Chaos, hustle, unrelenting- all these words can be attributed to the high pressured nature of business and the ever-increasing stresses of modern life.
While stress is a natural and sometimes helpful response for boosting energy and attention, when it enters into the realms of chronic, we can start to see some real physical and mental problems emerge.
According to The American Institute of Stress:
- 33% of people report feeling extreme stress
- 77% of people experience stress that affects their physical health
- 73% of people have stress that impacts their mental health
- 48% of people have trouble sleeping because of stress
So, while these glaring statistics paint a very saddening picture, there is hope upon the horizon. It comes in the form of regular meditation.
Emily Fletcher went from Broadway actress in productions such as Chicago, The Producers & A Chorus Line – to meditation teacher.
For almost ten years, she trod the boards. But like so many actors in her shoes, it took its toll. Anxiety, insomnia, physical illness, regular injury and a shock of grey hair by the age of 26 were all symptoms of the stressful experience.
It wasn’t until a fellow stage actress turned her onto meditation, that things drastically changed.
Emily became the founder of Ziva Meditation and the leading expert in meditation for extraordinary performance. She has helped over 20,000 students, including Oscar, Grammy, Emmy and Tony award winners, NBA players, Fortune 500 CEOs, busy parents and entrepreneurs.
Why Meditation Helps With Stress
When we’re exposed to stress, our bodies enter into a state of “Fight or Flight.” This response releases hormones such as epinephrine (adrenaline) and norepinephrine. Both of these hormones in excess can cause harmful physical and emotional damage.
By practising meditation, you are actively reversing this response.
“When you give your body the rest that it needs, it’s healing itself. Not only from stress from today, but all that stuff we’ve been storing in our cells,” explains Emily. “Every time you’re meditating, you’re producing dopamine and serotonin, which are bliss chemicals.”
Meditation takes practice. Dedicating just a short amount of time a day, from 5 to 20 minutes, can have a drastic and positive effect on your overall health and wellbeing.
“Stress really is making us stupid, sick and slow,” says Emily. “If you think that you’re going to make really good decisions in that moment, if you think you’re going to come up with your most creative ideas, if you think you’re going to have productive healing conversations with your partner in that state of consciousness- you are mistaken.”
Why You Should Find Balance
Everyone should try and incorporate balance in their life. What goes up should also come down.
Being energetic in a healthy way is excellent. Take yoga, for example. You’re using your muscles, creating heat and strengthening your body for the better, which is all upward energy. And then you engage in a cool down.
But, stress also falls under the category of upward energy.
So, to counteract that, you want to try a de-exciting practice by getting some rest, because as my Mumma always says, “Rest is the best medicine.”
“When you de-excite something, you create order, and when you create order in your body, the lifetime of stress can come up and out,” explains Emily.
“If we’re running around in that Yang (upward) energy, that excited stress state, everything is moving so quickly. The stress is trying to leave but it can’t find the exit. And so that’s what we do when we practice meditation.”
What does your doctor tell you to do when you get sick? To rest, right? “When you give your body the rest that it needs, it knows how to heal itself. And one of the things it heals itself from is stress.”
Suddenly you will have more energy, restful sleep, better relationships, clearer thoughts and generally feel healthier.
It’s Not Always Your Fault – Inheriting Stress
Transgenerational Stress may sound like a garbled mouthful, but it’s a genuine phenomenon that resides within our acquired genetics.
In layman’s terms, it’s the passing down of stress from one generation to the next. Say, for example, a woman experiences stress during pregnancy; it can affect the health of her baby.
Transgenerational Stress can also mean that there’s a knock-on effect that gets handed down through up to two generations. “If your grandparents were slaves or descendants of slaves, if your grandparents were in the Holocaust.” Emily explains, “You’ve inherited the blueprint for your health, but you are the architect, right? So we’ve got to take that seriously.”
Research shows that a survivor’s children have an increased chance of expressing stress-related, psychiatric illnesses such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), without ever being exposed to high levels of stress.
What does that mean? Well, you’re not necessarily wholly responsible for how you react to stress. However, you do have the responsibility to address it should it manifest.
“If you don’t handle this, you’re going to pass it down to your kids. They’re going to pass it down to theirs. We have to stop the lineage of trauma at some point,” says Emily.
What Meditation Does To The Brain
When you meditate, you can do wonderful things for your brain.
Meditation encourages the development of new neural pathways while also building up your much-needed grey matter. As we meditate, not only do we feel more relaxed, but certain parts of our brains get kick-started and we begin to think differently, compared to when we’re in a busy state or contending with stress.
The brain’s “fight or flight” centre, aka the amygdala, also appears to shrink- which is a good thing.
As that gets smaller, the prefrontal cortex becomes thicker which helps with the more significant brain functions, such as decision making, awareness and concentration.
As this happens, our primal responses to stress are reduced and become superseded by more thoughtful ones.
“The magic happens when you start manifesting after the meditation. You de-excite the nervous system, the right and left hemispheres of the brain start functioning in unison,” says Emily.
“You really start to have these leaps in cognitive performance and actually these leaps in consciousness.”
So yes, meditation does live up to the hype.
The Psychology of Entrepreneurship
For more on the meditation, check out Volume 27 of the Psychology of Entrepreneurship podcast hosted by Ronsley Vaz with special guest Emily Fletcher.
Author: Ronsley Vaz
Ronsley is the founder & chief day dreamer at AMPLIFY. He is an author, speaker & serial entrepreneur.
He has a Masters’ degree in Software Engineering and an MBA in Psychology and Leadership. He is known as the creator of We Are Podcast – the first Podcasting Conference in the Southern Hemisphere, and the host of The Bond Appetit Podcast and Should I Start a Podcast. He has an audience of over 3 million in 133 countries.