Stress is not always bad. There is actually a good form of stress, one that helps you focus, helps you to be motivated and get prepared; a stress that feels exciting and that improves your performance. Like, for example, the tingling sensation in the stomach that you feel just before you talk in public, either at a conference or for a class presentation; or you know that nervous feeling you get when you have a job interview, or a date with someone you really like? Well that’s all positive stress.

And of course there is that other kind of stress that we know well, the distress or negative stress that causes anxiety or concern. It decreases performance and can lead to mental and physical illness.

Those headaches that you are maybe having, or that difficulty with sleeping well because of the anxiety, that sadness or depression, even that back pain, that’s all very probably negative stress. I’m not exaggerating. Today many of our illnesses are induced by bad stress. I was astonished reading the study of the Benson Henry Institute that says that only in USA 60 to 90 percent of doctors visits are due to stress related illness. The World Health Organization estimates stress costs US companies at least $300 billion a year through absenteeism, turnover and low productivity. And here on the other side of the Atlantic it’s not better. Stress is the second most frequently reported work-related health problem in Europe. A European opinion poll conducted by the Agency for Safety Health at work says that more than a half of all workers considered work-related stress to be common in their workplace. The most common causes of work-related stress were job re-organization or job insecurity, working long hours, or excessive workload and bullying or harassment at work. The same poll showed that around 4 in 10 workers think that stress is not handled well in their workplace.

But there are ways to reverse this tendency.  One of the most efficient methods I have found to transform negative stress into a more positive one is meditation. In my 11 years working as a journalist meditation has been key to bring focus, inner calm in moments where the external world happened to be in total chaos. Like reporting from Gaza strip in tough times or about children’s sexual abuse in Guatemala…very stressful situations where meditation helped me have not only inner calm, but most of all a much higher quality of life at a physical, mental and emotional level.

Meditation has brought me serenity. It has given me a sense of connection with others and it has opened my mind to an understanding there are forces bigger than me that I’m still a part of. It’s not only my little, isolated personal experience. More than 1000 studies of renowned universities have largely proven the benefits of meditation. Some of the major benefits can include helping to reduce the effects of:

  • Anxiety disorders
  • Asthma
  • Depression
  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Pain
  • Sleep problems
  • And it has been proven to slow down the aging process.

The emotional benefits of meditation include:

  • Reducing negative emotions
  • Building skills to manage your stress
  • Gaining a new perspective on stressful situations
  • Increasing self-awareness
  • Increasing the capacity to focus in the present moment

But let’s get practical! I have prepared a short exercise for you to start slowing down your rhythm. This introduction to meditation will help you relax. You still will be alert and ready, but experience situations from a place of inner calm. It’s a short 5 minute session that you can practice as much as you want.

Anyone can practice meditation. It’s simple and inexpensive, and it doesn’t require any special equipment.

Practicing this exercise a few minutes every day can end up restoring your health and inner peace.  

Let me know how it works for you in the comments below. If you are in Berlin, Germany, don’t miss my session “Pranayama for Women in Transition” on Saturday October 18 from 5:30pm to 7pm at Schöneberg. It’s always great to share and breath together in real life.

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