I want to talk about stress. And THIS year. And Christmas. And something called “The Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale: The Top 41 Most Stressful Life Events”.
This year, people have experienced not one, not two but many events on the Stress Scale: dismissal from work; business readjustment; spouse stopping work; changes in financial state, work responsibilities, working hours or working conditions, living conditions, social activities, eating habits, or in frequency of arguments. And then on top of it all, here comes Christmas! (which is also on Holmes and Rahe’s list).
Stress takes our body into a mode where everything is working harder (but not necessarily better) and over time takes its toll on our health. You might have noticed that you’re a bit more creaky, or achy, or have had digestive flare ups, or higher blood pressure. Maybe your hair or skin is less healthy. In psychology and medicine Holme’s and Rahe’s list is used as an indicator of the likelihood of stress-induced health breakdown.
Of course, stress is part of life. Some stress is helpful, but persistent and severe stress isn’t and toughening up is not a sustainable solution. Mindfulness acts as an antidote to the harmful effects of stress and also, over time, makes us less prone to stress – inducing thinking.
One of the core premises of Mindfulness is that if we can notice as much as we can of EVERYTHING that is happening in any moment (rather than focusing solely on a problem), we can start to see that the not-okay AND the okay always exist alongside each other. This observation can help give us moments where stress and overwhelm recede a bit. It gives our body and mind a much-needed brief reprieve. Cumulatively, these short respites can add up to tangible benefits. This isn’t about ignoring what’s happening. It’s about seeing the reality that “I am really struggling here AND I am taking a deep, calming breath” “I am anxious AND my child is smiling” “I don’t know what to do AND I can feel my feet on the ground”.
You could try a ten-second “And” meditation right now. You don’t need to sit down or close your eyes or any of that stuff. Just acknowledge that difficult things are happening, both in the world and in your own experience. AND that you can enjoy a breath. Or the sounds of nature. Notice the way the body and mind relaxes a little when you do this.
If you’ve experienced lots of Holmes and Rahe’s stressors this year, your whole system has had a hard year as well. Christmas may well add more stress. So, instead of berating yourself for not being relaxed and full of Christmas spirit, acknowledge that “This has been a hard year AND... “
Take care, breathe, and maybe resolve to learn about Mindfulness Meditation!
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