Taking time out for yourself these days is becoming more and more difficult. You will probably know many people that need to travel many hours every day to and from their work or having to work more than one job.
As you can imagine, during such stressful periods there is not a lot of time to see one’s family or to just sit down and relax in front of the TV for an evening. Of course, our bodies are not really designed to support extended periods of stress and there are probably days where you feel completely exhausted and overwhelmed by life’s hurdles.
However, there are a few meditation and stress releasing techniques which I would like to share with you today and which you will hopefully find useful. But before we dive into that, let’s take a closer look at what stress really is.
What is stress?
You may probably already know that there are two types of stress: positive and negative stress. Positive stress is the kind of stress that stimulates your concentration, helping you to focus on certain tasks, prolonging your attention span and even increasing your creativity levels.
However, if you find yourself repeatedly in situations that require your attention and focus over longer periods of time, your body will become exhausted after a while, because it will struggle to produce the necessary energy for such a long time. This means that prolonged periods of positive stress then turn into negative stress: your body’s energy levels drop, your attention span decreases and you will find yourself tired and unable to focus.
Now you can imagine where weeks and even months of negative stress can lead to: permanent exhaustion, a weak immune system and even burnout.
Throughout the years, I have worked with many clients suffering from burnout and they have all said the same thing: Burnout is a slow process, but once it hits you, it’s as if somebody pulled the rug from under your feet and you could not get up anymore.
I know that addressing burnout and making this comparison may be a bit extreme, however, I just want to highlight the fact that this could happen to anyone. The good news is though that we are the ones that can halt this process and take control!
Learn to Take Control
You may say now: “Right now I am not able to change my situation, I am stuck!” and that is completely understandable. I’ve been there too. There are times when we cannot do anything else than just try to keep up as good as we can. However, while we’re amid a very busy period in our lives, we can still try to make the effort to incorporate a few exercises that will help release the negative energy.
Here is my go-to-strategy for stress release:
Mindfulness based stress reduction (MSBR)
What may sound a lot like meditation, is actually an intensive mindfulness training program which helps people turn their attention to their inner voice and well-being.
Studies have even shown that MSBR has shown significant improvements to immune function and quality of life of women that have just been diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer. In fact, their cortisol levels dropped significantly which had an additional positive effect on their mental health: they felt calmer, at peace and more confident.
MSBR offers many different exercises which can also be done on the go:
- One of my favourite exercises is called “object meditation”, where you place all your focus on one particular object. Be it a pencil that you are holding right now or even a piece of food that you are about to eat (yay to intuitive eating!), take a moment to concentrate all your senses on it and pay attention to all the impressions it sends back to you, including its colour, size, shape, smell, taste etc.
- MSBR also features many kinds of meditation techniques. Whether you use meditation apps such as Headspace or simply follow your breath for a while, I highly recommend this practice of stress release, because it can basically be done anywhere: on the tube, at your desk or even while walking (in this case you do not pay attention to your breath but to the rhythm of your steps).
While these two techniques may sound trivial, they have a major effect on your well-being. If you just do one of them once a day, you will notice how much easier it will become for you to wind down for a moment, listen to your body’s needs and to shift your attention on what is really important for you.
I believe it is essential to keep reminding yourself of what your priorities in life are, because this will help you make decisions that will you bring you closer to your future goals.
Let me know what you think and whether you agree, I would love to hear your opinion on that topic!
Mindfulness-based stress reduction in breast cancer : a qualitative analysis. / Hoffman, Caroline J; Ersser, Steven J; Hopkinson, Jane B.
In: Complementary therapies in clinical practice, Vol. 18, No. 4, 11.2012, p. 221-6.