Recently I’ve been designing a course for some people to help them learn how to manage stress and, as so often happens, I’ve been finding myself exploring how I handle stress for myself. It’s very useful to be challenged, in effect, to review your own processes in providing things for others. In fact I’d say it is crucial. One big lesson I got from training in Gestalt was that one’s own process in working with others was always up for review. This is inherent in self awareness. What you teach others, you must practice yourself. Otherwise it is inauthentic at some level.
Anyway, one element particularly stood out for me from my preparation work on Stress and that, along with the importance of self awareness, was that of having some practice that invited me regularly to centre myself, to find my own space of steady calm and peace within. To do that, I need to meditate, although I find that having renewed my own experience of being centred, I am then better able to embody it in daily living and hold a regular and sometimes a constant awareness of my inner state.
It’s like I develop an inner sensing, an inner knowing of what’s there and can refer to it when I need to. What can happen with the stress reaction is that we’re taken off by an emotional reaction to a stressor, some external stimuli and/or some inner re-activation of old stuff we carry, and we lose contact with our rational side. This becomes ingrained, so that we’re doing it even when there’s no actual external stimuli. Our body and our mind is caught up in a stress reaction which has its own inbuilt momentum. However, once you develop your inner sensing, your awareness of your own process, you are better able to catch the stress reaction and monitor it. Moreover, as you learn to centre yourself more and more often, you can hold an intention for that, and even an awareness of it, even while the stress reaction is happening. Beyond that, you can also much more quickly activate your own stress management technique, such as breathing deeply and connecting with your Self within. It’s like you’ve built up an awareness of something so much greater than the “sweaty little ego”.
If you look at the tag here on meditation, you can read more about the value of using this practice in managing stress but also as a life skill in cultivating your own centre of awareness.