How Yoga Can Help us to Evaluate and Manage Stress

One of the most frequently heard expressions today is “I’m stressed”. Stress is an inevitable part of modern-day living, however, most stress can be reduced considerably and even eliminated.  Here are some considerations when contemplating stress in your life, and suggestions for reducing it:

(1)     What causes me to become stressed? Commonly shared examples of stressors are: Time-keeping, negative relationships, and money …  However, stress is very personal.  What may stress one person, will not stress another.
(2)    What can I do to reduce my stressors?  Take, for example, being unpunctual.  If being late stresses you, then allow more time for your journey, plan for the unexpected, and add extra time if necessary. Give yourself more time than you are likely to need so that you can relax and  enjoy the journey, rather than rushing and arriving stressed and on edge.
(3)    What can I not change? If you cannot change it, then try to make it acceptable by viewing it from a different perspective.  Annoying relatives perhaps will seem less annoying if you can understand and accept your differences.
(4)    Invest some time on your mat in quiet contemplation.  Ask yourself “why am I stressed, and what can I do about it right now?” Allow the question to settle, and quietly watch your breath. Trust in your vijnanamaya kosha, the wise part of us that holds the answers, and wait for inspiration to come. It may not come as quickly as you like, and it may not always been the answer you were hoping for, however it will be the right answer for you.
(5)     Contemplate the Serenity Prayer, and let it’s wisdom inspire you to trust in the guidance you receive:
“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.”
(6)    Be active and expunge negative energy.  Use the adrenalin that your body is supplying: Run, walk fast or choose a more energetic yoga practice … whatever works for you.
(7)    Breathe consciously – slowly and deeply, comfortably and with control.  Focus on the body as you breathe.  Notice the rise and fall of the front of the body with each breath-round.  Notice the lungs expanding with the in-breath and the body softening with the out-breath.  Allow the breath to ease the mind and the body into a state of tranquillity.  Remind yourself that it is impossible to breathe slowly and calmly and be stressed or anxious at the same time.  So now you have a choice to be calm or stressed.  Although stress starts in our mind, we can  erase it through the way we use our thoughts, our breath or our body.  And a combination of all three is powerful … it is what we call yoga!
Om Shanti (Peace to Everyone)
If you would like to know more about yoga, stress and anxiety management, mindfulness or relaxation techniques please contact Sarah, email me at: freetothinkmail@aol.com, find me on Facebook under Free To Think, or text or telephone me on: 07817623330

Yoga Workshop – Saturday, 22nd February 2014 – The Seven Primary Chakras

So the first of our 2014 Saturday Yoga Workshops is nearing and I am really looking forward to it!  If you have attended before you will already know that the workshops all strike a balance between practising, discovering and evolving.

This workshop will reflect the philosophical nature of the chakras, in that we will be working very meditatively, turning our attention inwards, and reflecting on the where’s, how’s and why’s of each of the seven primary energy centres.

If you only like the physical postures side of yoga, then this workshop is probably not for you as the emphasis is more on reflection and self-awarenes, and not on the physical asana aspect of yoga.  That does not mean that we will not be practising postures. We will, in the light of the work that we are doing, take postures that are specifically aimed at each of the primary chakras.

So if you would like to discover more about the philosophy of yoga, and in particular the unseen energy systems in our bodies and how they affect each of us, emotionally, physically, psychologically and spiritually, then this workshop will probably be of interest to you.  Participants will be given an introduction to the theory of the chakras and a physical asana practice that is designed to balance, heal and integrate the chakras for improved physical, psychological, emotional and spiritual health.

And of course, because it’s yoga, you will probably leave feeling uplifted, positive and inspired!  

I still have some places available, so if you are interested, or would like to book your place, please email: freetothinkmail@aol.com or text/ring me on: 07817623330.

I – I’m OK, You’re OK

The expression ‘I’m ok, you’re ok’ was first used in a book of the same title, which was written by Thomas Anthony Harris MD, an american psychiatrist and author (born April 18, 1910, died May 4, 1995 in Sacramento, California). The book was a bestseller and its name became a cliché during the 1970s. ‘I’m ok you’re ok’ relates to the area of psychiatry/psychology/psychotherapy called ‘Transactional Analysis’ which integrates the theory of all three approaches in the examination of how we, as individuals, relate to each other. It is described as integrative because it has elements of psychoanalytic, humanist and cognitive approaches. Transactional analysis was first developed by Canadian born US psychiatrist Eric Berne (born May 10, 1910, died July 15, 1970), who wrote a famous book on the subject entitled ‘Games People Play’.

Transactional analysis sets out how people are psychologically structured by using a model known as the ego-state. The ego-state model mainains that we are always in one of three basic modes: Parent (a position of authority, not necessarily a parental relationship), Adult (a position of assertiveness, not necessarily a condition of age) and Child (a position of powerlessness – not necessarily a condition of age).  When we communicate with others, we will be in one of these modes (to a larger or lesser extent).  For example:

Parent to child: “You still haven’t cleaned your room!”

Parent to parent: “Children should keep their rooms tidy.”

Parent to adult: “My child keeps her room tidy.”

Child to parent: “Why do you always hassle me?”

Child to adult: “Alright, I’ll get it done now.”

Child to child: “God my parents get on my nerves!”

Adult to child: “Let’s get your room cleaned and then we can go out.”

Adult to parent: “I’ll get it done now.”

Adult to adult: “Let’s get this done so we can go out.”

By examining these differing states of interaction, we can see that the way in which we speak to others is very powerful in determining the sort of response we will get back.

To return to the statement ‘I’m ok, you’re ok’, there are four life positions that a person can hold, and our life will depend enormously on our own position.  These positions are:

  1. I’m OK and you are OK. This is the healthiest position about life and it means that I feel good about myself and that I feel good about others as, on the whole, I believe human nature, life in general and particularly my own situation, to be good.
  2. I’m OK and you are not OK. This is not usually a healthy position to take since I feel good about myself but I see others as damaged, impaired or inferior to me.
  3. I’m not OK and you are OK. In this position I see myself as inferior to others and will be the weak partner in relationships. If I hold this position I will unconsciously accept abuse as being OK.
  4. I’m not OK and you are not OK. This is the worst position to be in as it means that I believe that I am in a terrible state and the rest of the world is as bad. Consequently I will feel that there can be no hope at all.

The position that we hold in our life may sometimes have been carried with us into adulthood from childhood.  If, for example, we always felt powerless as a child, and were never encouraged to be assertive, then we may well remain in our child position of feeling powerless.  There are many complex ways in which we can be stuck in one or other of these positions, however the majority of healthy individuals will move from one position to another many times every day, depending upon who we are talking to. When we examine our most usual position(s) we can find out a lot about how we fit into our world and relate to it.

From a Transactional Analysis (and therefore CBT) perspective:

  • All people are OK, in that every person has validity, importance and deserves respect.
  • Positive reinforcement increases feelings of being ‘OK’
  • All people have a basic lovable core and a desire for positive growth (however well that may be hidden).
  • Everyone (with only few exceptions, such as the severely brain-damaged) has the capacity to think.
  • All of the many facets of an individual have a positive value for them in some way.
  • People decide their story and destiny, therefore these decisions can be changed.
  • All emotional difficulties are curable.

The aim of change, under Transactional Analysis, is to move towards: freedom from issues held on to from childhood, spontaneity, intimacy and problem solving, as opposed to avoiding or passively remaining in an unwanted situation. This is all done with a view to progressing and moving into a new, healthier position of ‘I’m ok, you’re ok.’

Further reading:  Eric Berne: Games People Play.

                              Thomas Harris: I’m OK, You’re OK’.

H – Happiness

How do we define happiness? Is it getting just what we want out of life? Having lots of satisfying and supporting close relationships? Peace of mind? Not having to worry? Or maybe it is a combination of all these things?

According to Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834), an English poet, literary critic and philosopher – “The happiness of life … is made up of minute fractions – the little, soon-forgotten charities of a kiss, a smile, a kind look, a heartfelt compliment.” If that sounds too easy to be true then think about it for a moment:

Do you spend your time thinking about all the things you don’t have that you would like; all the people around you who annoy you; all the things you have to do that frustrate you? If you do, then I expect you’re feeling pretty fed up. If, however, you fill your day thinking about all the things you have that you can be grateful for (particularly the little things as suggested by Mr Coleridge); all the people around you who care; and all the choices in life that you have, then chances are, when you look back over your day, it will have been a good one (or at least not bad!).

Happiness and gratitude work hand in hand, so why not try spending an entire day being grateful: For the opportunities you are given – to hug somebody you love; the choices you have – cheese or tuna (at least I know I won’t go hungry); the actions you take – saying thank you, paying a compliment, making a difficult decision and trusting yourself that it will be ok.

Most importantly, be aware of your thoughts. If you notice a negative thought creeping in, then try to replace it with a neutral or positive one. For example: “I bet it’s going to rain again today” could become “It might rain today so I’ll take my brolly just in case” or even “who cares if it rains today, I’ll have my brolly!”

 

Think about what makes you happy and inject some happiness into your life everyday: 

  • Spend more time building positive, supportive relationships. 
  • Invest time and energy doing something that brings you happiness.
  • Take time out to be alone and be with yourself, just being you. 
  • Look after yourself: eat well, sleep well, exercise well, live well. 
  • Be in the here and now – make the most of every moment and see if you can enjoy it for what it is.

Free your thoughts, live your life

… and be happy!

 

E – Emotions

 

Emotions are a form of energy that flows within our body/mind.  Right now your emotions  may be a raging torrent of anger, frustration or desperation, or maybe a gentle loving stream of contentment, or even a pool of calm and peacefulness. Whatever type of emotion is present within you, it will affect your thinking, your behaviour and your perception of the current moment. 

Just for a moment, take yourself back to a time when you felt very angry and it appeared that everything was against you. During that angry interlude, life felt like a battle: that nothing was going right. Now remember a time when you felt extremely happy and it felt like you were in the flow of life and everything felt good and right.  This is the power of your emotions. 

Although it is easy to believe that our emotions govern us, this is not actually true.  Our thoughts dictate our emotions, just as they dominate our beliefs and behaviours.  Our internal chattering translates into our emotions, leading to our behaviours.  The key to feeling contentment instead of frustration, and joy instead of anger, is to be more aware of our thoughts and to choose them wisely.  If you don’t want to be unhappy, you can learn to challenge those unhappy thoughts, release them and change them for neutral or happy thoughts. If you no longer wish to feel stuck, then lift the lid to your thoughts and allow yourself to create the answers you need for change in your life.  It may sound simple and that is because it is actually very straightforward. 

The real challenge is making the committment to changing your emotions and sticking to it.  With a little determination, some support from people around you and maybe some professional guidance, you can decide to choose your thoughts and manage your emotions successfully.

“You are the ultimate influence in your life. Inspire yourself wisely” – Maya Phillips, “Emotional Excellence.” 

 

C – Change (Part Two)

 

As humans, we naturally organise our lives into routines, habits and comfort zones because by doing that, we automatically reduce the likelihood of stress in our everyday lives.  We all have our own comfort zones, from that pair of comfy old slippers, to our hobbies, habits and routines and these are what makes our life our own.  We choose our friends and our pastimes, we choose what and when we eat and we choose what to belief and think (yes we do).  Choosing to change means taking ourselves outside our comfort zone, seeing things from a different perspective and learning new ways to think, feel and behave.

Even change that is considered to be positive, such as a new job or marriage, will still normally hold some degree of stress. How stressful we find it will be determined by our ability to cope with change and our levels of resilience.

People undergoing CBT therapy are actively wishing to change things within their lives, and yet, even though they are seeking change for positive reasons, it doesn’t necessarily follow that this change will be easy because change means learning new ways of thinking, feeling and behaving.  Not easy for us habitual, controlling, comfort zone loving human beings!

Whether change is imposed or invited, remember:

  • Accept it – Fighting or denying something that is still going to happen won’t help. 
  • Face your fears – Be Honest with yourself about how you feel.
  • Talk to the other people who are affected by the change – make sure you are all on the same page as you explore your options.
  • Do a stock-take of your resources – depending upon the situation, this may be finances, time, skills or the support of others.
  • Anticipate stress – change is rarely easy, by anticipating stress you will be forewarned and forearmed.  If you struggle to deal effectively with stress you can seek help and information through CBT therapy or by attending a Stress Management Course.

Change helps us to develop and grow as human beings which makes change a positive force.  There is always a silver lining to every cloud, even if you cannot immediately see it!

 

 

C – Change (Part One)

 

Whilst some of us thrive on change and transformation, others will seek to avoid it. Our reaction to change will be the result of our life’s experiences to date. If you have experienced a lot of change in your life and dealt with it successfully, then you will find it easier to confront change the next time. If, however you have always sought to avoid change and found it frightening, confusing and difficult to adjust to, then you will continue to react in that way unless you decide to do something about it. Change is such a difficult concept for so many of us that companies often run change management programmes to help their employees cope when they are undergoing change within their organisation.

The reality is that change is a part of life, whether it be imposed change or wanted change.   

Major changes can be difficult to cope with and require the ability to adjust and accept to a new way of being.  It is no surprise that major life changes are the biggest stress factors in our life whether positive (marriage, new baby, Christmas) or negative (divorce, bereavement, illness).  Imposed change is normally seen as negative because it is something that has been forced upon us.  It is not desirable, often unpredictable, and it takes us outside of our comfort zones as it forces us to look at things differently and to adopt new ways of being.  It isn’t what we chose or wanted and it is outside of our control and so it is no surprise that we find imposed change to be stressful, upsetting and disorientating. 

 

 

 

If you would like some tips to help you manage change, whether imposed or wanted, then please come back Saturday when the second part of this blog will be posted. 

Your comments are always appreciated!

A – Anger

 

A – Anger

Simply put, anger is about a perceived lack of control over a situation, person, thought, belief or feeling. I write perceived because, as with all of our feelings, beliefs and thoughts, it doesn’t matter whether they are actually real or not, what matters is that we believe them to be true.

As shown (right), there are many things that might trigger anger and because we are all unique, the triggers will be different for each of us. However, anger is not all bad since it can be positive force or a negative one, depending upon how that anger is used and the type of behaviour that is chosen to express it. Used positively, anger brings forth change, it gets people thinking, changes views and opinions and it promotes discussion which in turn leads to action and change.  The acceptable way to use anger to promote change is to convert the frustration behind that anger into assertive action. Assertive action is an appropriate and acceptable method for putting your views, wishes and opinions across.

Aggressive anger, on the other hand, is not good for anybody.  It seeks to diminish the person you are angry at and at the same time diminishes you by making you feel bad.  Even if you are able to justify your anger to yourself, you still have to convince other people that your behaviour is acceptable and that is not an easy task if your behaviour is inappropriate. 

So how do we convert anger in our everyday lives?  Some examples:

  • Let’s say a work colleague is rude to you, instead of being rude back, try politely explaining to that person that you feel they are being rude and that you don’t respond positively to rudeness.
  • Anger is sometimes a result of feeling threatened.  If we feel insecure we over-defend ourselves by fighting back.  A more appropriate response would be to ask ourselves why we feel insecure, and seek ways to dealing with it.
  • When somebody cuts you up next time in the car, try to empathise with them instead of cursing them. Try rationalising the situation by considering that their journey may be more urgent than yours.  Or maybe normally they are a good driver but today, like all of us, they had a brief lapse in concentration.
  • Golden rule: Think first before you respond.  Anger is a primitive emotion that we use without thought.  If you are able to think first, respond second, you are a long way towards conquering your anger.

 

Welcome to my new website

Welcome to my new website.  I hope you find it enjoyable, informative and thought provoking.

Free to think is here to help you free your thoughts enabling you to more freely and easily live your life.

There will be articles on Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Stress Management, Relaxation and Mindfulness, Yoga for Children and Adults and much more.