If it’s not one thing it’s another.
Hardly time to draw breath before the next onslaught. One problem solved (maybe), another arises. You feel backed into a corner, you feel overwhelmed, and you feel so stressed. Does this sound familiar? Stress or anxiety in some form or another are becoming more commonplace in the daily lives of millions of modern people. We attribute our stress to various types of external conditions and situations, often overwhelmed with an inability to reduce or eliminate it, feeling helpless in the face of adversity. But think again……………..
While our external circumstances will probably affect us to some extent (though not necessarily, read on…) there are techniques we can use to limit this. We can learn to decrease our stress…hurrah! Have you noticed anything about stress? There was a clue in the first paragraph and here’s another hint in this definition of stress: “ ………. feeling experienced when a person perceives that demands exceed the personal and social resources the individual is able to mobilize.”
(Prof. Richard S Lazarus, American psychologist.)
We think stress is an external object outside our control, but in fact stress is a feeling, we feel it “inside” ourself , in our mind. It’s not a huge box inside our shopping trolley, a shadowy figure at the front door, or even the teenager or partner we point our finger at. Stress is an internal reaction in our mind. In turn it can give rise to physical symptoms and diseases so the sooner we can learn to combat it, the better!
We all know people who can bear some of the most difficult situations and remain calm and peaceful. What is the difference between us and them? They have ‘more personal resources to mobilize ‘ .Their mind is more positive, balanced and stable, so when difficult situations arise they can deal with them calmly without stress. They can make appropriate plans to solve problems without feeling that life has hit them in the face and completely floored them. They can bounce back and get on with life. So is this merely an inherent quality that some people possess? No, it’s something we can train in. We can train our mind to become more resilient, maintaining mental equilibrium and improving our ability to cope with the turbulent nature of our daily life.
How do we become more resilient?
Have you noticed how busy your mind usually is? This is often noticeable when we would like it to stop! For example, when we want to sleep or want to get back to sleep after waking in the early hours. In our daily life, we may make every effort to relax with activities such as : watching a d.v.d. or TV, surfing the web, video games, face booking our friends, filling in crosswords, reading, the list is endless………….. but the problem is that none of these activities are actually resting our mind. If we worked our body like this, 24/7, with no rest, we would be burnt out. So why don’t we treat our mind with the same respect? Give it a rest mate!
Our mind also needs to rest to allow it to function optimally and prevent that feeling of mental ‘burnout’ when we feel so overwhelmed and unable to cope. How can we even begin to train our mind in becoming more stable and resilient when it’s so overworked! Therefore resting our mind is priority number 1. (read on for details)
Then we can address the training!
Firstly, there is something we need to know about our mind. We see it as a mass of turbulent thoughts and feelings and never look to see its real nature (unless of course we meditate already). The real nature of our mind is clear, peaceful and happy, though it often doesn’t seem that way due to the endless internal chatter we experience. If we think of the ocean on a stormy day it appears dark and murky due to the wind whipping up the waves and churning up all the debris. However when the storm and winds die away the debris settles and the ocean is left in all its brilliance, calm, clear and peaceful. Our mind is like this. Naturally calm, clear and peaceful. When we discover how to access this, we experience our true potential and understand how we can develop our mind and our ability to deal with daily demands, allowing us to remain calm, peaceful, in control and best of all………….happy and unstressed!
How do we achieve this?
It is as simple as taking your next breath.
But taking your next breath with mindfulness.
Not paying attention to all those thoughts or feelings spinning around in your mind….giving your mind a break.
Making a small amount of time to sit quietly and comfortably somewhere, in a chair or cross-legged on a floor cushion. Paying attention only to the sensation of your breath entering and leaving at the tip of your nostrils. Noticing how the air entering is slightly cooler than the air leaving.
It takes only 5 -10 minutes a day and it is called “breathing meditation”. (for more details see this article)
This performs 2 functions:
Clears the mind of distracting thoughts, allowing it to rest and become more peaceful and calm so we can begin to experience its underlying pure nature.
Allows us to train and expand our ability to experience our mind in this way, so that in turn we are able to remain more calm and unstressed when difficulties arise in our daily life.
This may sound simple but it really works and it’s free! Doesn’t cost a penny, and no nasty side effects! Try it for yourself. Practiced regularly you can start to feel a change in only 1-2 weeks.
Learn the art of Patient Acceptance.
If we think of the world as a whole and try to write a list of anyone who has ever lived, without encountering any problem whatsoever throughout their whole life, we would have a blank piece of paper. The nature of our world is such that we will always encounter problems and difficulties as well as happy times. Think back over your life…….hasn’t it been a series of ups and downs from day 1? Nobody has ever walked this planet without ever experiencing a problem or ten! Even the rich and famous. It is the nature of our world.
On one level we know this intellectually while on another level we are continuously kicking, screaming and denying “It shouldn’t be like this”, “It’ll be alright when things get back to normal”. Bad news…this is normal!
So when things go wrong there are two possibilities:
1.We can solve the problem (or we know someone else who can).
2.We can’t solve the problem. So if we can solve the problem, why waste breath kicking,screaming, and getting stressed out? Why not just get on with the solution. If the problem can’t be solved we are still wasting our breath , as screaming, shouting and stressing wont solve it. The only thing it will do is make us feel worse: blood pressure rising, heart rate increasing, breathless, losing control, acting on wild impulse, with the resulting exhaustion and headache.
As Shantideva , an 8th century Buddhist master once said : “If something can be remedied Why be unhappy about it? And if there is no remedy for it, There is still no point in being unhappy” In everyday terms, patient acceptance means we accept the difficult situation patiently, rather than angrily trying to push it away. We approach it calmly to see if there’s a solution. In this way we can focus all our energy on the problem, rather than letting stress and anger sidetrack us. Combine this with an increasingly peaceful, happy mind and you’re onto a winner! (For more on Patient Acceptance there is an article here)