If you’re at all connected to the wellness world, I’m sure you are aware that meditation & adaptogens are both hot topics at the moment. Everyone is a meditation guide, spiritual teacher, reiki master, etc. Similarly, every blogger is adding he shou wu to their morning matcha + sipping mushroom coffee. So what’s up with these two being in the spotlight and how can they have profound affect on our health?
It has been said that the amount of stimulation one would receive throughout their entire lifetime, just 200 years ago, is the same amount of stimulation that we as westerners are receiving in a single day. What exactly does this mean? We have created a world that the human species is not yet fully adapted to. We see all sorts of conditions & disease stemming from “lifestyle,” meaning that most of our disease can be prevented. The key is the reduction of stress and the increase in adaptability. The likelihood of the world around us slowing down is slim. Instead, we want to work with our systems to create greater resiliency and more adaptability. Both adaptogens and meditation work on this spectrum.
To begin to name all of the things that adaptogens or meditation can do for a person would be exhausting and tedious. We can easily sum them up by their ability to create a healthy stress response. And if you understand stress, all that stress encompasses and how it affects our physiology and psychophysiology, you know how profound this really is. Stress is not inherently bad, in fact stress is an essential part of the human experience and has a proper time and place. That said, the way we as humans are interacting with stress is what’s creating a lack of harmony.
SYMPATHETIC VS. PARASYMPATHETIC STATES
If we go back to primordial times, we know that common stresses would have been things like wild animals, famine and physical stress. Not to say that other stress didn’t exist, but the amount was far less. In our modern world, we aren’t fighting for survival in this same way. Rather, we have a constant supply of demands and distractions. Most of us could find something to be doing at all times, unless we consciously create the space for ourselves to simply be. Our phones and various technologies never stop buzzing & binging for our attention, our schedules are overfilled and we are taking on more responsibility than ever before. It’s no wonder nearly 50% of women are on anti-anxiety medications.
Prior to this extreme inundation, when a situation arose that required a stress response, the stress response occurred as a means to protect the individual from danger. A modern day example could be if a person cut you off in traffic, your body would output cortisol and adrenaline in order to create an immediate response for you to either break or shift lanes. This is an activation of the sympathetic nervous system and this response is necessary to preserve you from an accident. After that situation is over, our preference would be to return to what we call the parasympathetic state aka our rest and digest state. Our bodies require parasympathetic nervous system activity to heal, digest, recover, process and create. However, due to the modern world we have created, we have consistent activation of the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight) throughout the day. Because the body is always working toward greater efficiency, it keeps us in a constant state of fight or flight to avoid having to dip back and forth between parasympathetic and sympathetic activity. This causes what we know as sympathetic overdrive -- a state in which the body is continuously in fight or flight.
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So how do we work with this? Well, as I mentioned earlier, the world we’ve created isn’t slowing down any time soon. Evolution is happening, and we as humans want to be able to move with it. We don’t want to continue to live up to the current statistic that by age 30, the average westerner has burnt the candle at both ends.
If you’re like me, you have big things you desire to create in this life. But if we don’t have nervous systems that can handle it, we’re going to run into a lot more walls. We want to have adaptation energy and the ability to remain neutral when things don’t go our way. We want to be able to quiet our minds so that we can pick up on creative impulses. We want to be able to bounce back when stress is thrown our way, rather than wallowing in it and allowing it to deter us from our mission. All of these things are capabilities that we hold, but not if we’re accumulating and being weighed down by our stress.
As the creator of By Erika Elizabeth elixirs and a consistent practitioner of Vedic meditation, I firmly believe that these two things have a profound impact on stabilizing our systems, creating more resiliency and moving us toward greater capacity. In fact, I found both of these tools through my own experience with being stuck in sympathetic overdrive. I couldn't sleep, I was consistently anxious and on edge, I had lost my moon cycle and I had zero adaptation energy. I had all of these creations I wanted to birth, but I wasn't grounded enough to do so. I was stuck in survival mode, where just getting through the day presented a challenge. And I know I'm not the only one who can relate to this. These are the clients I am now working with on a regular basis.
THE ROLL OF ADAPTOGENS
So why adaptogens? Adaptogens are often the plants that have survived major natural disasters, extreme temperature changes and other forms of physical stress. They’ve been the ones that were resilient enough to withstand intense situations that required adaptation. When we consume these plants, that adaptive and resilient energy is being transferred into our system. With continued use, we begin to strengthen and build a more robust body and mind.
THE ROLL OF MEDITATION
Meditation has a similar effect in the sense that it creates adaptation energy and the ability to process stress at a much faster rate. A consistent meditator is able to experience the stress, feel the feelings and then move forward. Where as a non meditator is more likely to get stuck in the stress. Not only does consistent mediation allow us to become more adaptable under stress, but depending on the technique you practice, it has the capacity to begin to clear our hard drives of old traumas and stress that has been stored in our physiology. This is essential. It is said that our subconscious brain is fully formed by age 7, other experts say age 14 to be generous. Regardless, this formed subconscious is the place we are acting and moving from throughout our adult life, as long as we aren’t doing anything to begin to clear our subconscious wiring.
I sit down with clients with all sorts of imbalances that we can trace back to unresolved stress and trauma. Adrenal fatigue, weight loss resistance, hormonal dysfunction, etc., all of which are holding them back. Adaptogens and meditation may be trendy…but they aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. The call of the time is to begin looking at stress, the health of our minds and how these things are impacting the evolution of our species. When we begin to clear away stress and conditioning, increase our adaptation energy and quiet out minds, we open ourselves up to be channels for divine will to move through us. We begin to create on a much larger and all inclusive scale. At the end of the day, it’s about more than just getting rid of our anxiety. We are contributing to the evolution and progression of humans and our planet.