Escalated stress levels can serve as a threat to our overall health. Chronic stress increases the risk of depression, anxiety, high blood pressure, heart problems, obesity, sexual dysfunction, skin and hair problems as well as gastrointestinal problems. Stress can also disrupt creativity, problem-solving, and memory. This is because stress affects the prefrontal cortex, the most evolved part of the brain that is responsible for regulating our thoughts, actions, and emotions.
Due to the effects that stress can have on our health, it is important that we apply stress-reducing techniques to our daily routines. Practicing mindfulness meditation is one way to re-train our brains to be less preoccupied with worry and reduce stress. It allows us to focus our minds on a present moment, acknowledge negative thoughts without judging them, and then let them go. The goal is not to suppress thoughts, but to let them pass out of our minds, and then return to the task at hand. This can typically be achieved by practicing mindful exercises such as:
1. Mindful breathing – Start by breathing slowly in through your nose and out your mouth. Let go of your thoughts and maintain awareness for distractions. If your mind begins to wander, gently bring your attention back to your breathing.
2. Mindful eating – Purposefully slow down your pace while eating. Smell your food, notice how it feels in your mouth and savor its taste.
3. Mindful walking – Walk and use all your senses to acknowledge the world around you.
In addition to reducing stress, there are other benefits we can gain from mindfulness meditation. It improves brain efficiency in attention and impulse control and may reduce anxiety, depression, and pain in some cases. One study found that listening to brief mindfulness meditations, delivered by a smartphone app as a reminder multiple times a week for eight weeks, improved overall well-being.
If the effects of stress are taking a toll on your health, speak with your doctor about stress-reducing techniques you can add to your routine. To schedule an appointment with a Family Medicine doctor at Jamaica Hospital Medical Center, please call 718- 206-6942.
All content of this newsletter is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult a medical professional before adopting any of the suggestions on this page. You must never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment based upon any content of this newsletter. PROMPTLY CONSULT YOUR PHYSICIAN OR CALL 911 IF YOU BELIEVE YOU HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY.