Yes, there really is a way to combat stress. Just as we have the stress response to save our lives in dangerous situations, we also have the relaxation response (RR) to counter these effects. The RR is the body’s natural and innate balance against “overstress.” It was first described in 1974 by a cardiologist from Harvard, Dr. Herbert Benson. He was one of the first physicians to prove the link between stress and hypertension, chest pain, and other medical conditions. This really is the “mind-body” connection.
So how does it work? Well, by countering the sympathetic response that I spoke of in the last blog. In other words it decreases heart rate, rate of breathing, and with regular use, blood pressure. And since we’re constantly stimulating the stress-response in our crazy world, this is much needed!
How can you elicit the relaxation response? The great news is there are MANY, MANY ways. I will speak of others in future blogs. Today, I will review a very simple form of meditation that’s been proven by science to elicit the RR. The key is to make this a part of your routine.
1) First, pick a word or short phrase that feels right to you (example, compassion or peace).
2) Sit quietly and get comfortable.
3) Close your eyes.
4) Breathe naturally, and as you do, repeat your word or phrase with each out breath.
5) Don’t be hard on yourself. When thoughts come into your mind just know this is natural. Bring your mind back to your phrase.
6) Continue for 10-20 minutes.
If possible do this when you awake in the morning and repeat in the evening.