Everybody seems to be stressed these days. Stress is our constant bedfellow, causing headaches, fatigue, irritability, insomnia, loss of appetite, increased addictive behaviour, depression, anxiety, apathy, lack of self esteem, the list runs on and on. But why are we all so stressed in a modern world full of convenience, with everything we need at our finger tips? Surely we should be at our happiest?

Life is full of pressures and never more so than now. Pressure to be a certain way, to be the most successful, have the best car, job, relationship, body, latest phone, the perfect family, spotless homes and beautiful, un-snotty, non crying babies.

The media bombards us with perfect life images and trauma, disease and war, social media infiltrates every moment of our lives, disapproving relatives, judgemental friends, critical colleagues, we even put pressure on ourselves. And everything has to be immediate. It’s no wonder we are crumbling under the pressure.

To specifically define what causes stress is difficult as the stressors are so wide ranging and what one person finds stressful may excite another, it all depends on your personality but there are certain life events which affect most people.

The number one cause of stress is work, some of the reasons for work stress can include, increased responsibility, long hours and discrimination. Life stresses also have an huge impact, divorce, the death of a loved one, financial obligations and even getting married.

Mind.org.uk says that,

‘stress has no medical definition and health professionals often disagree over whether stress is the cause of problems or the result of them’.

Never the less, the numbers of people feeling stress seems to have reached epidemic proportions. Are you one of them?

Are you aware of where your stress levels are now and how they’re affecting your relationships with your loved ones and yourself?

What is stress doing to your body, your health, your mental health?

Stress is our bodies way of responding to demand, whether from good or bad experiences. When somebody feels stressed by something happening in their life, their body reacts by releasing the hormones, cortisol and adrenaline into the blood, which provide more energy and strength. This is useful and essential when there is a clear and present physical danger as it gives our bodies the tools it needs to ‘fight’ or take off in ‘flight’. However, when this is in response to repeated, modern, everyday experiences like, your mobile phone not working properly, or being stuck in traffic and late for work, or the kids fighting over the Wii, or burning the dinner, and these moments build up, we can produce higher than normal levels of these hormones in our body which can make us feel physically unwell and affect our long term health.

The cycle then perpetuates itself, you feel unwell because you’re awash with stress hormones, so you don’t look after yourself, you eat fast food because you don’t have time, you drink to take the edge off, you look after everybody else except yourself, you flick through your phone constantly and especially just before bed, you can’t sleep, the children are crying all night, so you wake up feeling worse and the groundhog stress day continues.

So what can you do?

Anything that makes you feel good will help to lessen your stress levels so go for a run, take that long soak in the bath, listen to your favourite music, read that book you’ve been meaning to forever, go out with friends, exercise, bake, create art, whatever works for you. All these things can help ease symptoms of stress as they help you relax.

One of my favourite things to do is to book a massage to ease the troubles of the day away but what has really brought me an established peace of mind and calm in my life is Mindfulness. After a traumatic few years it’s what brought me back to balance and prompted me to want to become a teacher.

Mindfulness is an holistic mind/body practice that helps people manage their thoughts and emotions, derived from the teachings of Buddha and the meditation, Vispassana but taught in a completely secular way. Mindfulness along with concentration is a quality that you can develop while practising and has been found scientifically to have a positive effect on mental health. Specifically depression and stress and in just a short few minutes a day, as few as 10 mins, mindfulness meditation can reduce the effects of these illnesses.

It is a still, one pointed, focused, compassionate awareness in the present moment without judgement or attachment to any outcome.

Mindfulness requires that the mind is clear, relaxed and focused whilst still being alert and aware. It is a combination of concentration and gentle awareness, it’s aim is to allow us to be present in the ‘now ‘, to let go of past regrets or future worries, it creates space for balance and calm from a foundation of compassion and kindness. It is not just chilling out or nodding off, it is not just for hippies, it is not fantasising or daydreaming and it is most definitely not a way to empty your mind. Mindfulness Meditation is a training of the mind. A gentle non medicated way to soothe a frazzled, stressed mind.

Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, MBSR, was created in 1979 at the University of Massachusetts to treat people who suffered from chronic pain, stress and addiction. The revival of Mindfulness that you may have heard of today stems from John Kabat-Zinn’s work, and is becoming increasingly popular with people from all walks of life, commonly being used in corporations for employees and management, in health, in prisons, in schools and even in the Welsh Assembly.

Mindfulness is not a panacea for all and it is best practiced initially with a teacher to guide and/or a group to share experiences with, however the reason it is so popular now is because it is producing results for people. Study’s show that Mindfulness helps regulate emotional reactivity, decreases social anxiety and increases cognitive flexibility. It helps us live more consciously with increased feelings of compassion forming the foundation of the practice.

This kind of living helps us to move at from suppressing or avoiding the problems in our lives and allows us to deal with the stresses of life from a more balanced and productive mindset.

In time, usually around the five week mark, and with a consistent Mindful practice you will begin to notice changes in your behaviour, increased feelings of well being and being able to cope with stress.

In the meantime, while you’re reflecting on what might work for you, here are three proven activities, that you can do immediately, to alleviate some of that stress.

 

STOP

S – Stop: Give yourself a moment, create some much needed space in the stressful situation, that you find yourself in.

T – Take a breath mindfully: Breathe in slowly through the nose, taking the breath down to the belly. By doing this you are activating your parasympathetic nervous system which will gently tell your body and your brain that it’s time to calm.

O – Observe: Take in your surroundings, look and listen to what is going on around you, this will keep you in the present moment and slow negative reactions.

P – Process with awareness and kindness (for self and others): Use a natural, gentle curiosity to ascertain what is going on. Focus on kind words, thoughts or actions.

 

BREATHE

  • Breathe in and out through the nose.
  • Slow the breath down, using your diaphragm, be aware of the rise and fall of your belly as you breathe.
  • Pay attention to the air as it moves into your nose, observe the breath moving through your body, allow your body to relax on each exhale.
  • Count the breath if that is easier for you.
  • Do this until you begin to calm.

 

LABEL YOUR THOUGHTS & FEELINGS

  • Tune into your thoughts and feelings.
  • Label the thought. Eg: critical, or the feeling, Eg:disappointed.
  • Labelling will allow you to detach from the constant inner dialogue that runs through your mind. Do this with kindness and humour.
  • Accept the thoughts and emotions, acknowledge them and let them go.

Trying these techniques is so easy, they will bring clarity and calm into a stressful day.

Rachel Louise John
Soul Catalyst, Mindfulness Coach, Meditation Teacher, Akashic Guide, Astrologer

I am a Soul Catalyst for women to make life altering, positive changes.

I’m here to help women reconnect to life, relationships, work, family, fun, a sense of achievement, joy, reconnect and help them find their purpose, to connect to their spiritual nature.

I love seeing anxious, stressed woman turn into confident, motivated inspired action takers. I love helping women realise who they truly are, that they have the power in themselves to do anything they want to do, that being compassionate doesn’t mean being a doormat. That they’re not defined by what’s happened to them or others perceptions. That they are part of a bigger consciousness that they can tap into for clarity and insight.

I am an experienced Mindfulness Coach, an OFQUAL accredited Meditation Teacher who has trained with the BSOM (British School of Meditation). Ive completed numerous Mindfulness practitioner trainings with the Mindfulness Association and have received mentorship from Mindful Space, also attending various retreats. I am a lifelong learner of Meditation and Mindfulness. I’m a gifted Akashic Guide, tapping into the karmic lessons of past lives, accessing your inner child, your higher self and connecting you to Universal Energy. I’m also an Astrologer and I use all of these tools in order to assist women in evolving to a life more extraordinary.

I have also trained in Mental Health Awareness and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and I’m a supporter of raising awareness of mental health issues in the community.

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