There is so much that can be written about stress management. So with this in mind, I emphasise the importance, of keeping things context specific. How, specifically, can meditation – leading to mindfulness – help us? What makes meditation and mindfulness such powerful tools for managing stress?
It stands to reason, that meditation in itself, relates to self-nurturing or self-care. It is after all, a very self-indulgent act, and rightfully so. We don’t take enough time out for ourselves, and if we do, it’s often for the wrong reasons. To be able to sit and reflect on one’s thoughts in a meditative state, is what I would describe, as quality time. Study of the self, so that we may modify our thinking and behaviour, has great value. After all, it’s how we think, that is the cause that leads to the effect. Helping ourselves become more aware of the thinking, that leads to our emotional responses, is stress management.
A certain amount of stress does have its uses (eustress) it’s when we place excessive demands on ourselves that this moves into distress. Discovering the errors in our thinking is key.
Let’s take the example of an individual who has suffered from stress and anxiety related health issues for years. Eventually he decides to seek help and enquires about a meditation and mindfulness course. Control is this person’s issue. It’s very important for him that he should feel in control of every situation. So important is it, that he must even take control, of the booking process. He feels put out when it’s implied he must be invited. This is not a situation he’ll be in control of so decides the course is not for him. Whilst all of this search for control is going on, he remains ignorant to the root cause of his anxiety, and continues to suffer.
Light reflection during meditation, could very well give him the necessary time and space, to realise the error in his thinking. There are many situations in life where we’re simply unable to dictate the outcome. Learning to control our internal environment will help us relinquish the need to seek control of external events.
Everyday mindfulness concerns the raising of our awareness to the nature of our stress
In what way do we place excessive demands on the system? What is our particular conflict? When we become mindful of our motivation, to do the things we do, it’s possible to alter this. For example, to what degree is fear involved with our stress. Are we seeking to please someone or are we fearful that our performance might not be seen as sufficient. Being unprepared, with insufficient resources, will also place excessive demands on the system.
It’s surprising how many people are stressed out, simply because they either don’t believe they’re capable, or don’t actually have sufficient resources available, to do what’s required. Perhaps expectations are set to high.
In practical terms, mindfulness helps us to priorities ourselves, and make less mistakes. Going over old ground, even if this is because we’ve mislaid something through absentmindedness, helps reduce the demands on time, and as such, reduces stress levels. With the correct resources, success is achieved, when and our attention is fully focused on our thinking, and activities. This reduces stress and is the result of mindfulness.
To close, being mindful, of all that’s required to cope well with stress, is also important. Diet and exercise being a simple example of this. If we don’t eat well, and rid our bodies of toxic chemicals through vigorous exercise, how can we expect to deal well with stress?