Meditation for Stress Relief

This month Circle of Hope is featuring “Stress-free September.” I will be hosting a series of mindfulness meditation group sessions, as well as weekly blog posts, with the theme of living a more stress-free life. Check the website for details:

What is stress?

 a physical, mental or emotional factor that results in bodily and/or mental tension due to the perception that it is overwhelming.

The key is, your perception is a huge part of the existence of stress in your life.

What are some ways that mindfulness can help you cope with stress?

  1. I have previously written about the Cognitive Behavioral Therapy tools called the “thought download” and the “thought model.” You can brush up on that here.

These are very useful tools for helping you cope with stress.

Step one:

You can do a thought download to basically do a mind dump onto a piece of paper. It sometimes helps to just get all the thoughts off your chest.

Step two:

Then, you can look through the thought download and identify the thoughts that are leading to your stressful state of being. 

The goal is to identify how you perceive a stressful situation, so that you can work through alternative ways of thinking.

Here’s an example. Let’s say you have cancer and are receiving chemotherapy.  If you are persistently having the thought “Chemotherapy is going to make me nauseous, and I dread throwing up,” this may create a stressful hormonal state in your body that may actually contribute to the event’s occurrence. 

Current model:

Circumstance: chemotherapy

Thought: This is going to make me nauseous.

Feeling: dread

Action: perseverate over nausea, increase stress hormones

Result: Create physical and mental conditions conducive to experiencing nausea.

Notice your pattern of thinking.

Step three:

Next, you tweak the thought line in your model. It may look something like this:

New model:

Circumstance: chemotherapy

Thought: This powerful medicine is going to work only on the cancer cells, and leave my normal body cells untouched.

Feeling: optimistic

Action: lowered stress state of the body

Result: Create conditions conducive to wellness, despite therapy.

The trick is, when designing your new model, you must choose a new thought that is actually believable to you.

Now, does this mean that you can mitigate every potential negative effect of your treatment through your mind? That remains to be seen, but we do know that maintaining a positive attitude through the treatment of cancer has positive effects on the outcome. (You should still follow all of the advice of your medical team 😉 )

2. Another tool that is helpful to relieve stress is daily meditation. Meditation promotes your ability to focus more on this moment, rather than times past or times in the future.

Your mind and body are not distinct. Many people speak of the mind-body connection, but this underestimates the true interconnectedness of these two realms. More accurately, we can refer instead to the bodymind. The mind and body are one and intimately affect one another. 

By working on our mind’s ability to live in the present moment through practicing mindfulness meditation, we increase our ability to respond and react to stressors in our lives in a less reactive manner. We build the skill of adjusting and resetting quickly in the face of stress. This stabilizes stress hormones.

Try it today: when something stressful comes up, allow the stressful thoughts to pass just like you do during meditation, and instead focus your attention on your slow, deep breathing in this present moment.

You have the resilience and resources to handle any situation.