Mindfulness Matters

Mindfulness Matters


Mindfulness for Common Problems: Seven Things to Know About Stress

posted by Dr. Arnie Kozak

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

Finding the Fall Line: The Technique of Practice
As I was meditating this morning, I came up with a new practice metaphor. There were times when I was clearly in the flow of my body, very attuned the myriad body sensations and there were other moments where I was somewhere else or trying to manage some aspect of the moment, almost as if I was tryi

posted 10:13:53am Dec. 09, 2014 | read full post »

Prime Time, All the Time
An add for television streaming service Hulu states, "Every minute of every day should be considered prime time." This clever quip has a double meaning. On the one hand, it reflects the tyrannical notion that every experience that we have should be exciting, entertaining, and novel. On the other han

posted 9:31:08am Dec. 08, 2014 | read full post »

Giving Thanks 2014: Still a Lot to be Grateful For
There is not now, nor ever, a shortage of tragic, unjust, and violent events occurring around the world. The news media exploits these events and brings them into our brains 24/7 with an unrelenting insistence. Our nervous systems are vulnerable to these kinds of information. They signal danger and

posted 8:56:43am Nov. 27, 2014 | read full post »

Buddhist Icon--Thich Nhat Hanh Recovering in Hospital
Beloved Buddhist monk and teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh (TNH) has experienced a severe cerebral hemorrhage and remains in critical condition. He recently had his 88th Birthday. I surmise that he is, along with the Dalai, Lama, one of the two most readily recognized Buddhist figures in the world today. Af

posted 6:27:39am Nov. 18, 2014 | read full post »

Mindfulness with a Capital "M"
A recent Telegraph column asked if mindfulness lives up to its hype. The author, Polly Vernon, predicts that "mindfulness" will be the OED's (Oxford English Dictionary) word of the year. That would not surprise me. She goes on to give a favorable if at first skeptical review of the practice. Having

posted 12:19:27pm Nov. 04, 2014 | read full post »




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