As February is international heart health month, I have focused my blog this week on the benefits of the mindfulness-based STOP System and how meditation plus good mind mangement can reduce allostatic load.
How The STOP System could help prevent your heart attack
We all run background stress.
It's no bad thing if it helps us get out of bed in the morning to tackle that things-to-do list. However, when background stress gets out of hand, our autonomic nervous system goes into overdrive, creating a dangerous combination of increased heart rate and shallow breathing, which can become chronic and cause long-term damage.
But the adrenaline-fuelled fight or flight response is something we absolutely must retain. It is an extraordinary mechanism, and a very efficient one too, if we genuinely are in danger or need to take evasive action quickly. Under stress, the amygdala area of the brain springs into action, like a jumpy patrol guard, pressing all your internal alarm bells.
This prompts the sympathetic nervous system to activate. The adrenals now start pumping, urging you into action.
Once the stressor is gone, stress hormones subside but, if the panic button is pressed over and over again, the system itself begins to break down. This is referred to as ‘allostatic load’ and it’s this that can damage the immune system, accelerate disease…and cause problems with your heart.
It's fair to say people are becoming more familiar with the idea of the different types of meditation, mindfulness and mind-body therapy. It feels less hippy-ish and new-age than it used to, as the science begins to explain, clarify and support, what practitioners have known for a very long time.
So, if you are considering doing just one thing to help your own heart, in Heart Disease Awareness month and, as a bonus, improve your immune system, digestive health, sleep, and just about every other function of the human body and brain, you might consider adding the STOP System and regular meditation to your mind management toolkit.