stress ≠ weakness.

By Arden Martin

When we're stressed, things feel very wrong indeed. But no matter how wrong your life may feel, there is never anything wrong with YOU. It's easy to blame yourself and wonder, "Why can't I handle this? Beyoncé has the same number of hours in the day as I do, and look at everything she accomplishes! I'm just not as strong as she is... right?"

WRONG. First of all, Beyoncé has a team of people handling a large portion of "her" demands, and she's smart enough to stay off social media for the most part. This is a huge win in itself, but that is besides the point.

When it comes to stress, how you handle it, and what that says about you, here's the truth: you've been accumulating stress in your body for decades. If you don't have tools to dissolve accumulated stress and prevent more from building up each day, it is debilitating. This is not your fault. 

Here's how it works: each time you lose your temper, feel humiliated, argue, throw a shoe across the room, etc., stress builds up in the body. By the time you're an adult, there are thousands of stresses in your system. If your body and brain are burdened with accumulated stresses, there's very little computing power left for navigating life's demands in a calm, clear-headed way. This is why we throw shoes across the room; this is why we yell. This is why we get sweaty and lose our cool when we're running late and the stakes are high, only to beat ourselves up for not being able to keep it together. 

Due to the human body's design, being stressed is like dumping acid in your system, and this is not easy to handle. When we go into fight-or-flight mode (ie. panicking, shouting, freaking out, etc.), the body launches into a series of chemical reactions. These include acid flooding the digestive system, cortisol and adrenaline levels spiking, the immune system shutting down, and much more.

This process drains your body's energy, computing power, and overall capacity to function at the top of your game. So if you feel like a failure because you're stressed all the time or because you don't handle stress gracefully, there is nothing wrong with you. The human body wasn't designed to handle stress gracefully, and it's DEFINITELY not designed to handle chronic stress. It's okay to get stressed in an acute situation, but it's very unhealthy to STAY stressed. 

When you get stressed, your body naturally and spontaneously does exactly what it's been conditioned to do since prehistoric times (aka fight or flight) because it helps us leap into action and survive the perceived threat. The problem is, we evolved this reaction so the body will get a surge of energy that helps it withstand a LIFE-THREATENING situation. These days, we're a sweaty, heart-pounding mess when our iPhone falls in the toilet (hint: not life-threatening). We've been conditioned to react this way, and that's not our fault.

No matter how hard we try, we can't disable the body's ability to go into fight-or-flight (and we wouldn't want to, because it can save our life in the face of an oncoming car). However, we CAN re-program our tendency to launch blindly into fight-or-flight whenever something unexpected happens. We overreact to non-deadly demands because decades of stresses have accumulated in the body and we're left with very little adaptation energy, aka the ability to calmly face whatever comes our way. 

So what can we do to clear out stresses and stop the cycle of buildup in the body?Meditate. When we meditate, the body and brain settle down, the nervous system de-excites, and we enter a level of rest that is up to 5 times deeper than sleep. Stress dissolves easily in this state of rest. Each time we meditate, we let go of more accumulated stress. If we keep it up, eventually there will be none left in the body. And if we keep it up still, the nervous system will stay clear and stress will stop building up entirely. 

In conclusion, no more stress in the body = no more freaking out. Your body is designed to get stressed, but only when it actually makes sense. Meditation dissolves accumulated stress in the body, and the brain stops getting confused about which demands are life-threatening. The body thanks you by no longer getting stressed when it isn't helpful, and you have more space to enjoy life, demands and all.