Let’s look at the emotional/ mental aspects first. We very often blame the external factors in life for the stress we are feeling, money, relationships , career. However, if we look inside and question what really lies at the heart of the issues we often find that there is a feeling of being out of control of our own lives. Managing stress is about taking control of how you deal with your life, being honest and realistic with yourself about the life you wish to create. I believe it is how you choose to think about a problem that is very often the cause of the problem. It seems logical to think that it is the event happening to us that is causing stress, but the opposite is actually true. It is our response to the event which causes the stress. It is our assumption about reality and not reality that cause us to think in a way that is stressful. It is the thought ‘I can’t cope with this workload’ that is the stressor not the work load itself. So with this in mind, we can process what is going on in a more productive way.
· Be realistic about what you can and cannot achieve
· Be honest about your emotions let your feelings out, talk to someone.
· If you are struggling, get help. It is not a sign of weakness to admit that you cannot cope. It is a sign of strength to recognise that you need help.
· Ask honestly ‘Is it the situation/person that is causing me stress or is it reminding me of something/someone from my past?’.
· Realise that you can change your perspective on a problem. Ask ‘How can I change my thinking on the issue to be more positive/productive?’
· Focus daily on the bigger picture, give less importance to the small stuff and remind yourself that life can be ultimately about joy, the joy of your connections with others and with the activities and simple things in your life that bring you meaning and joy.
Physically, stress impacts on our bodily systems . The main impact is on the nervous system. The central nervous system has two parts, sympathetic and parasympathetic . In ancient times when we roamed the plains we humans had to get away from dangerous wild beasties rapidly and so the sympathetic nervous system ,kicks in and gives the body what it needs to make its ‘flight’ from danger. Blood leaves the vital organs and moves into the limbs to enable a quick getaway and all unnecessary activity is ceased until the situation is safe again. This is marvellous for getting away from scary beasts but when the scary beast is your boss or the bills coming through the letterbox we cannot just run away. So stressful situations mean that the parasympathetic system is switched on constantly and adrenaline is pumping, when this is a daily norm the nerves get weakened and burnt out. The parasympathetic nerves do act to calm the stress response and bring us into a relaxed state. However, in order to do this we need to learn to relax. I am constantly amazed by the blank faces when I ask people what they do to relax. Watching television or going on Facebook may be part of your down time but the body really needs to rest deeply and in order to do this we need to come out of the mind and rest deeply in the body. Two great ways to relax are, Yoga Nidra ( a yogic sleep practice), Body scan ( a guided meditation) there are many websites and even MP3’s you can find and download. Less formally, just walking in nature or spending time doing hobbies you love can be very relaxing if you make the time for yourself. It seems like madness to invest so much into getting the life we want but never stopping to enjoy it. Giving so much to our external world but giving nothing back to ourselves, is futile. The food we are consuming can also add to levels of stress, anything that is a stimulant will raise the stress response. This includes coffee, tea, salt,sugar and processed food. There is so much information available these days on the internet about healthy diets and stress relieving, soothing foods. If you are not sure what to do about your diet then educate yourself, it can be wonderfully empowering and give you a feeling of taking control.
Here’s some tips:
· Try the meditation included below, aim to do it at least 5 days out of 7.
· Learn how to relax, there are lots of resources on the internet.
· Try left nostril breathing to calm and relax you . Blocking off the right nostril with a finger and breathing long and deep through the left nostril you can change a stressful state of mind into a calm state within 3 mins… try it for yourself!
· Make time for relaxation every day and do not let anything encroach that. Be as dedicated to yourself as you are to your work/family/ friends.
· Cut down on those stimulating foods and eat more natural, wholesome healthy foods instead.
· Exercise regularly, this builds up strength in the nervous system so you can cope much better with stress. Kundalini yoga works on strengthening the nervous system.
· Make sure you get out into nature as often as possible. Nature is a marvellous help, not only for the sunlight and fresh air but also nature is a great teacher. We can watch a passing cloud and realise that all things do pass. We can delight in the seasons and also learn about death and rebirth. By letting go of what is past we can make way for something new to come into our life.
Try this meditation. Click here
Elaine 'Akal Dev'