How to learn to manage stress

How to learn to manage stress

Last January I published a post on how to manage stress. It was very popular and over 50 of you wrote in with your “stress stories”.

I described how meditation has helped me to keep calm, or at least calmer than I might have been, over the last couple of years during several very stressful situations. I use the Headspace app. and have been doing so for about five years.

Andy Puddicombe, the founder of Headspace, was one of the first to adopt the ancient eastern practice of meditation and make it widely accessible to our western minds. If you are interested in the science behind “mindfulness meditation” you can read some articles here or listen to a Ted Talk here.

How do we learn to manage stress? What is stress and do we have too much stress in our lives? This is the subject I would like to discuss with you today.

How we manage stressful situations and the way we respond to them are very individual.

In olden days stressful situations were mostly caused by encountering danger (a predator). Personally, I have not encountered a sabre-toothed tiger recently. Today our stressors tend to be psychological, not biological and can be ongoing, leaving us no time to recover. Our bodies continue to create the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline. This state of arousal is extremely demanding and tiring.

Many of us have to deal with too many commitments, work, family etc. This for me can trigger my stress response. There never seems to be enough time to finish one task before jumping to another, not to mention the constant pressure of social media. My head is full of thoughts and my focus of attention becomes scattered as my “monkey minds” leap from one subject/task to another. This eventually results in poor or not enough sleep and a continual underlying sense of tiredness and mild feelings of anxiety.

Do these or similar symptoms sound familiar?  Living at this hectic pace is often simply referred to as normal and part of “modern day life”.  Do you consider this to be true?

What are the solutions or antidotes?

Well, they are individual. Everybody needs to find their own path. I can only tell you what has helped me weather both challenging times and the demands of everyday life. It is meditation. I wrote a post back in July 2015 on this subject. I first started experimenting with meditation back in the 70s. when it was all about “flower power” “The Beatles” and “Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (who introduced Transcendental Meditation or TM to the West)”

As I mentioned above II took up the practice again about five years ago.

Mindfulness meditation has increased in popularity over the last few years and there are now many other courses and apps available. I sometimes dip into the Calm app for a quick boost.

There is now a credible amount of scientific evidence to prove that meditation can help to create a calmer mind and even slow down the ageing process of the brain if done on a regular basis. Many people say that they do not have time to meditate. Yet I have found that as little as 10 minutes a day can make a huge difference to the way I respond to stressful stimuli.

If this is of interest to you I am offering two Voucher codes for one month’s free subscription to Headspace. All you have to do is leave a short comment at the end of this post to say why you think mediation might help you. If you prefer you can contact me directly at Chicatanyage(at)icloud.com.

I will contact the winner by email on 7th September.

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20 Comments

  1. 3rd January 2018 / 08:22

    Hi Jeanne
    Thank you for sharing your very moving story. I don’t know how old your son is or if he would be open to trying meditation Headspace do have a special program for children. Also in the book I am reading on the scientific research that has been done on meditation in certain medical applications it seems, from the trials, to have very beneficial effects on treating adults with severe depression.

  2. 3rd January 2018 / 08:34

    Hi Ann
    You are correct about meditation it is just about sitting down and meditating.. Whatever occurs occurs and it is best not to evasluate it. There is no good or bad meditation.
    It is good to take care of yourself first then you will be better able to help others. The airlines have got it right when they advise passengers to put their oxygen masks on first before helping others with theirs.

  3. 3rd January 2018 / 08:46

    Hi Ruth
    Yes so often we are our own worst enemies. Our “monkey minds” are very good at going back into the past and forward into the future. The goal of mindfullness meditation is to keep bringing yourself back into the present moment. Not that easy it takes practice and patience.

  4. 3rd January 2018 / 09:34

    Hi Alison
    Thank you for joining the discussion. I know how hard it can be running our own business. I have been self employed for many years now. I do think that meditation will help calm your mind. With regard to clearing traumatic memories you might need some expert help. There has been some research done using meditation with PTSD but I am not sure how conclusive it is.

  5. Mary
    4th January 2018 / 15:56

    You have inspired me to try that again. Thank you.

  6. 5th January 2018 / 09:02

    Hi Nicole
    Thank you for following my blog. I think meditation would definitely help you. Parkinson’s is a very difficult disease to manage. I wish you well.

  7. 5th January 2018 / 09:06

    Hi La Contessa.
    Very interesting comment. I have not heard of that before. Does that mean that you sleep less or more? I am glad you have found your Happy Balance. Your dinners sound amazing and your tables always look so inviting.

  8. Missi Baker
    13th August 2018 / 15:10

    I’ve used the free segments of Headspace along with a couple other apps in my quest for mindfulness and a path to less stress. I always fail to find daily time to practice, even though I’ve the best of intentions and a sore need of meditation’s proven benefits. Your piece is a reminder to give it another go! Thanks!

    • 13th August 2018 / 15:17

      Hi Missi
      I know it can be difficult to keep a daily practice. I normally do mine first thing in the morning before the day starts. It suits me to get up early. Maybe you could do 10 mins less of TV or social media or whatever engages your attention.

  9. Aikenite
    13th August 2018 / 15:12

    I am not familiar with Headspace but worth a try for those who don’t want to spend money on TM. I was under a lot of stress in 1985 when I found out about TM and took the course. It was THE BEST investment I’ve ever made for my health. And, the best type of meditation out there, in my opinion. There are many other forms nowadays and I’m passing on the info about Headspace to a few friends who are looking for a less expensive way to meditate. Thanks for this info!

    • 13th August 2018 / 15:19

      Hi Aikenite
      I learnt TM back in the day. Now I actually prefer the Headspace approach. It has been adapted to our western minds and in my opinion, has some useful guidance. Alternatively, you can if choose just do the silent meditations available.

  10. Charlotte Betts
    13th August 2018 / 15:27

    I’d love to learn how to stop the ‘monkey chatter’ that goes on in my head when I need to sleep! Almost everyone I know would benefit from a little more ‘headspace’.

    • 13th August 2018 / 15:31

      Hi Charlotte
      The monkey mind can be a nightmare. I have found that I don’t pay attention to it at night as I used to.

  11. 13th August 2018 / 21:38

    I really enjoy the Calm app, particularly “Daily Calm.” I don’t know why Headspace just didn’t appeal to me. I also like Calm’s “Sleep Stories,” and for some reason, men’s voices are more soothing to me at night than women’s. Either that or I pay more attention to women’s voices and am listening…

    • 14th August 2018 / 09:35

      Hi Mezzoid
      I also have the Calm app and like the “sleep stories”. I sometimes use them if I want an afternoon nap. They also have some good “masterclasses”. If I have time in the early evening I will do their 10 min meditation. Headspace also has a short daily meditation called “Everyday Headspace”. I find that the Headspace packs are more indepth. The “sleep” one is excellent.

  12. Ginger
    14th August 2018 / 02:56

    I have aspired to develop a meditation practice to reduce stress, however have not got there yet. I’d like to give headspace a try!

  13. 14th August 2018 / 07:47

    I’ve started using a yoga breathing exercise which is working well for me. My difficulty is that for many years I found that hightened state of adrenaline arousal enjoyable and then slowly as life commitments became more complex it slipped into an easily triggered anxiety state. This has impacted on my blood pressure and I’m having to “unlearn” this habitual response. It’s difficult but the yoga meditation is helping and I do use mindfulness techniques too particularly on the bus as it’s more discrete than alternate nostril breathing which can scare the other passengers!

    • 14th August 2018 / 09:37

      Hi MaureenC
      The yoga breathing exercise sounds good. Most meditations are centred around the breath as concentrating on the breath helps calm the system. Adrenaline and Cortisol are definitely addictive and not easy to wean oneself off. It takes time and perseverance.

  14. Susan Beach
    18th August 2018 / 16:40

    I read your blog regularly and I appologize that it took a giveaway to get me to comment. Very much enjoy your outfits and I particularly love to hear about your travels. As I live in Southern California, generally things you wear in the summer would suit here for dead of winter (I’m so tired of not being able to wear jackets) but I do love seeing a WOACA put together outfits and I can’t wait until all my kids are launched and I get to travel the world.
    I read and try to meditate to the writings of Thich Nhat Hanh (4 sons from age 19-29 nuf said about why I am stresed) and I would like to be included in your giveaway. I’ve signed up for the free part of their app and am intersted how they particularly address the Western mind.

    • 18th August 2018 / 16:57

      Hi Susan
      I think that Andy has adapted meditation well to western minds. Even though he trained as a Buddhist monk he keeps his meditations very practical and not esoteric. I find it very useful in everyday life.

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