Stress. Just the word makes us edgy. Many of us start the day with it, and too many of us are living with it as our closest companion. It peaks and valleys given what we are dealing with in our careers, our personal lives and within our lifestyles choices. When the body experiences sustained stress over a long period of time, ailments and disease can appear such as heart disease, high blood pressure, strokes, mental illness, and a severely compromised immune system which opens the gate to illnesses. According to the US Public Health Service, “Stress is so prevalent in our country, that the Public Health Service has made reducing stress one of its major health goals.”

Stress is unavoidable, but suffering is optional.

So, how do we combat stress? The average person goes to the doctor and receives medication for it. Prescription anti-stress medications are comprised of benzodiazepines, antidepressants and antipsychotic drugs that produce a ‘good feeling’ for as long as one is taking the drug. Over time, one gets addicted to these drugs, and the body is not only depleted but now unable to produce these “feel good” hormones on their own.

This is where meditation comes in. Meditation is a wonder drug for stress. It offers the body rest while simultaneously releasing fatigue and anxiety. It reduces the chain reaction of unhealthy “fight or flight” hormones in the brain, the very hormones that are responsible for internal bio-chemical stress. Meditation also helps the brain turn “on and off “ genes associated with free radicals and keeps cells from aging, thus protecting the body from tissue damage. According to recent studies, meditation was additionally at the top of the list of practices that encourages compassion, happiness, and well-being.

Amy Gross, a meditation instructor in NYC, states in her article, Breathing Lessons, that “Meditation gives (us) a seat in the theater of awareness. Meditation is mind training using breath as an anchor.” You sit, you focus your attention on breath, a mantra or simply mindfulness, and then you repeat this process over and over. At first, you might find it difficult to sit for a single minute, but with time and a willingness to continue the practice, that 1 minute will come, then 2, then 5. Peace of mind will come. Insights and clarity will come. And an unshakeable feeling of wellness will come.

Thoughts come too. This is important to note, because even those truly skilled in meditation have thoughts that disturb the stillness of their practice. It makes sense that our mind, which we are coaxing and training to be still, will protest. The purpose of meditation is not to judge ourselves for not being able to dissuade the thoughts and feelings from coming, or even to empty out our minds. The purpose of meditation is to sit without judgment of these thoughts, to allow ourselves to observe them without any attachment, and to release them, returning back to the self…to breath.

From a personal stand point, it is only when I am actively engaged in a meditation practice that I feel truly capable of balancing my inner and outer worlds. I do my own version of “quieting the mind” and find that I carry this practice into the world and into still moments throughout the day when I get anxious around a feeling that eventually overwhelms my ability to focus on what I am doing in the ‘here and now’. I find a quiet space within me and allow myself to observe my thoughts. I remind myself to breathe and notice how the thoughts are creating feelings that don’t serve me. I observe how releasing these limiting beliefs and negative feelings allow everything to feel lighter. 
Meditation offers clarity, unity with the self, and release from stress. It is health and pure consciousness received with every inhalation and exhalation.

Meditation comes in many different forms. Some forms have you concentrate on a single image….a candle, a flower , a stone, breath. Other forms have you letting go of all thoughts as they come or adversely, to become aware of these thoughts. If one form of meditation only creates anxiety, you may want to try another form. I have found that moving meditation is quite helpful. Yoga, tai chi, chi gong….these are all practices which allow the mind to take a rest and for thoughts to be focused around movement. It is important to find what works for you. What you enjoy is what you are apt to fit into your daily life and stick with.

Meditation is not a cure-all, nor will it change you overnight…but it WILL change you. Research has proven that there are measurable brain changes after only eight weeks of meditating regularly because we create new neurons and simultaneously create new pathways as the result of training the brain.

When we take the time to sit and become aligned and rooted with who we truly are, we no longer hold on to limiting beliefs of what we can do or who we think we are. Peace and compassion for ourselves comes with every breath and well-being is given a chance to surface.

Author's Bio: 

Odette Worrell is a certified Holistic Health Counselor, certified by the American Association of Drugless Practitioners (AADP), and founder of Organic Soul. Odette's work encompasses supporting and empowering individuals to regain their physical health, improve the quality of their lives, and reach their personal goals. Odette and Organic Soul offer newsletters, online health and self-growth classes, and one-on-one as well as group health counseling sessions (privately and online).