Welcome to November! As we move into the holiday season, for many people, things start to get a little stressful. Work to do, travel to conquer, all while many people are experiencing less and less daylight…
We’re here to help you out! This month we are turning inside, tackling the global issue of stress and stress-related illness and giving you some handy tools to add to your stress management tool kit!
If we want to be happy, healthy members of the #ConspiracyofGoodness, we can’t pour from an empty cup!
If you’re new to the Conspiracy Chronicles, this is Ever Widening Circles’ monthly newsletter. Here, we take a look at some of the world’s biggest problems and celebrates the people taking them on. Better yet, we give you ways you can join in on the #ConspiracyofGoodness yourself!
I’m stressed, you’re stressed, we’re all stressed about stress!
Have you experienced frequent headaches, insomnia, or feelings of overwhelm? Maybe you’re more tense, prone to angry outbursts, or fatigued? These are all some of the common effects stress has on our bodies, our moods, and our behavior. (Mayo Clinic)
If you’re feeling a little stressed, you are certainly not alone. The World Health Organization lists stress-related chronic diseases as a man source of death in developed countries. (Quintana, Rivera) This starts to give the flippant remark “I’m stressed” a little more weight.
There’s nothing unnatural about stress. Our bodies are quite good at handling stress in small doses. When that stress becomes chronic, though, it can have a serious impact on our health. (American Psychological Association) Unmanaged chronic stress can contribute to health problems like high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, and diabetes. (Mayo Clinic)
Chronic stress can even suppress the immune system which can increase your risk of viral infection. Long-term stress has even been linked to the suppression of the cells that are involved in preventing the metastasis of tumors. (Salleh MR)
We should say here, we are not medical professionals. So, if you are interested in learning more about any of the information we’ve listed above, please click through to the links in the citations to find more in-depth information about the symptoms and risks of chronic stress.
What can we do about all this stress?
If you’ve been experiencing some of the symptoms of chronic stress there are some steps you can take to start managing your stress. Getting regular physical activity, keeping a sense of humor, spending time with your family and friends, setting aside time for hobbies, and practicing relaxation techniques are all great ways to manage your stress! (Mayo Clinic)
These active ways of managing stress, and along with getting enough sleep and eating a healthy diet can help to reduce your stress.
Even with these techniques if your stress symptoms continue, see your doctor, or consider seeing a professional counselor or therapist for help too!
Stress, mindfulness, and meditation.
Most of us know the basics of exercise, humor, and how to spend time with family and friends. But few of us are great at relaxation and mindfulness techniques that have been shown to be able to reduce our stress and stress symptoms.
The study of mindfulness meditation, and mindfulness techniques for years now, has shown that mindfulness can reduce stress, anxiety, pain, depression, insomnia, and high blood pressure. (Mayo Clinic)
But what is mindfulness? It’s a form of meditation where “you focus on being intensely aware of what you are sensing and feeling in the moment, without interpretation or judgement.” (Mayo Clinic) The practice of mindfulness helps you direct your way from the wandering thoughts and negative thinking that increase your stress and keep you from engaging with the world around you.
Since the 1970s the clinical practice of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) has been shown to reduce stress levels in healthy people, and improve individuals’ well-being. (Chiesa & Serretti) (Carmody, J)
In our next section, we’ll introduce you to an organization providing some incredible resources and practical advice for bringing more mindfulness into your life and reducing your stress!
Our Featured Thought Leader Tackling the Problem
Mindful is a non-profit that inspires, guides, and connects people who are interested in mindfulness. Along with their wealth of articles online, they also produce a bi-monthly magazine, Mindful, and host conferences and activities that work to bring mindful practices to everybody.
We love Mindful as a resource because it is easy to approach, isn’t bombarding you with ads, and is talking about mindfulness in a practical way. Some of the articles I’d start with are their introduction to mindfulness and their great piece about bringing more mindfulness to everyday life. It turns out you don’t have to sit in meditation for hours to start bringing the benefits of mindfulness into your day-to-day.
Things You Can Do!
Start Small Start by just paying attention and living in the moment.
Take time throughout your day to notice what’s happening around you using all of your senses. Be aware of what you are doing. Focus on a single task at hand. Devote your time and attention to it. Put down the phone when you are with a loved one. Try to notice at work when your mind is straying from the task at hand.
Focus on your breathing.
When negative thoughts come up, or you are feeling anxious and distracted, take a moment, sit down, close your eyes and take some deep breaths. Focus on your breathing, notice the length of you inhale and exhale. Try this for ten breaths and then for a minute.
Try some mindfulness exercises.
Meditation may seem like something outside of our comfort zone, for people who are already well on their way to a more mindful life. But that’s not the case. There are lots of forms of mindfulness meditation that can help you start to become more present and reduce the racing thoughts that often lead to stress.
Body scan meditation: Lay down and extend your arms at your sides with your palms facing up. Scan your body from head to toe, slowly and deliberately with your mind. Where are you holding tension? What thoughts are causing your mind to stray? If you find yourself thinking about your to do list, start back at your head and start working your way down again.
Sitting Meditation: find a comfortable seat, sit with your back straight and fold your hands in your lap. Start by breathing through your nose. Focusing on your breath. If thoughts of work, kids, or anything but your breathing pop up, acknowledge them, note that the experience happened and refocus on your breath. Don’t worry if your brain is constantly throwing new thoughts your way, this is perfectly fine. As you practice more you will get better at not letting those thoughts remove you from being present.
Walking meditation: Find a space to walk and begin walking slowly. Focus on being aware of your movements. How you’re breathing and your steps align, the way you put one foot in front of the other. Avoid thoughts of the past or the future. Let your steps act as an anchor to keep your mind in the present. Continue this walking or pacing while remaining present.
Carve out some time to practice.
Once you’ve found a meditation or mindfulness practice that works for you, make sure you set aside time to practice. If you want to make mindfulness a habit you’ll need to make some time to practice. This doesn’t have to be hours long. Maybe even just a minute of breathing before you get back to work after lunch. Or a body scan meditation before you get out of bed in the morning. Incorporating little ways to practice can help you walk through the day with more mindfulness.
Mindful also has some great resources on classes, books to read, and fresh ideas for incorporating mindfulness into your life. So go check those out too!
Keep up with the community!
Tell us how you practice mindfulness. What meditation tips do you have for beginners? Do you have any favorite resources we should know about? SHARE WITH US!
Finally, join the #ConspiracyofGoodness Facebook Group to see what other people are up to and share inspiration you come across.
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Every month we put out an edition of the Conspiracy Chronicles. It’s our newsletter that explores a major issue the world faces, and introduces you to one of the thought leaders tackling the problem! Along the way, we also share some great tips with you on how you can make a difference too!