Sixty percent of human illness and disease is the result of stress. According to the American Psychological Association’s Stress in America survey, many Americans are caught in a vicious cycle of managing stress in unhealthy ways, but lacking willpower and time to change.
“Stress could easily become our next public health crisis,” said Norman Anderson, CEO of the association. Since 1992, April has been designated as National Stress Awareness Month to increase public awareness about the causes and cures, and successful coping strategies for the modern stress epidemic.
From anxiety to severe depression and from mild acne to life-threatening heart attacks, stress needs to be in check to avoid a life-altering health crisis.
Dee Doanes, an entrepreneur in Atlanta, experienced a lot of stress on a daily basis. She was juggling a full-time career in public relations and teaching meditation and health and wellness.
“My journey to teaching meditation started more than five years ago when I started studying different types of meditation and Buddhism,” said Doanes. “I had sold my soul to live a materialistic lifestyle. I wasn’t happy and hated myself.”
Instead of complaining, Doanes made a decision to transform into a better person.
“Society teaches us that having more will make you happy, and that having more is the measure of success,” she said. “But that’s not true.”
She decided not to waste time on gathering a lot of material things and focused on cultivating quality relationships with friends and family.
“I closed my public relations office and let go of my employees to have the time to get back in touch with my authentic loving self,” she said. “I gave away a lot of material things: luxury cars, expensive designer clothes and a big house.”
She used meditation to release the stress and took a holistic approach to business, health and life.
“I’m stress free and much happier,” Doanes said. “Having fewer things doesn’t mean you have decreased quality of living. It means you enjoy more of life.”
Doanes, also known as “the tree hugger in high heels,” practices Agnihotra (Ayurveda), an ancient science given in Sanskrit language at the time of creation. It purifies the atmosphere through a specially prepared fire performed at sunrise and sunset daily.
Thousands of people all over the world have experienced that Agnihotra reduces stress, improves overall health, increases energy and makes the mind full of love.
For the beginner, the simple steps to meditate mindfully can be done almost anywhere. Doanes recommends meditating during your lunch break.
“When someone at work ticks you off, go to the bathroom or your car to meditate,” she said. “Instead of giving in to road rage, pull to the side of the road to meditate, have relaxation music in your phone. You don’t have to live a stressful life.”
Daily meditation is possible. Doanes says starting a day by doing 10 deep breaths is a great way to be energized.
“At the end of the day, preferably at bedtime, take 10 deep, slow breaths to clear the thoughts of busy brains, to go to sleep quicker,” she said. “There are several medical studies that show that doing deep breathing and meditation can lower your blood pressure by several points. I know that from experience as I have work stress, and I’m in my late 40s and have never been on blood pressure medication.”
Doanes also says to allow time to relax and focus. Any clutter in the room may distract you, as will noise. So before meditating, create a relaxing and quiet space. Another great item to have is a mala, a necklace of 108 beads used to count your breaths.
Set a timer for 10 minutes (use your smart phone); sit comfortably but keep your spine straight (posture is important); close your eyes and focus your mind on the breathing as it comes and goes between the space between your lips and nose; concentrate on your breathing; your mind may go crazy (acknowledge it and let that go); return to your breathing; and do this until the timer goes off.
“I practice daily deep breathing and meditation and my blood pressure is normally around 117/72, which is unheard of for most people in my age range,” Doanes said. “Your mediation can be silent or you can chant a special mantra out loud or silently. One of my favorite mantras is, “I love myself, I forgive myself, I forgive and love others.”
The experts share the basic principles of mediation: don’t argue with your thoughts or to be annoyed by them; don’t fight your thoughts; and don’t repress your thoughts. When a thought comes to mind say, “This is just a thought. It isn’t real.” Then return to focusing on your breathing.
If you enter meditation with a clear mind and don’t force meditation but just sit back and let it happen, you will get the results you need and hopefully find a better way to cope with stress.
American Psychological Association – http://www.apa.org/
Federal Occupational Health – http://foh.psc.gov/
Natural Medicine & Rehabilitation – http://stressawarenessmonth.com/
National Institute of Mental Health – www.nimh.nih.gov
The American Institute of Stress – www.stress.org
The Health Resource Network – http://healthresourcenetwork.org/
The Tree Hugger in High Heels – http://www.healthpluslifestyle.com/
Marie Y. Lemelle, MBA, a public relations consultant, is the owner of Platinum Star PR and can be reached on Twitter @PlatinumStar or Instagram @PlatinumStarPR. Send “Health Matters” related questions to email@example.com and look for her column in The Wave.