And breathe 2, 3, 4…
In this, the third of a four-part series on stress reduction, we will focus on treating the cause of stress.
Remember that stress is an automatic response to a perceived threat. This perception is based on our previous life experience. If we had an encounter with an aggressive dog as a child, for example, we might still be afraid of dogs as an adult.
In order to reduce stress, therefore, we must find a way to change our perceptions. This requires mindfulness, the ability to be clear and present in a given moment, free from judgment, criticism or intense emotions. When we develop this ability, we find that we become intimately aware of our own perceptions and thoughts. For example, as an adult we can become aware that our fear of dogs is from our childhood, and certainly should not rule our lives as adults. Once we understand this, we can change our lives. Maybe we might discover we love dogs. Replace this dog example with any stressful situation in your life. You have the power to change the way you react. This power is mindfulness.
Mindfulness can be cultivated in many ways including meditation, yoga, exercise, and spiritual practice. Try the following brief introduction to meditation.
Sit comfortably, or lie down. Start to notice your breath. There is no need to do or change anything. Just keep your attention on your breath. Eventually, a thought will come. When you notice you are thinking, don’t judge it, don’t indulge it. Just note it, and gently return your awareness to your breath. Do this for several minutes.
Cultivating mindfulness is not relaxation! It requires energy and discipline. It takes courage and intention to be open to knowing ourselves on such an intimate level. Research shows that mindfulness reduces stress, increases compassion for self and others, and promotes feelings of peacefulness and improved self-esteem. All of this leads to a more relaxed way of life.
Chris Tickner is a Pasadena psychotherapist, child therapist, and clinical supervisor practicing holistic psychotherapy, where he combines mindfulness psychotherapy, somatic therapy, neuroscience, and good old fasion humor and compassion to form a a powerful treatment that is transformative and holistic. There are thousands of California psychotherapists, and finding a counselor or finding a therapist can be daunting. On his website, Chris provides a primer to help you find the therapist that is perfect for you! Chris is also a Pasadena therapist specializing in anxiety psychotherapy and depression psychotherapy.