STRESS. MEDITATION OVER MEDICATION
What IS stress? It covers such a large surface of the human spectrum that it’s hard to whittle down to a short opener. Suffice to say that stress is not fussy about WHEN it turns up at your door or HOW it turns up and, similar to religious salesmen, one rarely feels inclined to invite it in for tea. Stress is defined as “any demand placed on your brain or physical body” leaving the door wide open for it to run in and strike you down at a moment’s notice in myriad of different ways. We feel the effects of stress when ‘competing demands’ are placed on us and these effects can be triggered by just about anything that makes us feel nervous or frustrated. As we fight to combat the effects of stress, the line can blur between stress and anxiety – turning the whole picture into something rather darker. Although it’s controversial, we like to think of being stressed as a CHOICE. Choose not to do it to yourself. Choose not to invite stress in for tea or harbour it in your personal space.
Our bodies are designed to deal with stress, but as with all things organic and mortal, there’s a tipping point. The key is to listen to the voice of common sense within and to be aware of the changes in our bodies that hint at tension. When you’re tired, your common-sense voice will tell you that you need to rest. Alongside that, your body may ache or your energy levels deplete. If you choose to ignore these signs, your mind and body has no option but to up the ante and crack onto phase two, making the signs more visible and more extreme. A Labour Force survey reported by HSE concluded that in 2014/15 the total number of working days lost to stress was 9.9 million days. That’s a lot. It suggests that, for whatever reason, we’re not very good at pinpointing OR dealing with the early signs.
Manic busy schedules and blurred lines between work and life can make it difficult to step back and listen to the signs that look so obvious in black and white. Continuous challenges, long work days, a lack of outside interests or activities can all build stress-related tensions and stretch the elastic band of sanity. Don’t be that person whose elastic band snaps.
You may already be suffering the symptoms of stress. Frequent headaches, problems with your digestion, blood pressure, depression, hair loss, rashes or itchy skin, panic attacks – or small signs such as an inability to concentrate, patchy sleep patterns or tense shoulder muscles. If this is you, instead of having another coffee, consider helping yourself by finding some quiet in the madness.
Meditation doesn’t mean assuming the yogic pose, channelling your inner Tibetan monk or omming yourself into oblivion. No, those things are entirely optional. All it means is taking a mindful moment to gather yourself together and remind yourself of the reality. You are not just a bunch of cells floating in a galaxy, you are a LUCKY bunch of cells floating in a galaxy! You made it here! Enjoy the ride if you can.
Like a pair of comfy slippers, this short but hopefully useful blog prescribes three simple meditations that you can slip into whenever you wish. Meditating for a few short seconds can be enough to re-charge your cells into action and keep stress on the right side of the door.
- HAPPY PLACE
This is a powerful meditation because you do the meditative work in advance, and just TAP INTO the meditative state whenever the urge takes you. This meditation effectively works via mental time travel, providing you with an awesome tool to add to your anti-stress toolbox.
Imagine yourself in a real or imaginary calm and happy place. What can you hear? Imagine the sounds. Smell the air. Feel a breeze or sunshine on your skin. As you visualise this picture, press your thumb and forefinger firmly together on your right hand for the duration. Note how the happy place makes you FEEL.
Whenever you get stressed, just push your thumb and forefinger together to take you back to your associated happy place, re-live the FEELING you experienced during your meditation. The result is instant, blood pressure lowering, stressbusting goodness.
Once in a while, repeat the initial meditation. It will strengthen the association.
- THE GOLD SOMBRERO
Despite the name, this meditation probably won’t make you rich financially. Mentally though, your riches will be priceless. Once you’ve grasped the concept of this visualising meditation, make it as long or as short as you like. One minute, one hour – the choice is yours – just speed up or slow down the process.
- Sit down and close your eyes
- Listen to a few of your breaths, just until you feel relaxed
- Imagine you have a hat on your head. Any type of hat. Now imagine taking that hat off your head
- As your hat comes, off, a gold beam shines down from the sky onto the top of your head
- The gold beam starts to fill your whole body with liquid gold light
- It starts at your feet, fills up to your knees, to your waist, to your neck, your whole head. It feels warming and vital. Make this process as long or short as you like
- When you’re completely filled with gold, put your hat back on
- Listen to a few breaths
- Open your eyes
- Feel golden and replenished. Now go and spread your new energy around.
- INSANE SMILING
This meditation is guaranteed to make you look clinically insane while you practise it. 3 minutes is as long as you need for this, or the duration of a song that floats your boat.
Put one of your fave songs or pieces of music on, something rousing or upbeat, either on loudspeaker (if you have the privilege) or use headphones. The moment the song starts, whack a smile on your face. Not just any smile, we’re talking proper teeth smiling – like someone you really like has just handed you cake.
You will FEEL insane, you will LOOK even more insane. Just keep smiling until the song finishes. Either sit still for the duration, move around or even dance if you want to get a double kick. The trick (because you ARE actually tricking your brain) is to just keep smiling. Note how you feel when it’s over. Pretty good huh? You’re welcome.
End note. If you are suffering more severe responses to stress, please see your doctor.