That stress kills has almost become common sense, but still many inadvertently let it get worse. And some even get addicted to it. Adrenalin junkies actually seek out stressful experiences as a source of motivation or fun. But when chronically exposed to a state of ‘fight or flight', stress takes its toll. And by the time one comprehends how devastating it could get, it's often too late.
Potential health risks of stress range from heart disease and stroke to diabetes and obesity. It's estimated that three out of four doc visits are stress related.
Dr Lissa Rankin, author of Mind Over Medicine, writes, "Our bodies know how to fix broken proteins, kill cancer cells, retard aging, and fight infection. They even know how to heal ulcers, make skin lesions disappear and knit together broken bones! But here's the kicker: those natural self-repair mechanisms don't work if you're stressed!"
Above all, stress impacts the way we think, feel, and behave, leading to a negative self-perpetuating cycle that is hard to escape. In the award-winning documentary Stress: Portrait of a Killer, renowned neurobiologist Robert Sapolsky reckons, "Stress is ..., dangerous and humans can't seem to find their off-switch."
But the off-switch isn't hard to find. Renowned spiritual guru and the Art of Living founder Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, who has helped million across the globe live a stress-free life, recently gave a talk in the European Parliament revealing the yoga way of finding that switch, which I found exceptionally simple, but practical and revolutionary.
"Too much to do, too little time and no energy is what create stress," he told the gathering. This is exactly what many of face in our fast-paced life.
"As it's almost impossible to reduce the workload and increase the time, the only option we are left is to increase the energy level within us. When we have enough energy and enthusiasm, we are able to handle any challenge," Sri Sri averred.
With yoga and meditation one can turn the body into a powerhouse by tapping the inner source of energy. It's now known that the amount of energy that one gets in meditation is much more than in sleep. Twenty minutes of meditation can equal to eight hours of good sleep. This formula could easily solved one of the most common problem working people face: working all the time and not getting enough rest.
People often think that one cannot be successful without being stressful. They are made to believe that there is no nirvana without quitting the world. But Indian spirituality offers a plenty of ways of rejuvenating oneself without quitting the world!
Like Sri Sri often says, "The body dropping you is death; and you dropping the body is meditation."
So, the best way to cope with is to learn the art of dropping the world for a few minutes every day before it drops us. Spiritual practices like meditation, yoga, pranayama, Sudarshan Kriya and the likes do just that.
Independent medical research has demonstrated significant falls in cortisol levels, known as the ‘stress hormone' among Sudarshan Kriya practitioners, suggesting that greater levels of both relaxation and resilience to stress.
A study by All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Delhi, concluded that regular practice of the Sudarshan Kriya invokes positive emotions, replacing anger, frustration and jealousy.
It's also found that it improves the blood cholesterol profile with significant drops in total cholesterol and LDL (harmful) cholesterol, as well as increases in HDL (beneficial) cholesterol.
In a study conducted by National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences (NIMHANS), Bangalore, the researchers found that the breathing techniques taught by the Art of Living were as effective as drugs in treating depression and the result came without any side-effects. After practicing the Sudarshan Kriya, brain wave patterns were found to stabilise and there was an increase in serum prolactin count.
It's time we all learn the art of dropping the world for a few minutes every day before it drops us. And its rejuvenating effect can only make us better player in the world!
(M Rajaque Rahman, a former journalist, is a faculty of the Art of Living and regularly conducts stress-management workshops. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)