Eons ago, back when evading predators and foraging for food were humankind’s main activities, stress was essential to survival. The body’s fight-or-flight response to stress in the face of danger set off a chain reaction of physiological changes, priming the body for action and increasing the likelihood of escaping physical harm.
As the holiday season approaches, your task list may begin to overwhelm you. There are office parties, social engagements, gift buying, children’s recitals, holiday meals, travel, and financial decisions — all tapping on your shoulder and demanding attention. Where do you begin?
“We have to resist the speediness around us,” says Hyla Cass, M.D., coauthor of several books, including Natural Highs: Feel Good All the Time (Avery, 2002). “All the forces are pushing us to perform, to always be doing and going,” she says. “It can really wreak havoc. Remember to slow down and breathe.”
What if there was a single pill you could take to reduce blood pressure, ease anxiety, improve concentration, and make you happier — all with no side effects? Chances are, everyone would be clamoring for it. While not in pill form, mindfulness meditation — the act of sitting quietly for 20 to 30 minutes once or twice a day and emptying your mind — appears to initiate these significant results.
Kids who meditate are happier, have higher self-esteem, get along better with other students and cope with stress more effectively than students who don’t meditate, suggests Rita Benn, Ph.D., a researcher at the University of Michigan. Aged 10 to 14, the Detroit students of Nataki Talibah Schoolhouse practice non-religious transcendental meditation (TM) for 10 minutes in the morning and 10 minutes in the afternoon to reduce stress — a growing concern for parents and child psychologists who note that kids are dealing with more pressure than ever.
First it’s work. Then it’s the traffic jam. Next it’s the noisy neighbors. For most, stress-inducing days are quickly remedied by a hot bath, a quiet dinner and rest. For sufferers of TMJ disorder, however, simple stressors like those above can be more difficult to nullify because the tension accumulating from an exhaustive day can transfer from other areas of the body and focalize on the temporomandibular joint.
Touch. We come into this world being touched, and we hopefully can leave being touched. Whatever our experiences in this life, touch is usually involved in some form.
That pain in your jawbone. The ache in your back. Or is it a persistent twinge between your shoulders? Do you pay attention to what your body is telling you? Or do you turn a deaf ear?
As you lie on the table under crisp, fresh sheets, hushed music draws you into the moment. The smell of sage fills the air and you hear the gentle sound of massage oil being warmed in your therapist’s hands. The pains of age, the throbbing from your overstressed muscles, the sheer need to be touched — all cry out for therapeutic hands to start their work. Once the session gets underway, the problems of the world fade into an oblivious 60 minutes of relief and all you can comprehend right now is not wanting it to end.
Stress may not be the result of how much you have to do so much as what you have to do. According to Donald A. Tubesing, author of Kicking Your Stress Habits, stress becomes overwhelming when the tasks consuming your time are not aligned with your values.