Did you know that stress has a major effect on your health? Most people don’t think about stress as a possible cause for changes in their body, mood or behavior. The changes in our body that occur with stress are natural and help us in dire situations, but chronic stress can cause a multitude of bad health effects.
Everyone has some degree of life stress but how you handle it is what matters most. Since stress affects every individual differently, each person also has their own way of dealing with stress. Some like to exercise or just walk, others need to talk it out with someone, and some people just need quiet space to think and focus. Meditation has been shown to reduce symptoms of panic and anxiety and improve mood, cognition, heart health risks and BMI. There are several ways to meditate with similar health benefits found in all giving you a choice in how you will manage your stress.
Stress and your health
When stress lingers, your body stays in the life saving mode called ‘fight or flight’ which is a nervous system response to stress and danger. While this once served a great benefit in helping our ancestors out run predators, and continues to help people in dangerous situations today, your body is only meant to stay in this state for short periods of time.
Stress keeps your body in ‘fight or flight’ mode which can effect various systems in your body. Your body responds to stress by releasing a flood of hormones, two of which are adrenaline and cortisol. Adrenaline increases your heart rate, elevates your blood pressure and increases energy. Cortisol increase glucose in the blood and brain and suppresses all bodily functions that are not essential to fight or flight such as digestion, reproduction and growth. So it is no surprise that in people with chronic stress, we see issues such as poor digestion, Candida overgrowth, infertility and poor healing. High levels of cortisol can also lead to weight gain due to stress eating, poor memory and concentration, depression and headaches. In regards to digestion, stress has been implemented as a possible cause of poor digestion, Leaky Gut Syndrome, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, IBS, ulcers and can alter motility leading to constipation or diarrhea.
Stress and Candida
Cortisol is easily controlled by food intake, but while you may want to reach for sugar and chocolate at this time, it will benefit you much more to eat something healthy and filling. Reaching for sugar, processed foods or carbohydrates to satisfy your stress eating behavior will feed the Candida in your gut which could in turn amplify some of these stress symptoms. Cortisol also raises your blood sugar without the addition of food and weakens your immune system leaving you susceptible to infection. This combination allows the Candida, which you normally have in your body, a window to grow and overpower the other microorganisms in your gut.
Stress can also lead to adrenal fatigue leaving your immune system fighting to keep up. If your immune system is weakened, it will be unable to prevent infections, properly fight off pathogens and keep your body in balance. A weak immune system can therefore also leave you susceptible to Candida overgrowth. Stress management will be a vital aspect to include in your Candida treatment along with a healthy diet. Taking time to handle stress will allow your body to heal better and maintain proper balance.
Benefits of meditation
Meditation offers the body and the mind a wealth of benefits. Meditation has been used for thousands of years, originally to deepen the spiritual understanding of life. Today, it is mainly used to reduce stress and assist in relaxation with benefits seen in emotional well-being and in physical health. Emotional benefits include learning to manage stress in a healthy way, building skills to handle future stressful events, gaining new perspective on a situation, and decreasing negative feelings. Through this emotional healing, meditation can help with conditions such as anxiety, depression, high blood pressure, pain and insomnia. Studies also note improvement in immunity by increasing natural killer cells which fight infection.
Types of meditation
Meditation is considered an umbrella term and encompasses many different forms of achieving a relaxed physical and mental state of being. While the methods vary, they all included focusing on one thing – your breathing, a word, an image, or a movement – while allowing your body to relax and thoughts to pass without judgement.
Yoga and Tai Chi – Yoga and Tai Chi both involve a progression of postures and breathing that require concentration, focus and balance to relax the mind and body through stretching.
Qi gong – Qi gong is an exercise that combines breathing, physical movement and meditation.
Mindfulness – Mindfulness focuses on increasing personal awareness and acceptance of living in the present. During this meditation you focus on things like controlling your breath and observing your thoughts without judgement.
Mantra Meditation and Transcendental Meditation – Choose a calming word, thought or phrase to quietly repeat to yourself to prevent stress thoughts.
Guided Meditation – A guide helps you to visualize mental images you find relaxing by using memories of your senses such as smells, sounds and textures.
How to meditate
- Find a quiet space where you can sit alone for 30-60 minutes every day.
- Close your eyes and focus on the flow of your breath.
- Allow thoughts to pass through your mind without judgement during this time, but try to stay focused on something relaxing.
- Don’t get frustrated if you have trouble focusing and relaxing the first few times you try meditating. It will get easier with time as your practice.
Meditation can be very beneficial to your health both mentally and physically. It takes practice to build the skills necessary to curb your stress and restore balance in your body but it is worth your time. Aside from clearing your mind and giving you some moments of peace, meditation will improve your digestion and immunity allowing your body to fight off any Candida overgrowth.