Stress management versus reactive coping

When stress happens our natural reaction is to rid ourselves of it as quickly as possible.

Humans are neurologically hard-wired to avoid suffering, whether it’s the irritation of a tedious traffic jam, or the more serious threat of a stranger’s menacing advance.

The urge to escape stress is often reactive. It also largely happens below our conscious awareness.

Suddenly there’s a chest tightening, rapid shallow breathing, feelings of dread and panicky thoughts, and all this can happen before we even start to think about survival.

Stress management, on the other hand is more conscious. We choose to take active, intentional measures on our own, or with the support of others to alleviate our suffering.

Stress management is positive and beneficial

We all have ways of managing stress. Some of them are wholesome and enjoyable, like taking a well-earned holiday or exercising regularly.

Other ways to manage stress make things worse, like working unnecessarily long hours, mentally beating ourselves up or using alcohol or drugs to numb anxiety.

Stress management is positive and beneficial. We are actively engaged in making our situation better.

The key to managing stress

The key to effectively managing stress is to really find out what it is that’s making life so awful.

You may say “I know what’s stressing me out. It’s my partner’s behaviour, the fact I’m in a lousy job, my kids are not doing so well at school, I have chronic back pain”. These are certainly conditions that worry or distress us.

But, when it comes to stress management there’s another important detail to consider, and within this lies the key to how we can then go about getting that much sought after relief.

Stress management starts with managing our minds

A large part of stress is avoidable. Yes, that’s right! We can choose to do without a lot of our suffering altogether.

This is because much of what causes us so much grief boils down to how we think about what happens to us.

Let me give you an example. You’re in a traffic jam and running late for work. The traffic jam is annoying. Sure. But then you start to worry that you’ll miss the staff meeting where you’re supposed to give that special report .Thoughts quickly move to insecurity about your job and then fears about your finances.

We can’t possible fix or reduce something that we’re not aware of.

If we’re able to start noticing just how our minds contribute to stress then we can work at keeping a handle on reactive thoughts and feelings before they get out of hand.

The management of stress calls for a quick response

When a situation is building really fast we’re often too busy keeping our eyes on the ball in front of us, and we can lose perspective on how we’re being affected.

To be really effective, stress management involves stepping in quickly even as stress is mounting.

The most effective way to manage stress is to learn how to manage your mind.

Once you are able to do this the relief can be immediate and in many instances the benefits in your life, both wide-ranging and long term.

Find out how to use your mind to get a handle on stress in one of our immersion mindfulness programmes like the 8-week Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) course.

Find out how learning mindful habits of thinking may help you to get the better hand on anxiety and stress by getting in contact today with Alison or call 0402 795 796.

An important message

Our training and support is inspired by the insight meditation tradition and the teachings of Professor of Medicine Emeritus Jon Kabat-Zinn and Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). We recognise and support the realisation that mindfulness and the way of teaching it sensitively and accurately are not exclusive to one wisdom tradition. Rather mindfulness is a meditative tool, experience, and way of life embraced by many world cultures. Alison Keane studied under Professor Kabat-Zinn’s direction in 2007. She is one of a small number of Australian mindfulness teachers accredited with the Centre for Mindfulness in Medicine Healthcare and Society. (CFM)

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