Among the stresses of life, work, family and so on it gets challenging to focus on anything. Pressures build up daily and it becomes harder to prioritize. Falling asleep at night becomes one of the biggest challenges of the day. Lowering the volume of that voice in your head and following your heart to the place that centers you is now further away. Countless reasons can be given for why this happens, but the key is to find a solution, which can resolve this issue versus trying to ration on the reasoning.
It was very obvious at an early age that I do not respond well to stress. I distinctly remember at the age of 6 years when my mother was informed about my reactions to routine classroom test. Lets just say, when the teacher said the word ‘test’, I suddenly saw ghosts trying to eat me up. While I still remember feeling scared, nervous, hyperventilating and of course forgetting everything I knew [often including my name!] the only thing that changed is how I deal with it.
If anything in the past 18 years, it got bad, worse and much worse before it got better. Not knowing how to handle stress troubled my performance at school, distracted me from the big goals and ultimately lowered my self-esteem. By the time I was graduating from high school, I realized I had to take serious action and thus started exploring a wider net of solutions.
You don’t have to do the same..
On a very random occasion, I bumped into a lovely lady who taught silk painting. Now, most people would dive into this form of art thinking they’re letting their creative juices flow or a medium to express your self. For me, this was therapeutic.
Committing to 2 hours a week to go to her peaceful home, away from my usual spots of relaxation was perfect. I cannot sit still in one place so this was a great way to be physically still, do something productive and have a sense of achievement at the end of the day.
This was my meditation.
These classes gave my funky girls and I time to bond, laugh and catch up routinely as well so I just don’t see any drawbacks!
Reading and researching into this newfound way to meditate, I discovered it wasn’t as new or revolutionary as it sounded in my head. Turns out, there’s a study endorsing my experience. Girija Kaimal, EdD. Assistant Professor of Creative Arts Therapies at Drexel University, conducted a study on the effects of participation in art activities on stress hormones in the body. The conclusion was simple yet profound: 45 minutes of creative activity significantly lessens stress in the body, regardless of artistic experience or talent.
The research found that cortisol levels (or stress hormones) of 75 percent of the participants were lowered during their 45-minute art making session. And while there was some variation in how much cortisol levels lowered, there was no correlation between past art experiences and lower stress levels.
But I knew this wasn’t enough..
I had to find an outlet to let loose physically as well which came up by registering for a beginner’s yoga course.
Practicing yoga gave me a mind-body connection that combines physical poses, controlled breathing, and meditation or relaxation. It helped to reduce my stress, lower blood pressure and maintain a healthier heart rate.
The key is frequency. Don’t expect miracles over one session but over the course of 3 months you will find yourself having better memory retention, improved concentration, higher tolerance to stress and of course flexibility!
My practice at home includes a simple routine, which I can do in my back garden or in my room. I keep it simple to be able to achieve a sense of balance on a daily basis. To distract my mind from wandering and keep it in focus to that single moment, that hour, I use guided audio meditation. I’ve tried out Deepak Sharma, Tara Brach and some more different podcasts, which have helped me stay consistent with my practice.
Now, I’ve given you the tools from my experience on how I’ve managed stress. I learnt two things. First, for me it had to be a combination of physical and mental de-stress. It aligned my mind and body towards the same goal. Secondly, you can conquer any fear with a little bit of effort. Keep experimenting till you reach your goal.