We seem to be busier today than ever before, despite having many timesaving devices at our fingertips to apparently ‘save us time’. We are constantly trying to finish one thing just to get to the next thing and multi-tasking while juggling several things at any given time. So much emphasis has been placed on the more you do, the better things will be with a heavy focus on being a good ‘multi-tasker’ (which is actually a myth as current research has revealed it’s impossible to do two things at once). I’m guilty of attempting to do this as I suppose many of us are! But is all this rushing around and juggling really worth it and are we actually aware of what we are currently focusing on, or are we just on autopilot living somewhere in the past or the future – in terms of where our mind is at?
At an incredibly stressful point in my life, coping with multiple factors that I thought were out of my control and impacting on my mental health and wellbeing, a very wise person (my Aunty in fact) gave me a book – ‘Full Catastrophe Living’ by Jon Kabit-Zinn about a concept called ‘Mindfulness’. I took one look at the size of the book (some 467 pages of extremely small print) and thought, I can’t even read one sentence without my mind wandering into worry, let alone try to read this ginormous novel. But did, and also had a little help from You Tube which gave me a summary of what the book, and the concept, was about. Click here if you would like to see Jon Kabit-Zinn explain it to the staff at Google: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3nwwKbM_vJc It’s just over an hour long but explains what Mindfulness is, in a simple and easy to understand way.
So what is ‘Full Catastrophe Living’? It can be summed up like this – our often chaotic lives we lead, without being fully present or aware, end up with us attaching ourselves to our thoughts by either living in the past or the future – thinking about worries or worrying about something that hasn’t even happened yet or might not even happen. For example, going over and over the argument you had this morning with your boss, or planning or worrying about what you are going to do next week, next month or even next year! With all this constant thinking about what could have happened or what should happen, we tend to forget or even enjoy what we are doing in the present moment. To put it simply, we are not being mindful. This constant ‘being carried away by our thoughts’ (which can be positive or negative) can lead us to stress – chronic stress in some circumstances – affecting not only our own mental health and wellbeing, but also those around us.
I put a link up a while back on our Facebook page ‘Shaping Behaviour’ that explains the main reasons that lead us to stress. If you haven’t seen it, click the link here to view it http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-24444431
The main points that the clip stresses (excuse the pun) are:
- Rumination – going over and over worries from the past
- Self-blame – dwelling on negative thoughts
- These two factors lead individuals more towards the pathways of anxiety and depression
- These factors determine the level of stress a person experiences
- The study revealed that people who didn’t ruminate or blame themselves for their difficulties had much lower levels of depression and anxiety even if they had experienced negative events in their lives
So what does this mean for us? If we are stressed, it can have profound implications on our health. I understand what it’s like to be anxious, feel panicked and definitely know what it’s like to be stressed. Stress can make us sick and cause major problems later in life. But if we look at it in another way, it also has a major effect on those around us. It can affect our job, our relationships and how we interact with and look after others. Stress can stop us from enjoying the time we have right now, right at this moment. If we think of it in terms of what the airline crew say to us in their safety demonstration before flying – put your own oxygen mask on before assisting others. How can we help others if we are suffocating!
So is stress really worth it? The short answer is NO. I’m sure that in 20 or 30 years’ time, I won’t be looking back saying ‘wow, I really enjoyed all that stress in my life’ but I might look back and be grateful for the turning point when I realised it wasn’t worth it. This doesn’t mean that we will never be stressed again and that it is easy being mindful. It takes time, patience and practice being in the present moment and enjoying it as we go. If want to bring yourself into the present moment, just take a breath. It will bring you back into the present moment every time.
There are 5 ways to alleviate stress using the Kinderman Method that are simple if we put them into place. Click the link to see what these five things are https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/mental-health-and-well-being/4/steps/46458
The main points are:
- Keep active
- Maintain relationships
- Keep our brains active
- Give your time and energy to others
- Be mindful
Remember, we are no good to anyone if we don’t look after what’s most important – US!
- If you want to find out where your mind is at, check out www.trackyourhappiness.org
- If you want to make sense of your moods in order to change them, download the ‘Catch it’ app
- If you want to learn how to practise Mindfulness, download the ‘Smiling Minds’ app (this is for children, adolescents and adults)
If you want further clarification on any of the topics raised in this Blog or want to learn more, contact me directly by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org