When the moment of stress takes hold, the mind is at flight. I have come to measure and understand my level of stress in relation to my ability to sustain conscious awareness. Stress, for me is defined by a sense that I have lost a measured observance of my thoughts and how time passes. I often find that bad habit patterns that I may have under control - for the most part anyway - resurface in times of stress. I act by impulse. I act out of fear and I act unknowingly.
This is because stress-related hormones such as cortisol keep the body in a ‘flight or fight’ mode. This is a biological survival tactic that is necessary and normal. However, when stress patterns stretch out into days, weeks and months, this over-stimulation of stress hormones physiologically blocks the natural processes of repairing and healing. We are left drained and chronically fatigued.
I recently hosted a stress management workshop with a corporate client in Johannesburg. Every person that I spoke to was fatigued. Drained. The majority complained of battling to fall asleep and having interrupted sleep patterns in spite of their fatigue. Many described anxiety rising up at different times over the day and night, like a clamp being pressed on their chests and then sliding towards the throat. Most had gained weight since starting their office jobs and spoke of late night binges when returning home from the workplace, empty and depressed. What was more dire than the symptoms described was the attitude, or should I say, resignation, amongst the staff that this is a normal and acceptable way to live.
It need not be.
Our fast-paced lives leave us with little time to effectively re-charge. In this age of hyper-mobile connectivity, the pressure of work, family and other responsibilities weigh in on a deeply cellular level because there is no escape; there is no opportunity to switch-off and zone out. Yet, this ability to escape is crucial for our body’s healthy functionality. It is imperative that we find practical, time efficient and simple tools to bring our minds back to conscious awareness. These tools should be accessible to us and not hard to obtain. They should be affordable and they should - critically - not just be a stress release valve but simultaneously a source of vitalisation and rejuvenation.
From my own experiences and through teaching yoga for many years now, I can honestly say that a soft, slow and simple series of stretches done with focus on deep steady breath, and done in conjunction with guided meditation meet all the above requirements. When you move your body in simple yoga postures carefully with correct alignment and deep measured breathing you flood your body with freshly oxygenated blood. This kick starts cellular rejuvenation and refreshes the brain. The conscious movements you make take your mind off your source of stress and anxiety and thus encourage a de-escalation of stress hormone release and allow the nervous system to rest and recharge with oxygen and fresh nutrients. Practically, you will also encourage healthy digestion and stimulate your bowel - both of which are critically affected by stress.
I have a recorded podcast I keep with me on my mobile phone at all times. It is about 10minutes long and it is a simple, universal guided mediation for relaxation. I keep this with me always and use it to assist me in falling asleep, as well as reconnecting with my conscious mind during the work day, when travelling, or whenever needed. I have over many years refined the exact words and image prompts I need to relax. I would like to share this with you. Please try it out if you feel you need it. I hope it is as helpful to you as it has been to me.
I am offering a 5 week course specialisation in Stress Management through yoga and guided mediation on the amazing new yoga platform YOGICOMM. This is the first online space for bespoke yoga video sharing. I have a profile page and am offering individualised yoga videos and podcasts through the YOGICOMM file sharing portal. Its all super simple, accessible and affordable. Whats best is that the videos and podcasts are made just for you in order to meet your specific needs. And you can download the video and audio files and use them anytime, anywhere. Check it out here :-)