Common Questions About Stress Mastery
What is stress?
Stress is a state of being we experience when we encounter stimuli or an event that necessitates a change. Stress can be positive (“eustress”) or negative. Chronic stress is on the rise in modern society with the skyrocket rate of stimuli we encounter on a daily basis. Years ago, we only had to make a couple hundred decisions per day. We are now faced with stress events that require decisions a thousand times per day.
Think about the sheer numbers of stimuli in your life that cause stress: work conversations, emails, television shows or commercials, ads, stranger encounters, family events, school obligations, organization requirements, finances, notifications from your phone, text messages, phone calls, updates, household maintenance and more.
And that’s not counting the major life events, such as marriage, death, moving, losing a job, having a baby, graduation, surgery, or illness. There will always be stress for all of us. There is no making it go away. But each of us has a major choice to make inthe way we choose to manage that stress.
I can’t simply quit my stressful job, so what can I do?
There are areas of our lives where stress is unavoidable and there is no simple solution to cut it out of your life. You can’t put your screaming kids outside in the cold and shut the door! Nor can you simply stand up and walk out on your job at a moment’s notice. But you can take a realistic audit of your stressful environments and take actions to begin reducing stress where possible. For example:
- Where can you set boundaries for interruptions at work? Is it possible to wear headphones or limit your hours on Slack or in meetings?
- Is there an opportunity for your family, including the kids, to all take part in a 5-minute family meditation practice after school to help cut down on angry outbursts?
- What is a special space outdoors or nature-based where you can visit at least a few times a week to relax?
- Does a gentle noise machine at night help cut down anxiety and regulate your sleep pattern while drowning out stressful neighborhood noises?
You can plan to maintain your healthy habits of breathing and sleeping and exercising and eating healthfully, and you can plan to focus on enjoying whatever time you have away from the stressor, so that you don’t hand over your emotional energy to circumstances that are beyond your control.
What is meditation? How do I start meditating?
Meditation is a practice of transforming the mind. We can use meditation as a means to induce a certain state of consciousness, allow our brain to relax and form new neural pathways, and shift our mindset.
The more we meditate, the less anxiety we have because we’re technically loosening the connections of particular neural pathways. This helps the mind to “relax.”
Meditation is a tool you can use to achieve:
- More focus
- Less anxiety
- More calm
- Less doubt
- More creativity
- Less negativity
Interested in meditation? There are plenty of resources to help you start. For some people, it may be easy to begin on your own by simply meditating five minutes every day in the morning or evening. For others, a community class or guided meditation audio may give you that accountability boost you need to stick with it.
To get used to the experience of being in the present moment, begin by sitting for five minutes.
Sit comfortably, without concentrating too much on posture or position. Let your body become still and breathe naturally. Don’t hold your breath at the top or release, just breathe. Your thoughts will begin to come and go, and let them flow through you without trying to hold onto them or process them.
Give this a try for a few days, with one five-minute session each day.
Then, as you get more used to meditation, you can gradually increase the length of your session, or you may want to try sitting in meditation multiple times each day.