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Stress Getting Your Best?

Stress Getting Your Best?


I received a lot of questions after my last column, on control issues, about how to let go when your mind is telling you to gain the upper hand, especially during those moments of stress-like a difficult person standing in your path-when your emotions threaten to take over and temporarily shove your better instincts out of the way. Now, we have all had the lecture about the effects of stress on our health. So with the laidback days of summer soon to be behind us, this seemed like a good time to focus on summoning your ability to chill when you most need it. Meditation -- even for just a minute or two -- is a great way to let go of stress and to help you maintain your focus when you most need it. With a few simple suggestions, you can get started. Me? Meditate? You're probably saying, "Don't we have to get out of our minds-or at least the jumble of thoughts and feelings that we all carry with us-if we are going to have any peace? I can't sneak away and pretzel-ize myself into a lotus position!" Actually, the benefit of meditation is to learn to be with-and not avoid-what goes on inside our minds as well as what goes on around us. It's also about being more aware of what's important. Meditation actually helps you to calm the inner clutter in your mind-fear, anger, jealousy-so that you can participate more fully in life with compassion and understanding. With meditation, you train the mind to stop reacting. That can make all the difference in a moment of stress. Check out that bod. When you find yourself about to become overwhelmed do a mental scan to see what parts of your body you are clenching-like your fists or your jaw. Relax those muscles. This will send a message to your brain that you aren't mobilizing for a battle and, chances are, you'll feel some relief. If you can, try to step away from what you're doing for a moment. Watch your breath. Breathing through your nose, start out by simply paying attention to your breathing. Soon you'll notice yourself breathing more slowly, calmly, and deeply. Count your breaths from one to 10. Then backward. Then start again. Don't fight it. Our minds never stop their activity. Don't fight yourself! As thoughts arise, say to yourself, That guy really got in my way. And count: One (breathe in, breathe out). Two. Yep, I'm annoyed. Three (breathe in, out). Four. I can't control anyone else's behavior. Five (in, out). Six. Oh, yeah. I almost forgot: Life is good. Your mind might still be bang-banging for action. If you have to return to the source of the stress, remind yourself that you can be in the chaos but you don't have to be part of it. Tell your mind to quiet down. After all, meditation is a discipline. Wake up! Learn to relax when that urge to control takes over and you'll find there is more to you-and the world-than you ever imagined. You might even feel as if you've been sleepwalking. McClain is a licensed counselor in New York City with a specialty in coping with chronic and life-threatening health conditions. His books include The Complete Idiot's Guide to Breaking Bad Habits and Empowering Your Life With Joy, and he is a frequent contributor to health-related publications.

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