With loadshedding of electricity being an unfortunate reality in South Africa you might want to consider to loadshed something that you genuinely want to loadshed; your STRESS.
How stress works
We are all familiar with stress. However, we rarely understand the mechanisms of stress and worry and how to deal with it effectively.
We all seem to have this automatic stress machine within us that tends to worry about things without us wanting to. The human mind likes to analyse, judge and problem solve EVERYTHING!
It is as if we have an oversupply of worry-thoughts that overwhelm us with worse case “what-if” scenarios.
- What if I lose my job?
- What if I never meet the “right” one?
- What if people find out that I am not as good as they think?
- What if something happens to my loved ones?
These are worthy questions, but does it help you to spend so much time on them?
What-if questions often just become endless loops of more questions. This leaves us frustrated and maybe anxious.
Paradoxically, the mind’s effort to alleviate stress by answering to these questions thus creates more stress!…. bummer.
Your mind cannot delete what it has learned
Often these “What if” thoughts are about the future and normally are built on negative past experiences. These negative past experiences are projected into the future. For instance, giving a speech in front of others is easier if your previous experience of giving a speech was a positive one.
We cannot delete past experiences from our minds. As we are historical beings who keep on learning from all our experiences. Our minds are thus like a calculator with only a Plus and a Multiply button. Thus, we can only add to our learning. Unfortunately, there is no “unlearn” or delete button when it comes to the mind.
Ways to deal with stress better.
The mind is the biggest culprit in creating fearful scenarios that make us stressed.
- 5 Senses Awareness
One way to stop being too entangled in your mind is to become aware of your senses as an alternative. You receive so much information from your senses in every moment but seldom notice it. When you get caught in the web of your mind your sense can help untangle you.
Do this activity to engage with your 5 senses:
Touch: If you are sitting, notice that it is warmer where your body is in contact with the chair. Give yourself a few seconds and just notice the warmer contact areas where your body is touching the chair and just be with the sensation.
Hear: Take the time in this moment and just notice the sounds you can hear. See if you can receive the sounds without trying to filter it.
Sight: You can also consider what you see in a more mindful manner by just noticing the colours of the objects in front of you or the colours of the clothes people are wearing.
Smell: What about becoming aware of the aromas that you can pick up through your nose? Take a moment and notice it.
Taste: It may not be possible right now to notice but another wonderful sense is our taste. We seldom enjoy and notice the plethora of different tastes available in every meal we have.
Our senses are always available to us and you can always check into the present moment by noticing it. When we become too caught up in stressful thoughts that might generate anxiety. Our senses are a very good alternative to notice and help us to relate to our thoughts differently. As we become aware that we are not our thoughts but that we have thoughts. We will explore this more in another post.
“Awareness is not the same as thinking. It is a complementary form of intelligence, a way of knowing that is at least as wonderful and as powerful, if not more so, than thinking.” Jon Kabat-Zinn
- Mindfulness Meditation
According to Jon Kabat-Zinn mindfulness is the awareness arising from paying attention, on purpose in the present moment in a non-judgemental way.
In a more formal manner, mindfulness meditation can be done to develop the distance necessary to see thoughts as they are (as thoughts) and not as what they say they are.
For example, you might often encounter the thought “I am not good enough”. If you practice mindfulness you might notice that you are having the thought very often. Through mindfulness meditation, you realise that the presence of the thought does not mean that YOU are not good enough.
Thoughts become just another thing to consider and to choose if you want to engage with it or not.
It can be likened to sitting alongside a stream noticing leaves floating by on the water. Let us assume that each leaf represents a different thought that you have.
You can either engage with the thought or choose not to engage and let it be. YOU HAVE A CHOICE. You do not necessarily choose which leaves are present in the stream, but you choose your engagement with it.
A taste of a mindful meditation session by can be found here:
To loadshed your stress you need to become more curious about the present moment and become AWARE of how your mind operates. Having a mind is a superpower, but your mind does not have to run your life, especially when it creates endless loops of “what ifs” that increase the stress.
I challenge you to practice being present as a lifelong intention so that you can experience life as it presents itself to you having choices on what you want your life to be about, regardless of the content of your mind. See the article about values from the previous blog posts.