.
Regular aerobic exercise will profoundly affect your body, metabolism, heart, and spirit. The cognitive advantages of aerobic exercise are rooted in neurochemistry. Physical activity decreases the levels of stress chemicals such as adrenaline and cortisol. Additionally, it boosts the release of endorphins, which are the brain's natural painkillers and mood boosters. Endorphins are responsible for the "runner's high" and the emotions of relaxation and optimism that frequently accompany aerobic exercise.
A restful night's sleep is essential to our overall health as well as the reduction of the amount of stress we experience. Make sure you get enough rest throughout the night so that when you wake up, you feel revitalized and ready to face the day. Please read the two articles that I've written on sleep if you're in need of some advice regarding how to get a good night's sleep.
In a nutshell... at least practice the 80/20 Rule and be a player in your wellbeing... not just a spectator.
Eat wholesome foods.
Meditate and walk in nature.
Get your Z's.
Practice mindful self-compassion and gratitude.
Offer Kindness to others.
Enjoy love and laughter with family, friends, and animals.
This article is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any medical issue or disease. The author does not in any way guarantee or warrant the accuracy, completeness, or usefulness of this article and will not be held responsible for the content of this article. The information in this article is not intended to replace a personal relationship with a qualified health care professional and is not intended as medical advice. Always consult your personal health care provider for specific medical advice.