Three ways to deal with stress

Do you have stress in your day?

Most of us do. The question is, how do we deal with it?

Some signs of stress can be low energy, difficulty sleeping, frequent colds and infections, indigestion, constipation,diarrhea, or nausea, headaches or ringing in the ears, mystery aches and pains, nervousness or shaking, and at its worse, shortness of breath and chest pain.

The most common response to these symptoms is to think that there is something physically wrong. ( And there could be.) But if you get checked out by your doctor, they can’t find an underlying cause, then it could be related to stress.

Sometimes we don’t take the time to digest our experiences. If we go from one activity to another, or have a lot of responsibility, or have personal relational or financial difficulties, and don’t take time for ourselves, then we aren’t fully digesting what is happening within, which can lead to some of the above symptoms. It’s rather like not chewing food well.

The first way that I have found helpful in handling stress is to only do one thing at a time. At work this is a huge challenge, as I have a lot of demands placed on me at any given time. Even though at times I slip and catch myself trying to multitask, I actually get more done with less stress and less error when I focus on only one thing at a time.

The second way is to sit with yourself. Meditation is the best way to do this, but before I started meditating, there were other things I tried that were helpful, and I still do some of them now. When I was in a bad relationship, I learned, through the help of some great people in Al-Anon, to give myself 15 minutes to have a good cry, which releases a lot of stress, then wash my face or take a bath or shower. (Or cry in the bath or shower!) If you cry more longer than that, things can just get worse.

Third, look at your eating and sleeping habits. Are you eating nourishing food on a regular basis? Try to eat 3 meals a day with the midday meal being the largest, and don’t eat after about 7 pm. Are you staying up late watching a marathon of your favorite show? Not the greatest thing for getting  a good night’s sleep!

Other ideas are to take a walk in nature, connect with animals, or sit by a body of water. I have found that just listening to the sound of birds calling or saying hello to a dog brings me a sense of inner peace. Take a gentle yoga class. Do something creative. Get away from social media or electronics for a bit. Read a good book, or engage in laughter through a funny movie, socializing with good people, or engaging in a pillow fight. It is best to try “old-fashioned” ideas – non electronic!

Take care of yourself, and remember to breathe!

“Every grain of experience is food for the greedy growing soul of the artist.”                       – Anthony Burgess

 

Sitting with myself (3 ways meditation impacts my life)

In my last post I mentioned that I meditate on a regular basis.

A fellow blogger asked me what impact this has on my daily life. This is a question many people have, I think. Meditation has become mainstream. “Everyone’s doing it.” But what is IT, exactly? And how, aside from all the scientific evidence that it is good for me, does it make my day to day life better?

Meditation is often used as a synonym for  contemplation, musing, consideration, reflection, deliberation, rumination, reverie, concentration, but this isn’t true meditation. A definition I like is “a state of thoughtless awareness. The mind becomes calm and silent, yet remains alert. Eventually, one gains higher levels of awareness.” Key word here is eventually.

Why did I want to learn to meditate? I used to have anxiety every day, and it manifested itself in that I was very controlling. I had become very aware of this, and my motivation for wanting to learn to meditate was that I wanted to know how to calm my mind. All the years I was a churchgoer praying and reading my Bible diligently had not brought the peace I so desperately sought.

And now?

1. I am calmer, over all. The anxieties and irritations that used to upset my days are now just a little blip in it, gone quickly when they start to rise up. I do still have “hormonal” moments. I get upset about stuff.  People annoy me at times. I get emotional and cry. But when I cry, the tears are cleansing rather than draining. And after almost a year, I am beginning to notice a difference in myself, a difference that others have commented on for months.

2. When upsetting events occur, as they will, I am more able to bring myself back to my center, to the present moment, to my breath, or whatever I need to do to look at what is really happening, what is really important.

3. The biggest change I have noticed in myself is that I have become much less judgmental.

wpid-20150204_185943.jpgI am less judgmental of myself as well as of others. In meditation, it is important to learn not to judge the experience. If I am judging, then what is the point, really? There is no such thing as a “good” or “bad” meditation experience. It is what it is.  Sometimes I have loads of thoughts, spinning around and around. Pema Chodron says in her book of daily readings, Comfortable with Uncertainty (p17), that “our practice is to watch our thoughts arise, label them thinking, and return to the breath…Each situation, eath thought, each word, each feeling, is just a passing memory.” In other words, we will have thoughts during meditation, and it’s ok.

As a result, I have taken this practice to the ordinary situations of life. Instead of looking down on others because their choices and behaviors don’t match my particular standards, I remember that everyone is doing the best they can at the level of awareness that they have at the moment, including me.

If you are a meditator, how has it helped you? What do you see as the greatest benefit to your life?  Here is a great infographic on the benefits of meditation. I encourage you to explore this, and begin taking a few minutes every day to just sit with yourself.

Namaste. The divine light in me bows to the divine light in you. Have a beautiful day.

cropped-cropped-image.jpg