Stress has a bad reputation. If it was a character in a book it would be the Professor Moriarty of lifestyle - difficult to describe and
harder to deal with. (Depression is Voldemort - he who must not be named).
Unlike these fictional villains, stress gets a bad name for itself because it's misunderstood. Stress is neither good nor bad, but a
natural response when the body perceives an advancing threat.
Designed to help us stand up to an enemy or run away from danger (otherwise known as fight or flight) stress provides the right
physical conditions for you to maintain optimum performance. Problems start when you remain alert, even when there is no danger,
and you start to feel ill as a result. It's like leaving your lights on when you've parked your car - eventually the battery runs out.
This is a common problem in the 21st Century made largely possible by the technology which keeps us available 24 hours a day.
Buddha is recorded as saying "The Mind is everything. What we think, we become". So if you believe you're going to have a stressful day,
you'll probably find that's exactly how it went.
Stress is something you need, but which in today's world our reaction to what we perceive as a threat has to be managed. Not everything in your life is urgent and if it is, that's even more reason to ask yourself if you're where you want to be. If you've found yourself hurtling towards a destination at break-neck speed, ask yourself why and if there is another way (hint: there is.). If you are, you'll probably find the Universe is stopping you at every red traffic light to help the process of slowing you down.
Remember it's the fact the jug is empty which makes it useful. Start with your mind.
Here are just three of my top tips to help yourself.
1) Be productive, not busy.
You start your day at work with the best of intentions but by lunchtime you realise you've spent all morning answering emails which kept you distracted from your ever growing to do list. By mid-afternoon you're so tired (from the "fast food" lunch you had "on the go") that you can't focus, and your get up and go has got up and gone. It's a common misconception that you have to be busy (perhaps as a throwback from all the times your parents told you that you were lazy as a child). The most helpful approach on any working day is to stay focused on the jobs that need doing. Start every morning (or if you're an evening person, before you leave work) by writing a list of what has to be done. Don’t load your email or answer your phone (or check your social media page) until you've completed what’s on that list.
2) Lose the "quick fix".
Everything in modern society is geared towards being solution focused as well as quick and easy. Anyone who has experienced a period of stress can be forgiven for trying anything which promises to help them feel better. This usually includes caffeine, nicotine and alcohol, even sleeping pills. The problem is that these "quick fixes" take their toll on your physical body both in the short and long term and, ironically, can make your more stressed. Anything you've ever achieved in life probably came about as a result of some sustained effort on your part. Stress management is no different.
3) Pay attention, without tension.
Many people suffer with what Buddhists call "The Monkey Mind"; that chattering, but invisible noise which penetrates your awareness and keeps you locked in an unhelpful circle of thought. If your biggest problem is how you think then learning how to meditate can help you quieten a busy mind. Meditation is only as complicated as you make it. It doesn't have to involve complex mantras (or positions) and can be done whilst sat at your desk. It's not a trance and you remain in complete control. Where you are now, reading this article, take a moment to pay attention to your breathing. Listen to your in and out breath, for a few moments. Done that? Perfect, you've just meditated and you're probably feeling better already.
© Copyright Delphi Ellis 2012