Stress is a part of modern life. Job pressures, relationship ups and downs, money problems, life changes, health concerns, even positive events like weddings and the birth of a child, are examples of the many stressors each of us faces at one time or another. Add to these the little stressors we encounter every day—traffic, noise, crowds, overbooked appointments, misplaced glasses—and it's easy to see why so many people develop stress-related health problems, such as tension headaches, cardiovascular disease, chronic fatigue, and digestive problems, just to name a few.
Stress can also deplete your adrenals, leading to a sluggish metabolism. And a slow metabolism makes weight loss a real challenge. Additionally, constant stress and anxiety can completely wipe out your willpower, causing you to overeat or eat emotionally.
Fortunately there are myriad ways to deal with stress. One method I use and recommend to my patients is meditation.
Meditation is simple. Everybody can do it. A single word or sound, called a mantra, is simply repeated over and over in your mind. This focus on repetition enables you to clear your mind of distractions. In the process, you go from a state of hyperalertness to alertness, and then to a state of consciousness in between drowsy and alert. It is this regular "downshifting" of the state of consciousness that facilitates a feeling of calm, an attitude of quiet.
Stress-reduction exercises can result in several dramatic physiologic changes.
- Deep relaxation causes oxygen consumption to fall almost immediately by about 12 percent. This same decrease occurs during sleep, but the drop is not nearly so steep and it occurs only after four or five hours of sleep.
- A restful state induces brain alpha waves, a type of electrical activity associated with states of relaxation.
- Blood lactate levels, which are intimately associated with anxiety, decrease by up to 20 percent with the onset of relaxation.
Studies have shown that anxiety reactions or panic attacks occur when a small amount of lactate, which is produced by the skeletal muscles, is infused into the bloodstream. Other controlled studies have proved that deep relaxation helps patients with hypertension, high cholesterol, and heart conditions reverse the progress of their disease.
In one study, subjects were assigned a daily regimen of meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, or diet and exercise. The meditation group consistently showed twice the reductions in systolic and diastolic blood pressure than the two other groups. These changes were of the same order of magnitude that physicians expect to see when prescribing drugs for mild hypertension.
Everyone Should Meditate
Because stress is so prevalent in today’s society and because this condition plays such a large role in weight control, I recommend that everyone practice the easy technique of meditation.
Here's what to do: For 10 to 20 minutes each morning and 10 to 20 minutes each afternoon or whenever you need to relieve stress, do these three things.
- Take several long, slow, deep breaths to relax.
- Focus on the muscular tension in your body and relax these muscles completely by sensing them as warm, heavy, and comfortable.
- Select a mantra—a word, phrase, or sound—and start repeating it over and over in your mind. Almost instantly, you'll feel a discharge of tension and experience a state of relaxation that will deepen as you continue with the exercise.
When you return to your normal state of awareness, you will likely feel refreshed and rejuvenated, as if you have had some exercise but without the fatigue. With practice, you'll get quite good at it and you should have no problem making deep relaxation a part of your daily routine.
I hope this information helps you as you continue your weight loss journey. Have another great week and keep up with the program…it works!
For more tips to keep you on track during my Diabesity Challenge, visit www.drwhitaker.com.