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Surviving Stress

It’s one of the greatest killers in our society today. More illnesses are attributed to stress than anything else. It’s purported to contribute to the cause of cancer, high blood pressure and heart disease as well as many other physical maladies. And, it’s all around us in the form of pressure to get out of the house on time, commuting gridlock on our highways and freeways, the push to pay the bills, to earn the next promotion, to make the grade. On and on it goes the threat of stress in every part of our day. Stress raises the Cortisol levels in our bodies for prolonged periods of time and that is what causes heart attacks, reduced mental function and high blood pressure. It has also been linked to contributing to weight gain in the abdomen and losses in bone density.

So how do I mitigate the effects of stress? One tool is meditation. Finding a place of stillness even for a short time every day seems to lessen the ravaging effects of stress. Most of the studies suggest that meditating for 20 minutes a day will reduce the effects of stress and allow one to perform at a much higher level mentally and physically. It will also enhance the function of the immune system. In one study subjects that meditated developed more antibodies to a flu vaccine.

How do I meditate? There are many forms of meditation, but to start, find a quiet place away form interruptions such as the telephone, computer or TV. Perhaps the simplest form of meditation is breathing and watching your breath. Your mind will kick up all sorts of things like what you need to do next, where your next appointment will be, why you don’t have time to meditate. Each one of these is an attempt to pull you away from this quiet moment of meditation. Just notice that this is happening. You do not need to do anything about it, just notice that it’s happening and come back to your breath. Breathing in, breathing out. Breathing in, breathing out. Each time your mind brings up a new “interruption” bring your focus back to your breath.

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