Practicing Meditation for Stress Management
“We are troubled only by the fears which we, and not our nature, give ourselves.” -Blaise Pascal
Confusion can sometimes set in as we search for a natural remedy for stress and anxiety. We may think that a week away or a trip to the spa will do it and those experiences, while pleasurable, only are effective at stress management temporarily.
As I recently wrote, whenever we are experiencing too much stress, we are prone to distorting everyday events and even routine interactions with others. Fortunately, we can break this cycle of anxiety by learning to think more rationally and by practicing meditation.
Sometimes just one setback (even a small one) can trigger thoughts of never-ending defeat and anxiety. Psychologists refer to this as “catastrophizing”. “Should I have said that? She probably wants to fire me now.” “My throat hurts. I probably have swine flu.”
The healthier habit to develop is to learn to “challenge irrational thoughts” whenever they occur. We commonly refer to this kind of thinking as “making molehills into mountains”. When we are in doubt about our interpretation of a certain situation, we can ask ourselves some simple questions. “Am I being realistic?” “Am I being rational?” “Am I being reasonable?” or as Byron Katie likes to ask “Is this true?” Asking ourselves these questions often helps us to clarify our thinking and may help to shed light on the positive aspects of a situation.
We may recognize that we may be reacting negatively when there are not facts to support our conclusions. We can train ourselves to be more aware of distorted thinking by taking note of the times when we are feeling regret, guilt or self-doubt. Many times spending time with certain family members and friends may reinforce negative thinking patterns that create more stress and anxiety. If certain people trigger irrational thinking, speak to them honestly about your anxiety. If they seem reluctant to help you to change, avoid these people when you can.
Learning meditation will help you to increase your ability to focus on the present moment, increase your ability to think rationally and give you greater peace of mind. As Thich Nhat Hanh said, “With just a few minutes of sitting meditation, we can restore ourselves fully”. I agree but let me add that learning and practicing meditation along with rational thinking will help us to not only restore ourselves and but can be a natural way of remedying the effects of chronic stress and anxiety.