Learning to manage your stress is an active process and takes commitment
A student in a recent Chopra Center Ayurveda program gave me the moniker “wellness whisperer.” Remember The Horse Whisperer movie with Robert Redford? With full presence, he would gently guide the horses he worked with toward being the best they could be with minimal stress involved.
Everyone can be their own wellness whisperer, living from an expanded state of consciousness and making the most life-affirming choices possible to help maintain optimal homeostasis and well-being, while sending yourself loving kindness, compassion, forgiveness, positive affirmations and more.
In Ayurveda and yoga there is the concept of ahimsa (nonviolence or non-harming), which guides us in how we treat ourselves, others and Mother Earth. Peace is the goal, achieved through the most peaceful of means. As we show up each day to meditation and yoga practice, we’re training ourselves to not only manage stress but perhaps, more importantly, manage our attention. No doubt, we are living in hyperkinetic, stressful, attention-deficit times. Attention management, aka mindfulness achieved through meditation, is the prime method for becoming more aware and present to our choices, moment by moment.
Set an intention now to drop from the chattering mind into the heart center, the seat of the soul, and spend some time there every day. The following affirmation can be recited to set your intention: “With deep respect and love, I honor my heart…my inner teacher.” Repeat often during your day to remind yourself who is really in charge.
Stressed Is Desserts Spelled Backwards
A colleague and friend, Brian Luke Seaward, PhD, had an epiphany that created a turning point for him from a childhood filled with incredible stress caused by his alcoholic parents. His sweet grandmother handed him a plate of freshly baked cookies with the loving words, “Now, remember, stressed is just desserts spelled backwards!” He came to realize how humor and compassion could ease both stress and sorrow and has made it his life’s work to remind people that “we have the power to move through, or around our problems, and eventually transcend them.” I highly recommend Brian’s book Stressed is Desserts Spelled Backwards.
War or Peace?
We all respond differently to perceived stressors coming our way. For example, you may respond to a traffic jam on your commute to work with anger and frustration. Someone else may view the situation as a time to relax and get away from it all, and listen to soothing music. The latter response is borne of mindfulness strategies that help you cope. You’re able to focus on your feelings in the present moment and do what is necessary to calm or self-regulate your nervous system. This is key.
When we understand how stress can severely erode our mind-body health, we can commit to transforming our relationship with it. It is, in large part, about perception. Renowned scientist and researcher, Bruce Lipton, PhD, says “The moment we change our perception is the moment we rewrite the chemistry of our bodies.” Again, this requires mindfulness.
Unmanaged, long-term chronic stress breaks us down mentally, physically and emotionally. The newest research shows how chronic stress even harms our DNA. Telomeres are a protective casing at the end of each strand of DNA. Each time a cell divides, it loses a bit of its telomeres. An enzyme called telomerase can replenish it, but exposure to chronic stress and cortisol (a stress hormone) decrease your supply. When the telomere is too diminished, the cell often dies or becomes pro-inflammatory, which greatly affects our health and longevity in a negative way.
The good news is that meditation can increase telomerase activity. It can also grow your gray matter, which is responsible for memory retention and cognitive function and rewire your neural circuitry to better handle stress.
Perhaps the knowledge of what’s happening to your mind-body physiology while in the throes of stress will help you make a firm commitment to do whatever you can to manage the stressors in your life, especially with a devoted meditation practice. In other words, you, too, can be a wellness whisperer.