How to learn to manage stress

How to learn to manage stress

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.

I don’t set “New years resolutions” such as intending to take more exercise, go on a diet etc. I do my best to integrate these aspects into my life on a continual daily, weekly and monthly basis. I do however find that this time of year offers an opportunity to take some time out and reflect on what is important and what we want going forward.

I have been aware for some time that as my mother might have said: “You am overdoing things”. In other words taking on 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. 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”. Yet is it or can we do something to help ourselves?

How do we know whether stress might be negatively impacting our performance and possibly our health? When I began to research stress I found varying hypotheses, definitions, symptoms and solutions.

What actually happens in the mind and body when we are stressed?

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.

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)”

I took up the practice again about five years ago. I use the Headspace app. 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 . Personally I think this cartoon video is great fun.

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 sressful stimuli.

If this is of interest to you I am offering a Voucher code 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.

I will contact the winner by email on 23rd January.

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26 Comments

  1. JoAnne Myers
    2nd January 2018 / 1:45 pm

    Taking meditation practices back up would be a way to focus my diverse life of ideas and write, as I juggle teaching, faculty governance and local politics.

  2. media35
    2nd January 2018 / 2:20 pm

    how can retirement be stressful?? it is!! maybe the lack of structure is causing me anxiety. willing to try this method

  3. Mary
    2nd January 2018 / 2:33 pm

    I dont make a regular habit of meditating but find it so helpful when I do. I have made up my own method and have never tried any expert help. Maybe I should! I did watch the candle on Grandson`s Wii and got to the top grade. Does that count?

    • 2nd January 2018 / 2:50 pm

      Yes Mary. That definitely counts. I have done candle meditation in the past. The real secret is to make the habit a daily practice in whatever form works for you.

      • Mary
        4th January 2018 / 3:56 pm

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

  4. Suzanne Lagle
    2nd January 2018 / 2:37 pm

    Thanks for the post. I think that its important to relax your mind and body, and I appreciated the video. All you have to do is start, and my word for 2018 is “proactive” ! Thank you!

  5. maggietully
    2nd January 2018 / 2:50 pm

    I love your site and thank you for inspiring us at any age. Please find my latest blog where I talk about how to reclaim your health should you feel tired and low in energy. New Year – New You xxx Happy New Year

  6. Ruth Sklar
    2nd January 2018 / 3:04 pm

    I tend to assume the worst when confronted with difficulties. It would be great to no longer torture myself with this practice! Also, whenever anything negative (even tiny things) happened to me when I was growing up, my mother would say, “God is punishing you!” That is still with me today at 70+ years

    • 3rd January 2018 / 8:46 am

      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.

  7. Christine
    2nd January 2018 / 5:32 pm

    As someone else has said ‘how can retirement be stressful’ but it is despite trying to let things go. There is still this desire to learn and grow and do things but finding the right balance as I age is sometimes a struggle. Much has been written in recent years about meditation and I think I would benefit from some guidance so that I could get in the habit of doing this everyday.

  8. 2nd January 2018 / 7:43 pm

    Josephine,

    About four years ago as I neared retirement after a long lifetime of work, I decided to care much, much better for myself than I’d done for decades while working 80-hour weeks and, during the previous 12 years, caring for my mother who had Alzheimer’s (she died shortly before I retired).

    So far, I’ve done a much better job of caring for myself — slowly losing 100 pounds and keeping off all the weight for the last 2+ years. I now eat much better, exercise 5 days a week (aquarobics, yoga, walking), brush my teeth clean my face most nights. 😉 And most mornings I meditate.

    I’m not a great meditator and, as that phrase suggests, I have a hard time staying on my own mat during meditation, even though I’m the only person in the room. Still, I’m given to understand that my meditation imperfections are par for the course. In the last few years I’ve learned that it’s not about how well I meditate, but that I meditate.

    Three years ago my husband was diagnosed with cancer and is now going through his third round of chemo treatments. He’s a mensch! But needless to say this path has been very tough for us both. Like many of life’s tough passages this one is full of lessons. One thing that’s been so amazing for both of us to see is how well I can care for him because I now care FIRST for MYSELF. Talk about unexpected benefits for us both!

    Not sure why I said all that. What I really want to say is that I wish that 2018 brings you greater peace and stress relief you can feel. Those gifts can arrive when we invite them.

    Thank you again for your lovely blog, Josephine!

    Happy New Year!

    • 3rd January 2018 / 8:34 am

      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.

  9. 2nd January 2018 / 8:51 pm

    Thanks for the insight. We all have to learn to manage in ways that work for each of us.

  10. Jacqueline
    3rd January 2018 / 12:59 am

    I used to meditate at the end of my yoga class, and loved how calm and ready to smile I felt afterward. Sadly my yoga class dissolved when our teacher moved away. I’m ready to find a new one, I miss that “easy peaceful feeling”.

  11. Jeanne Gallion
    3rd January 2018 / 3:41 am

    Thank you for your blog and your wise insight. I’m a nurse who always takes care of everyone else. I’ve found that guided imagery helps me but I’ve put it on the back burner to help my young adult son recover from anorexia, body dysmorphia, and severe depression. It’s been the hardest journey of my (& his) life. Your blog is a welcome escape for me❤️

    • 3rd January 2018 / 8:22 am

      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.

  12. 3rd January 2018 / 8:44 am

    I agree with your comments on retirement. It seems odd that this new lifestyle can create stress. I think it is probably that as humans we like certainty and routine. When we retire we have to create our own. I often hear the words “should” and “must” which can in themselves create unease in the body. Follow your own path and do what you love to do were wise words that were imparted to me by one of my coaching trainers.

  13. Alison Conway
    3rd January 2018 / 8:54 am

    I left the security of the NHS eighteen months ago, after working as a nurse there for 30 years. I set up my own business and now work as an expert witness for people who have suffered catastrophic injury. I see some terrible tragedies and its often hard to switch off. Starting my own business has also had its share of fears and worries. I have often taken on far too much due to the fear of not having an income. I would like to use meditation to clear my head enough to stand back and take stock and then plan what work i need to do in order to reduce my stress. It would also help me clear the memories of some of the suffering and sadness I’ve seen.

    • 3rd January 2018 / 9:34 am

      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.

  14. Ann
    3rd January 2018 / 6:40 pm

    When I have meditated (sporadically) I did find that it produced a feeling a calm that lasted throughout the day. Thanks for covering this topic, especially right now as we recover from the holidays!

  15. 3rd January 2018 / 7:51 pm

    I would love to learn to meditate “properly”! At the moment I take myself off to a quiet place and just sit and daydream but find my mind wandering off to all the problems I have and things I feel I should be doing so that I end up feeling more anxious than before!

  16. LA CONTESSA
    5th January 2018 / 12:43 am

    I just found out my body does not make enough CORTISOL………….
    You would think that would be GOOD but instead its NOT SO GOOD AT All………
    Cortisol tells us when to go to sleep and wake up also!
    I have NEVER Meditated and you are the second blog this week to write about it!
    DAILY PLATE OF CRAZY also did a post on this………….
    I have found my HAPPY BALANCE……………..my biggest stress these days are what to make for dinner!
    And with that off I go………….

    • 5th January 2018 / 9:06 am

      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.

  17. Nicole K
    5th January 2018 / 3:02 am

    I think meditation might help me because I am now a caregiver to my husband, who at 63, has been living with Parkinson’s for 15 years (what they call “young onset” Parkinson’s). I find it difficult to maintain patience and a positive attitude.

    Thanks for your posts throughout the year. I was introduced to you through Susan at Une Femme and love your panache!

    Happy New Year!

    • 5th January 2018 / 9:02 am

      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.

  18. Judy Pope
    8th January 2018 / 9:23 pm

    I am from New Zealand and love reading your blogs, even though our seasons are opposite to yours. I have never really meditated but I am willing to give it a try and would love a book to get me started.

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