A Secret of the Fountain of Youth
by Marguerite Baca
Do you wake up bright eyed and bushy tailed? Or is your tail limp, eyes dull with fatigue upon rising? If you relate to the latter, odds are that your adrenals, two small glands adjacent to your kidneys are depleted due to chronic stress. Welcome to the ubiquitous and popular club of maxed out members. You have a lot of company.
Now take a moment, stop your multi-tasking, and breathe slowly as you read the good news about reversing your condition. There, you’ve already begun.
Your adrenals produce hormones, which ideally allow you to move through life’s demands and joys with graciousness and flexibility. The two hormones we will focus on for brevity’s sake are cortisol, known as the stress hormone, and DHEA, known as the anti-aging hormone. Cortisol is triggered by challenging stress, DHEA by that which is perceived as pleasant. Before you boo-hiss at cortisol, keep in mind that for adrenal health we need a balance of both hormones. The right amount of cortisol helps us resist the stress of infections, physical and emotional trauma, and temperature changes. But, how many of us engender just the right amount of stress. Between our toxic unresolved emotions, overwork, insufficient sleep, even excessive exercising, most of us are saturated with an overabundance of cortisol.
In distinguishing what constitutes the right amount of stress, it may be helpful to first learn the difference between good stress and bad stress. Distress is the negative type that produces extreme levels of cortisol, resulting in classic symptoms such as headache, stiff neck, nagging backache, and a short fuse, to name a few. Eustress, positive stress, is a healthy motivator, challenging you to act in resourceful, even creative ways.
Because we are well versed in self-inflicted distress, let’s focus on the flip side of the cortisol hormonal coin, DHEA. The prestigious journal Science in August 2002 directly correlates increased blood DHEA levels to longevity. Yes, these fountain of youth hormones are within us, as near as our own heartbeat. In fact, tapping into the tenderness of the heart center is one way to imbibe in the fountain of youth elixir. Studies show that “thinking with your heart” triggers the body’s natural ability to produce DHEA. This implies an integration of intellect and emotion, heart-brain interaction, wholeness. Sounds great in theory, but how do I do this, you ask?
The Institute of HeartMath in Boulder Creek California offers these steps for thinking with your heart, to increase DHEA levels.
- Begin by observing your emotions
- Identify and name them, (anxiety, guilt, fear, anger) you might even write down what’s bothering you
- Focus on your heart center
- Bring to mind someone or something you love, appreciate, that brings you joy
- Hold those thoughts for a few seconds while relishing the pleasant shift in your emotional state
With regular practice of these steps, DHEA levels have been shown to rise over a one-month period. You can use these inner resources, your heart’s innate intelligence, to recharge yourself at any time. Any time you make the time, that is. Most of us have become masters of depletion, operating from a personal energy deficit. Incorporating daily thinking with your heart may take some discipline, and may feel like yet one more thing to do. Here is one way to make time to tend to your fountain of youth: Go down your to-do list and ask yourself, will this activity replenish me? If not, chalk it off, don’t do it.
After all, when we don’t take the time to replenish we fall ill, only to discover in our bedridden state, just how luscious it is to stay in bed now and then. Have you noticed how lollygagging often leads to profound self-realization when you take time to relax and reflect on your life. The only difference between forced bedridden reflection and consciously carving out the time for it is guilt. Our culture is not supportive of down time, but illness is almost always excused. Rather than waiting till your depleted, why not give yourself permission to schedule some much underrated lollygagging time?
One of my yoga students, Laurie, calls it Lock Down. She gives herself two or three days to stay home, with no particular plans, with the phone unplugged. A term I’ve adopted is Wellness Day(s). Laurie and I both agree that whatever you call it, staying out of the car is required for experiencing the full benefits of this sort of down time, leisurely walks are permitted. On these days I do much the same as I would do if I was ill; read, rest, journal, perhaps complete come light paperwork, basic pampering. Beware, however, the most difficult aspect of giving your self this sort of down time may be riding through the feelings of the aforementioned guilt.
This precious down time creates an internal environment that allows what you love to come to mind, the very material required for thinking with your heart. This is time for your priorities to surface, time for assimilating your life, giving yourself some literal breathing space.
Slow down, and take time to tenderly remember who and what you love.
There it is; the secret to the fountain of youth is out, or, err, within you.
Article © 2016 Marguerite Baca – All Rights Reserved