"We need to think of stress management as exercise for our brain. If we have weak muscles we need to strengthen them and any muscle that does not get used atrophies. The same can be said about our brains."
Being healthy is a process. At no point are we "done" being healthy...unless...well, you know.
Eating clean, nutrient-dense food, building strength, conditioning the body, working on mobility are all part of that process. But so are rest and recovery.
These two, however, are not synonymous. Rest is just that: getting sufficient sleep, taking a break from high intensity exercise, allowing the body to repair on its own. Recovery, on the other hand, is an active process that we must be just as diligent with as our nutrition and exercise.
One of the most important components of recovery is stress management. Having a consistent stress management practice not only allows us to feel better and perform better but will help stave off the debilitating diseases we fear with age.
Recent studies have shown that a stress management practice, such as meditation and mindfulness, helps preserve gray matter in the brain.
"It’s well-documented that our cortex shrinks as we get older – it’s harder to figure things out and remember things. But in this one region of the prefrontal cortex, 50-year-old meditators had the same amount of gray matter as 25-year-olds."
Poor stress management may also be why you are not getting the results you want from your nutrition and exercise program. As Kevin Cann writes:
"Basically, when we are stressed our body is in its “fight or flight” mode and diverts all of its energy to our systems that would allow us to fight for our lives, such as raising our blood pressure. This is short term survival mode, and our body does not care about getting nutrients to build new muscle tomorrow. It has to survive NOW. This could mean that you are doing everything right on a paleo diet, but not getting the nutrients to reap the full benefits. Health all begins with digestion, and stress negatively impacts that system. If you suffer from digestive disorders and food intolerances, this could be an underlying cause."
Start with just 10 minutes a day and work up to 30 - 60 minutes. The immediate benefits of stress management will be obvious. The long term benefits of good health will be priceless.