It's Ok To Cry: How Meditation Helps Us Cope With Stress
I have to forewarn you that this post is extremely personal for me, but I felt compared to share. So, here it goes… I hit a rough patch about two weeks ago…. The weight of making several significant investments in my business all in one day hit me HARD. I literally broke down in tears and cried. I let the waterworks flow and I sobbed. I mean I really sobbed…. I let myself feel the pain, the fear, anxiety, frustration, and after about twenty minutes or so of sobbing, the pain subsided. I then prayed and meditated. The next morning I reflected on the experience; about how good that ugly cry felt. It felt really, really good. I needed to let the ugly tears roll and experience the pain, as it has so much to teach us.
It’s ok to cry.
Mindfulness meditation has helped me overcome the maladaptive ways that I used to cope with stress. Stress has a profound affect on our entire body. Since we’re wired for survival, whether we’re stressed about our finances, or stuck in a burning building, our bodies physiological response is the same. Our subconscious brain, or autonomic nervous system, takes over and responds to stress in one of two ways – FIGHT or FLIGHT. The autonomic nervous system produces a hormonal cascade that ultimately results in the release of cortisol and adrenaline, which increases blood flow, heart rate and pulse. Our senses are heightened, muscles tighten, immune system is suppressed and digestion is halted. While you may think stressing over work deadlines is benign, your body’s stress response can be monumental. Your body is on constant alert, preparing to defend itself for dear life. This state of chronic stress has been linked to increased risk of obesity, heart disease, diabetes, depression and a weakened immune system.
To protect ourselves from what our brain perceives as harmful, we often develop coping mechanisms to deal with chronic stress. Often times, our coping strategies do not serve us well. Here are few ways that people typically cope with life stressors:
Binge watching TV
Can you relate to any of these ways of coping with stress?
Thanks to my mindful eating and mindfulness-based stress reduction training, I now meditate daily. Before practicing meditation daily however, I would have continued to drown my sorrows with food. Mediation has given me a new set of tools to help both myself and my clients. It’s allowed me to step back and observe my thoughts, to let them come and go, without judgement. It’s given me more kindness and appreciation for what’s happening in the moment and the space to wail and cry a good, ole' ugly cry.
Research has shown that spending just ten minutes per day in meditation can reduce our stress response, increase happiness, improve mood, concentration, slow aging, improve chronic pain and cardiovascular health. Meditation provides a greater sense of focus, calm and clarity in life. A recent review published in the journal Frontiers in Immunology, demonstrated that meditation changes the way our genes are expressed. Through mindfulness meditation and other mindfulness-based practices like yoga, Tai Chi and Qigong, pro-inflammatory gene expression decreases. While there’s still more research to be done in this area to understand these cellular mechanisms in greater depth, this study is yet another illustration of the power of meditation to reduce stress.
According to the study author, Ivana Buric, “These activities are leaving what we call a molecular signature in our cells, which reverses the effect that stress or anxiety would have on the body by changing how our genes are expressed. Put simply, mind-body interventions cause the brain to steer our DNA processes along a path which improves our wellbeing.”
I start my day by praying as soon as I wake up, as this is my way of expressing gratitude for simply opening my eyes to see another day. Then I drink warm water with lemon, and then meditate for 20 minutes or longer. Sometimes I meditate lying down, or in my favorite chair in the living room.
Meditation is my time to relax and nurture my mind.
To not do anything.
To simply BE.
The first objection or hesitation I generally get from clients is that their mind wanders too much; they feel like they’re doing it wrong. There is no right or wrong way to meditate. Meditation is not about controlling our thoughts, or never feeling pain. It’s about letting whatever we experience come up. Meditation allows us to be a curious observer of our thoughts and it feels in our body. It’s about reconnecting our mind and our body with gentle kindness. It’s about being present, more mindful and letting go. To wander, however, is the nature of the mind. Your mind will wander and you may feel agitated about sitting still and doing nothing. The gift of meditation is to simply note this wandering, agitated mind and return to your breath. Breath is life and the anchor to continuously reconnect with the present moment.
In the words of Andy Puddicombe, mindfulness expert and founder of Headspace, “we can’t change every little thing that happens to us in life, but we can change the way that we experience it. That’s the potential of meditation.”
If the pace of your life constantly feels frantic and your way of coping with stress isn’t serving you well, then I invite you to give meditation a try. In only ten minutes a day, you can cultivate a better way of living. Are you ready to live a life filled with more peace and joy? If so, I'm here to support you every step of the way. Download my e-book on how to master mindful eating, which also discusses how to start a meditation practice, or schedule a free discovery call. Now is the perfect time to do something different for better health. Don't wait for tomorrow. Let’s chat today!