Wednesday, 16 April 2014

How Mindfulness Can Cure Stress

By Jo Ellen Grzyb

Eeek!! I’m too stressed to do anything about being stressed.


You are probably too busy to read this


No seriously, when we run Stress Management courses we ask people to look at what gets chucked out of their day when they’re under too much pressure.


Stress and Mindfulness

And it’s usually all the things that could help them become less stressed. Stands to reason, if you've got too much to do you probably will jettison the couple of hours in the garden losing yourself in potting soil or the calming walk in a local park or the get together with chums to watch a film or the footie or the yoga class, the kick-boxing class, the gym.

Not only do these things get ditched at the stressed drop of a hat, they often get replaced by bad food, lots of chocolate, alcohol, late hours and lack of sleep.

People also get wrapped up in things that happened in the past or they worry about what might happen in the future. Brains whirl around the hamster wheel of circular thinking which in most cases simply adds to the stress, not eases it.

Because the brain is chattering away and the body is being undermined at the same time, those quiet moments of peace and restfulness become increasingly elusive.


Mindfulness


We cover a lot of issues on our Stress Management course and one significant subject is ‘mindfulness’. And what a big topic that is. We’re not recommending that people take up Buddhism or even that they meditate an hour every day (which really does a heap of good to help manage stress); what we are interested in is how mindfulness keeps people present and aware.  

The more present and aware you are, the less likely you are to keep repeating patterns that increases your stress (including those late hours and bad food). Mindfulness allows you to see what’s going on, to turn the knob down on all the noise and chatter, to help you make choices that are based on insight rather than panic.

About 20 years ago, I joined a meditation group at a friend’s house with the great Peter Matthiessen, who died recently. He had many wise things to say in his writings and here is something he told The Guardian in 2002:    
“Zen is really just a reminder to stay alive and be awake. We tend to daydream all the time, speculating about the future and dwelling on the past. Zen practice is about appreciating life in the moment. If you are truly aware of five minutes a day, then you are doing pretty well. We are beset by both the future and the past. And there is no reality apart from the here and now.”
You don’t need to practice Zen to be mindful, aware and in the present moment. The more you can do that, the more you will be able to manage the pressure and stress that can wear you down to a nub.

Impact Factory runs Stress Management Open Courses in London which can help you start managing pressure effectively. Find the next Stress Management Course >

Watch: TED Talk How to make stress your friend

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