Life is complicated, there is no question about that, and stress is a natural response to life’s many complexities. Everyone experiences stress, but some of us feel stress more acutely and more often than others.
In college, I began to experience the overwhelming power of stress. It got so bad for me that I began having panic attacks. If you have ever experienced this type of stress, you know how overwhelming it can be. I would wake up in the middle of the night with heart palpitations and difficulty breathing.
I started to make changes in my life that helped me deal with my stress and anxiety. Running became my stress relief, I would go for long runs after class to release energy. I was doing yoga weekly, eating healthier and drinking less alcohol. I spent many weekends on long bike rides or runs in the woods. All of this helped to an extent, but at times I still felt completely trapped in my own head.
It was not until I began a practice of focused mindful attention that something shifted. I began assessing myself and my life in new ways. I started to notice a shift in my perspective.
There have been a million little moments strung together in which I decide, to attend to my state of mind and become conscious of what I am feeling and experiencing in the moment. I make time every day to observe my thoughts and emotions. At some point during this practice, I realized my perspective on stress was outdated.
How do you view stress?
Take a moment to reflect on this. There is insight in the inquiry.
Is stress something that happens to you, or is stress your reaction to what is happening?
Simply put, stress is a reaction formulated in the mind and felt throughout the body. Managing stress starts with looking inward, and being open minded to what you experience. Tread gently and be kind as you start examining the root triggers of stress.
Taking the time to notice how stress manifests in your own body will help you develop more self-awareness. A daily practice of focused mindful attention, will help you connect inwardly each day. This is not always easy, it is a daily practice of brave inquiry into our own experience. In time, it allows us the opportunity to identify triggers of stress and honestly accept what is happening and how it makes each of us feel individually.
Tuning in to how your mind and body experiences stress may seem daunting at the outset. However, with daily practice, it gets easier. Over time, you pick up on subtle cues from your mind and body, allowing yourself time to work through the stress, rather than be crippled by it.
Genevieve Sherman teaches at Samudra on Thursday evenings, Friday mornings, and Sunday evenings. For Genevieve, the practice of yoga at first was a way to find stillness in a busy mind. Over the years it became much more. Genevieve has learned to connect with her intuition and befriend her mind and body. Through practice she has learned to listen. To learn more about mindful stress management, check out Genevieve’s upcoming workshop on Sunday, April 15th.