So far we know the following:
- Stress is a fact of life. It could come in the shape of a relationship, exams, plans for future, falling in love, getting a new job in another town, the touch of the wind on your skin, a kiss by your lover, base jumping, over-baked ginger bread cookies etc…
- A stress source is not necessarily a bad or an unpleasant event, nor does it have to cause unpleasant emotions or experience. Granted, there are situations there are situations where most of us would find stressing but still there will be exceptions and some people will find these not stressing at all. So, it most and most of the time is all relative. What determines the nature of any potential event, change or in general stress source is how we feel and think about it.We usually have pre-existing ideas and thoughts and even emotions about most kinds of situations. These can be on the more positive, accepting side or the not so much. e.g. “I really wouldn’t like to move away from Trondheim, to another town for a new job” or “I really would enjoy to move from Trondheim to another town for a new job. These pre-existing ideas, thoughts, emotions will affect the way we react to a new but familiar type of situation. Then, remotely or closely similar past experiences and our own behaviour patterns will “determine” on how we react to a stress source. One important point is that the experience does not have to be first hand i.e. we do not have to have seen a lion to know that we should probably avoid getting too close to them or making them angry. Also, it is possible to say that other people’s behaviour will affect the way we react to stressful situation as well as our own behaviour patterns, habits.This is all to say, we more or less have an idea of what would make us happy, anxious, frightened, scared, depressed and on top that we take hint from other people’s behaviour regading the appropriate ways or more popular way of behaving, reacting.
- Awareness is key to managing elevated, prolonged stress. Awareness of your physical and psychological reactions, where the stress symptoms come from and why they come, why you feel or behave the way you do or did. The simplest way to increase awareness begins by creating a safe space for thoughts, feeling, sensations and emotions to appear without judgment.There can be many ways to create such space. In Eksamensyoga one way we do this is through a few minutes of mindful breathing. This is just a beginning in training the mind to focus on the breath and letting the thoughts, feelings, sensations and emotions appear without the obligation to engage in them. Engaging in a thought, feeling, sensation or an emotion usually means to judge it, value it for better or worse. A non-judgmental space for these will allow your mind to operate without the “fear” of judgment and without the need to suppress what it usually suppresses. Resisting the temptation to engage in these thoughts during a few minutes of mindful breathing helps us to learn how to disengage from the clutter of emotions, thoughts, feeling and focus on the task at hand: observing the breath.Another way to increase awareness of our stress reactions is to take time to notice and understand how you feel and think in different situations. We began doing this by thinking about pleasant experiences and how we felt at the time and after they happened.
5 minutes of Flexibility
We talked about one the most common stress reactions, namely becoming more moody and less forgiving, a.k.a. losing emotional and psychological flexibility. Understanding deviations from your usual behaviour and reactions makes it easier to manage stress.
- Sit down comfortably.
- Set your alarm to 3 minutes. Close your eyes.
- You can now see the image of a paper clip.
- Use the next 3 minutes to think about different purposes for which you can a paper clip. In what ways can you use a paper clip? How many different ways can you come up with?
- When the alarm goes off, take a moment to finish up your thoughts and your list and set the alarm for another 2 minutes.
- Now, watch your breath. Remember, only observe – no judgment! This is your non-judgemental space!
- Stay for another moment. Uncross and stretch your legs and do a few seated twists on each side.
p.s. There are more lessons to come. Until then you can repeat the exercises in each class.