So how can we combat the effects of stress? We must activate the parasympathetic nervous system. This system causes the heart and breathing rates to decrease and dilates blood vessels, therefore improving blood flow, increasing digestion and inducing relaxation. And how do we do that, you may ask? Through meditation! By focusing your attention, meditation produces a deep state of relaxation that eliminates the stream of jumbled thoughts crowding the mind and causing stress. Meditation allows you to gain a new perspective on stressful situations, build skills to manage stress, increase self-awareness, focus on the present and reduce negative emotions.
One of the simplest forms of mediation is following your breath. Focus all of your attention on your breathing. Concentrate on feeling and listening as you inhale and exhale through your nostrils. Breathe deeply, slowly and evenly. Practice filling your lungs completely by using your diaphragm muscle to expand the lungs. (Deep breathing is associated with relaxation while shallow breathing is associated with stress.) When your attention wanders, gently return your focus back to your breathing. Taking at least three conscious breaths can switch your body from having a sympathetic response (fight or flight) to a parasympathetic response (rest and digest).
So next time you find yourself in a stressful situation, try this easy meditation technique. Your body will respond automatically, bringing your stress level down and allowing you to deal with the situation with a relaxed body and a clear head.