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Mindfulness Matters

Mindfulness Matters

Mindfulness for Common Problems: Seven Things to Know About Stress

Today, I will introduce a new series of posts with practical, mindfulness-based advise for dealing with common problems. These problems include stress, anxiety, depressed mood, pain, overeating, sleep difficulties, and more. Each post will provide principles and techniques for handling these problems so that they are no longer problems.

If there are particular issues that I haven’t mentioned above, please suggest other topics. There is over thirty years of research that demonstrates how mindfulness can be very helpful for dealing with these problems. Because mindfulness is a generic strategy it can be applied to almost any situation.

Let’s start with stress:

  1. Not all stress is bad. Without stress we couldn’t get out of bed in the morning. Our stress systems are well-equipped to deal with challenges.
  2. Stress is a combination of circumstances and our perception of those circumstances. One person’s stress is another person’s adventure.
  3. Our goal is not to get rid of stress (impossible today or in any era) but to manage stress better.
  4. Our stress system is best suited to immediate situations–we get a rise in energy to tackle a situaiton and then the body relaxes.
  5. Many of us today are in chronic stress overload–the stress systems is always on and never or rarely goes into the relaxation mode.
  6. Mindfulness of the body (especially the body scan practice (click here for a free guided body scan meditation) can help us to flag stress symptoms when they are present.
  7. Mindfulness can help to establish confidence in dealing with stressful circumstances. We can expand the range of what we can handle before we feel overwhelmed.

Stress is energy. It is the body switched-on to deal with a situation that may require us to fight or flee or to put our energy into taking care of someone. Stress gets a bad name and we think that we can somehow get rid of stress. This is neither possible nor desirable. We must act in the world and we need stress responses to do this.

We can determine how we confront a situation that may be stressful. If we feel confident that we can handle the situation, then the stress won’t feel overwhelming. Adversity arises when we feel the situation outstrips our ability to cope. Mindfulness practice can provide this confidence. We know that we can handle a future moment when it becomes the present moment.

If we can become familiar with our bodies stress signatures, we are in a better position to manage stress skillfully. We all tend to manifest stress in different ways. Some people get headaches, some people feel it in their gut. I feel overwhelming stress in my jaw. When I notice this tension, I can use it as a cue to let go of the story that is feeding the stress. Often, I will notice what is happening in my jaw before I recognize that I am lost in a painful story.

When I feel my jaw, I relax it and release back into the present moment. What is happening now? What can I do right now to address the situation at hand. Often, the stress is being manufactured in my imagination, so there is nothing to do except to breathe and enjoy the moment.

Previous Posts

I Want my WiFi Now!
A recent adventure I had illustrates the limitations of the technology in certain places and how easily our expectations can give rise to a world of frustration. On Thursday March 12, I listened with great interest to Fresh Air that featured writer Fenton Johnson and his article in the April issu

posted 9:10:31am Mar. 24, 2015 | read full post »

The Train's Eye View of the Landscape
I am sitting on a train riding from Essex Junction, Vermont to Hartford Connecticut where I will be teaching my

posted 5:42:18pm Mar. 14, 2015 | read full post »

Mindfulness in Corporate America
Two recent articles in two major publications--The New York Times and The Atlantic--focused on the rising trend of mindfulness in corporate settings and both articles feature the recently published book by David Gelles: Mindful Work: How Meditation is Changing Business from the Inside Out. Mindfu

posted 11:28:56am Mar. 11, 2015 | read full post »

The Other Kind of PDF: Public Displays of Frustration
The world's number one ranked golfer, Rory McIlroy made a spectacle of himself yesterday during the World Golf Championship tournament at Doral. After pulling his long approach shot into the water on hole number 8, he then launched his 3-iron into the lake. It sailed 60 or 70 yards before splashing

posted 1:29:31pm Mar. 07, 2015 | read full post »

Mindful in Relationship: The Biggest Spiritual Challenge We Face
Our closest relationships are often the most challenging places to be mindful. We may be prone to feelings of unworthiness, superiority, and fear as well as a host of other feelings that push us around. When we can bring equanimity to our relationships we are progressing along the path. When we c

posted 7:56:20pm Mar. 02, 2015 | read full post »

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