P

eople are very busy — raising families, learning and studying, building careers. We’re busy with extended family, friends, and community. Most people have no time to breathe. Usually this means that they have no time for themselves, no time to unwind, relax, or recharge. But sometimes, this phrase can be understood literally: We have no time to breathe.

“My blood pressure was climbing through the roof, so my doctor told me I had to make some lifestyle changes. He referred me to a clinic that teaches mindfulness meditation. ‘You need to relax,’ he said, ‘before something bad happens to you.’ I was scared, so I followed his advice and signed up for a 12-week meditation course. It was the best thing ever!

“During those weeks I felt like I had a new lease on life. I slept better, was happier, and felt less stressed. My family noticed a dramatic change, and they were thrilled. I was sad when the course was over. Of course, I had learned all I really needed to know to maintain a healthier, heart-wise lifestyle, and I was determined to keep meditating. And for the first couple months after the course, I did.

“But then, you know how it is, the Yamim Tovim came, I had to work extra hours, and I was crazy busy with everything. I told myself I would get back into it once everything settled down. But who was I kidding? Life never really settles down. I’ve meditated maybe twice in the past four months. And I’m starting to feel the old stress come back….”

This woman learned a powerful technique for maintaining wellbeing, but she was simply too busy to use it. The truth is, that many stress-reduction clinics often teach time-consuming meditation and relaxation practices. Participants in these groups may spend an hour or so at each class learning how to relax tense muscles, breathe deep belly breaths, and quiet their noisy, stress-laden minds.

 

Just Three Minutes

While these classes feel great, participants understandably find it very difficult to maintain such a time-consuming practice in everyday life. That’s why I prefer the equally powerful but minimally demanding practice of HeartMath. This stress-reduction breath-based practice can be accomplished in three minutes a day. Even a minute of practice will be worthwhile. Moreover, HeartMath provides technology that allows clients to actually see the way their heart is reacting to stress — and the dramatic improvement reached after just a couple of minutes of heart-based breathing.

Funny thing, though: Even though this technique takes almost no time at all, many people “forget” to practice it on a daily basis. It turns out that many are just too busy — or too wound up — to take even a couple of minutes to reset their nervous system. They drink coffee to calm down.

 

The Danger of Stress

There are plenty of reasons why people don’t want to pause, including, but not limited to, the difficulty of learning and applying new strategies, the need to “keep moving,” the fear and discomfort of permitting negative feelings to rise to the surface of consciousness, and the human tendency to maintain the status quo.

We’ve got to get over all this, however, for an equally long list of reasons. First and foremost, self-neglect becomes neglect of loved ones. A person who allows stress to build relentlessly will inevitably be unpleasant and unhealthy.

Being snappy and irritable is the least of the consequences of driving oneself into the ground — literally driving oneself into the ground, facing illness and even death, are very real possible consequences of ongoing lack of quiet time for the nervous system. Anxiety, mood disorders, addictions, headaches, stomach aches, back aches, skin disorders, heart disease, cancer, and many other illnesses have been found to occur more often among those with poorly managed stress.

Self-induced emotional or physical impairment is a form of abandonment; your spouse and children need you to be here, be well, and be nice. Show your loved ones that you care about them by guarding your wellbeing (which is also a mitzvah).

It’s worth devoting those few minutes each day to your mental and physical wellbeing. This will give you more energy, more motivation, improved mood, better performance, enhanced concentration, better relationships, and better health. And funnily enough, due to your increased efficiency — you’ll have more time! (Originally featured in Family First, Issue 613)