Imagine being at a BIST community meeting where everyone is quiet. You can hear the sound of your breath, and the inhales and exhales of the person sitting next to you. You hear noises in the hall, ambient sounds you haven’t paid attention to before. You notice the sensation of your legs on the chair and your feet on the floor.
Maybe you’re feeling more relaxed. Maybe you’re more stressed, annoyed with the exercise. Or maybe you feel nothing at all. But you notice. You are aware.
This is a guided meditation.
BIST’s community meeting in June, Keeping your cool in Turbulent Times: Strategies for Relaxation, was presented by Michele Meehan, a pyschotherapist and shamanic practioner, who also happens to be the former director of community facilitation at BIST. Talking about stress and what we can do about it, Michele facilitated discussions with BIST members about the following:
What are your stressors?
How do you know when you’re stressed?
Is stress always bad?
What is good stress?
How can we tell when there is ‘too much’ stress?
Michele shared that ‘good stress’ can be a motivator. A small amount of stress during a friendly sports game, for example, can help us strive to play our best.
We also talked about how our reactions to stress can put us in a loop. Critical self-talk or bad habits we fall into when we are stressed can be more stressful than what was inititally causing the stress (such as running late for an appointment, and then ‘beating ourselves up’ about it.)
Members discussed what happens to our bodies when we are stressed (such as neck tension or cramping) and we learned that noticing what’s happening in our bodies can be the first ‘clue’ that we are stressed out.
Michele shared her tip of ‘shaking out’ stress, which is, just as it sounds, physically shaking out your body. This is something you can do in the privacy of your own home, even hours after a stressful event, since it can take up to a week for your body to metabolize an adrenaline hit from extreme stress. Shaking out stress is a trick learned from animals. After a ‘flight or fright’ response, when an animal is safe, they shake.
Here are some other tips from Michele:
The 4-As of dealing with stress:
- Avoid stress – if a particular person is stressing you out, can you avoid them?
- Alter the situation – if the behaviour of a particular person is stressing you out (if, for example, they talk a lot) can you ask them to be more quiet?
- Adapt – if rush hour is stressful, and you can’t avoid your rush hour commute can you adapt it to make it more pleasant (for example, play music)
- Accept – some stress is un-avoidable. If you can accept that it is happening (for example, that you need to travel during rush hour, and you will most likely be stuck in traffic) you may find it less stressful. “Arguing with reality is a sure way to make you crazy,” Michele says.
- There are many ways to meditate. The trick is to find the practise that’s right for you.
- A 20-minute meditation can be as restorative as a two-hour nap.
- The brain does what it does, and if your mind starts to wander during a meditation, that’s ok.
- Having said that, we can train our brains to try and focus on the present as much as possible.
- You can meditate with your eyes open and focus on an image, a candle flame, a word, a chant or a mantra that’s meaningul to you.
- You can watch an example of a guided meditation below or find more examples here
- You can find examples of breathing exercises here
- You can find a list of mindfulness programs in Toronto here
- The NeuroNova Centre for Mindfulness specializes in mindfulness for people with chronic pain
Celebrate summer + BIST’s 10th anniversary!
July 28th, 6 – 8 p.m.
Dinner, karaoke and a performance by Cougar Bait