STRESS MANAGEMENT ONLINE
Emotional stress is something that we all experience when we have to cope with the many demands and responsibilities of home and work. Stress can be defined as an intense emotional and physiological reaction to a situation or the mental representation of a situation as a memory or anticipation. Chronic stress is produced when stress reactions do not resolve themselves and become habitual. The sustained physiological effects of chronic stress can have a serious effect on the body and lead to an increased risk of disease. The psychological effects of chronic stress produce fatigue, poor concentration and an impaired ability to perform tasks, which leads to more stress. Stress produces a general feeling of helplessness and negativity, both of which reinforce the stress reactions. We feel a lack of vitality, enthusiasm and creativity. Many people describe chronic stress as a heavy blackness that covers everything. Chronic stress can result in an increased chance of accidents as well as reducing work performance. Chronic stress also reduces our listening and learning skills and this reduces the quality of communication in our personal relationships and family. Chronic stress is a problem that greatly impacts those around us as well as reducing the quality of our own life.
It is well recognized that stress reactions are learned and originate from the influence of our own mental outlook and from belief patterns acquired from our parents, family and culture. Stress always contains both an objective component and a subjective component and in most situations it is the habitual subjective emotional reactivity that generates the emotional tension and physiological changes of stress. There is pain and there is suffering. Pain is the objective component that is often inevitable or unavoidable, but suffering is a subjective reaction that we generate and add to the pain. The Buddha described this subjective suffering as dukkha and not surprisingly, mindfulness, which is one of the main teachings of the Buddha, was and continues to be very relevant for working with and resolving emotional stress.
WORKING WITH STRESS REACTIONS
All habitual emotional reactions rely on two elements – ignorance and emotional energy. The first task in MMT is called RECOGNITION, in which we learn to recognize our stress reactions as they arise in stressful situations. This counteracts the automatic and mechanical part of what makes a reaction habitual. The maxim of MMT is that all change begins with mindfulness and awareness is the first and most important step. However, what keeps a reaction alive is the associated emotional charge without which the reaction would have no power to cause stress. MMT teaches us how to form a non-reactive relationship, the Mindfulness Based Relationship, with this underlying emotional energy that compels us to react.
The mindfulness relationship is very important. This is where we allow ourselves to open our awareness and investigate the emotional energy, which is quite different to our usual reaction of ignorance, avoidance or aversion.
Mindfulness creates a therapeutic space that allows the emotion to unfold and undergo transformation. If you give it space it will change. This is one of the great discoveries made by the Buddha, 2500 years ago and which we are rediscovering today. It is not what we do that matters as much as how we relate to our emotional stress. When this relationship is based on the receptivity and openness of mindfulness, then we create the best possible conditions in which the emotional tension can resolve itself. Without this emotional power, there is nothing to sustain the reaction and life-long patterns of stress producing reactivity begin to dissolve, leaving you free from their compulsive grip. Like the petals of a lotus bud that were previously held and constrained so tightly, the mind begins to explore a new freedom with all its possibilities and choices. This is the freedom that the Buddha talked about and that is possible for all of us to discover through the practice of mindfulness. MMT teaches you how to apply mindfulness to resolve your patterns of habitual reactivity so that you can realize your full potential and enjoy your life and relationships to the full.
Peter Strong, PhD is a Professional Psychotherapist and specialist in Mindfulness Therapy. He offers Online Therapy via Skype for Anxiety, Depression & Emotional Stress. Visit http://www.counselingtherapyonline.com. Email Inquiries Welcome. You can learn more about Mindfulness Therapy by reading his book, ‘The Path of Mindfulness Meditation’ (Amazon.com).