Got Stress?

got stress Messy MoneyI do, I do, I do, and so does every other living creature. Stress is simply the physiological and mental response to the environment and situation you find yourself in. Simple!

Stress is not only a fact of life, it is life. Stress becomes a problem though when the amount of stress we face goes beyond the limit of our coping abilities.

How well you cope with stress matters.

A few years ago, I was experiencing some serious medical problems. At the time, I was going through every medical test known to mankind and stressed out.  Stressed out!

At one of my many appointments, a medical technician looked at me and said “You need to go take a mindfulness stress management course.”  What!  I figured it was a nice way of saying that I am a hypochondriac and beyond help. It did make me think though…

Was I stressed out because I was having medical problems or what I having medical problems because I was stressed out?

I decided to do a little investigation into mindfulness based stress reduction on my own and I did learn that it does have “medical applications.” One of the practices of MBSR is meditation. I figured, that’s easy. I can do that. I had my own impressions of what mediation was and how it is done. I figured the goal of meditation was empty my mind and I found it impossible and frustrating to quiet my overactive brain. I failed miserably and felt more stressed out than ever. I gave up and life went on.

Fast forward a few years and I am feeling a bit overwhelmed and thinking to myself that there has to be a better way. I enrolled in the 8 week MBSR course and completed it a few weeks ago. It was a group class and it focused on the stress response, mediation and yoga-like movement. I am still trying to noodle over what I learned there but here is what I know so far:

Someone has more stress than you do.

Some of the people in my class were in the midst of  a hard-core personal crisis.  Major grief, end of life issues that made my situation look like rainbows and unicorns.  There is much I should be grateful for.

Being in the present moment is hard.

Part of mindfulness is staying rooting in or arriving in the present moment.  I was shocked at how much time my mind spends ruminating about the past and fretting about the future and completely oblivious to what is happening right now.  The past is gone. You can learn from it but you can’t change it.  The future will come no matter what you do.  Prepare for it but don’t let it steal from today.  I have to work on this very hard but it is worth it, when it happens.

thinking on a bench messy money

Just Breathe.

One of the simplest exercises to bring yourself into the present moment is to focus on your breath.  The goal is not to change it, or evaluate it but just to notice it.  How does it feel to breath?  Focus on your breathing for a few minutes to calm an overactive mind.

Mindful Mediation is not about an empty brain

What a relief.  Thoughts happen and you can acknowledge them and let them go.

Guided meditation helps busy minds.

I recommend guided mediation to help focus on the present.  iTunes has oodles of free guided meditation sessions if you would like to try it.

Meditation is a practice.

Mindful meditation is like a muscle – you need to practice and do it regularly to see the benefits.  You are rewiring your brain and developing new thought habits. It takes time.  I am still very much a beginner and I have to work hard to make time to practice.

Kindness feels good.

You can be kind to yourself and nobody needs to know.   When you are in the middle of some nasty self-talk ask yourself if you would ever offer the same criticism to others that you give yourself.  If no, tell your self-critic, “thanks for visiting but I have other things to do now.” Be kind to yourself as you would be kind to others.

stick your neck out messy money

Stick your neck out.

I was surprised to learn that the most vulnerable part of the human body is the neck.  We have some pretty important networks running through that part of our body and it is weak and not well protected. It is instinct to protect it when we are threatened, usually by pulling up our shoulders. Doing this reinforces the message to our brain that we are in danger and it sets of an escalating stress response. Pull your shoulders down!  Stick your neck out. You will feel better and stronger. Watch people in stressful situations. They will be pulling their shoulders up, cupping and touching their necks. Notice photographs of people in power. Politicians, military, policing, and fighters – their head is held high exposing their neck.  It is a show of confidence and power.

Check in with yourself.

Life can be hectic and we get caught up in our daily routines and drift into autopilot. I have found it helpful to pause now and then and ask myself how I am doing. This does a couple of things.  One, it pulls me out of autopilot mode and really consider what is really going on in the present moment and I can reassure myself that there is no crisis, no sabre-tooth tiger about the pounce on me and that everything is really ok.

 

messy money coping with stressDenial is my go-to coping strategy.

My biggest a-ha moment came during one of our class exercises.  We were asked to talk about one difficult moment we had to deal with during the week.  I had nothing.  No stressful situations, no conflicts, nothing that upset me.  The facilitator looked at me and said,

“You can’t think of one thing that happened to you this week that was even mildly uncomfortable?”

Me – “Um, no.”

Facilitator -“ Well that is something for you to think long and hard about.”

And shortly after the heavens opened and angels sang and I had a realized something profound; I will do just about anything to avoid dealing with thing I find even mildly unpleasant.  Ignore it, procrastinate, deny its existence, tell myself that I am exercising the power of positive thinking, lie to myself.  It is a strategy that works, initially at least.  In the long run, your mind or subconscious really knows and there is only such much denial it can take.  You must deal with things.

What you resist not only persists, but will grow in size.”  ~~~Carl Jung

I have lots of work to do.

I wish I could share some profound insight into how this relates to money but I am not there yet.  I have some fuzzy sense that money can be a source of pain and a source of comfort.  It can help and it can harm.  It can be an enabler and it can be abused. You can have a dysfunctional relationship with it.

Where do healthy money attitudes and habits end and neurosis begin?  I do not know.

I do know that I am glad that I took the course.  I learned a lot.  I have noticed positive changes in how I am feeling and how I am coping with stress.  I would recommend it to others.  Maybe some insights about money will come.  Until then, thanks for reading and I hope everyone is managing their stress in a healthy way.

26 Comments


  1. In our pursuit for money, we take on more than we can handle, we rush and then we stress out. It is an art to balance our money manifestation and money making efforts with relaxation. I resonate with your recommendations of practicing meditation, kindness and being in the present moment. Worry about the future is a big stressor and therefore the practices of being in the moment of now are very helpful. “Stick your neck out” is a great phrase to remind us to hold a confident body position. Lovely photo of the giraffe.
    HY @ raisefrequency recently posted…9 Law of Attraction love techniques – How to manifest your soulmate? Does LOA for love apply for specific person?My Profile

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    1. Thanks Teri. Can’t wait to see how your reno goes….

      Reply

  2. One of the things that help my wife and I is something we learned from Stephen Covey’s book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. In the first habit Stephen talks about the “Circle of Concern” and the “Circle of Influence”.

    You have to learn to to keep from reacting or worrying about those things in life that you have little or no control over.

    We have found that as we grow older, our “Circle of Concern” also grows smaller.

    Try going on a low-information diet for a bit if you are feeling stressed out. Turn off the news and don’t read the paper. Instead, focus your “Circle of Influence”, those items that you have the ability to actually make changes to.

    Here is a link to Stephen’s Habit 1 section if your are interested:

    Mr. LC recently posted…Happy Friday!My Profile

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    1. Thanks for the info. I have heard alot about Stephen Covey’s book and really should read it.

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  3. Great post! I am super stressed right now, but it’s good to put it in perspective. Things could be a lot worse and yes, someone somewhere has more stress than me. Thanks for sharing! That class sounds interesting.

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    1. Thanks Kayla. The class was definitely worth it and wishing you a stress free day.

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  4. I think helping others, even in a small way, can be a good way to recenter ourselves. Remembering that others lead much harder lives than us is sure to give us a little morale boost, even if it doesn’t completely erase our stress. But all these strategies are very good – I need to employ them all today! My stress level is going through the roof!
    Kirsten recently posted…Can Crowdsourcing Student Loan Debt Work?My Profile

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    1. Good point. Helping others can be a great way to combat stress and help with the gratitude side of things. Breath. Hope your day improves.

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  5. Intriguing post! When you said that you sometimes “tell myself that I am exercising the power of positive thinking” in denial, I think you hit upon something very pervasive in our culture. The whole “positive thinking” thing deformed into a phony, peppy facade. It’s great that you’re aware of that tendency in yourself. I wish you well in confronting the negatives in your life. It’s a truly positive thing to do : )
    Your exploration of mindfulness reminds me of Anthony de Mello, about whom I wrote this past weekend (as you know). Money matters are very linked to mindfulness. There is so much unconscious spending going on – and I used to do a whole lot of it. As I’ve developed greater awareness, that unconscious spending has dissipated.
    I’m sure you’ll find many useful links between awareness and many different aspects of your life. Looking forward to updates.
    Prudence Debtfree recently posted…Business Debt ELIMINATED! Debt-Free Except for the MortgageMy Profile

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    1. Congrats on reaching a big milestone. Yes- thank you for pointing out a link between money and mindfulness. That’s what I needed for this post.

      Reply

  6. Awesome article May.

    I started my career 10 years back and have only just begun to recognize/acknowledge stress and how it affects me. I certainly downplayed it initially and often thought it didn’t apply to me. I’m only just starting to confront my stress and learning how to best deal with it.

    It was great to read your article and see so much that I relate to. What really made me smile is your attitude and work ethic towards improving.

    Thanks!
    Jonny recently posted…What I’ve Earned & Learned by BloggingMy Profile

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    1. Thanks Jonny. I thought I was immune to stress too. Thought I could soldier on through anything so really surprised when I realized what was happening and that it wasn’t some great crisis that got me – it was cumulative.

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  7. Hi May
    Thank you for sharing this and for sharing what you learned from the course. People react differently to stress but all those that you have listed are likely to help.

    Some years back, a long term relationship broke down and around the same time, my job changed. I started suffering from insomnia, my chest felt a bit tight and my eczema got really bad, so bad that I went to see the doctor.

    I was surprised when he asked me if I was stressed as I hadn’t thought that I was.

    Nowadays, I start to recognise the signs so I make sure I do something about it before it gets bad again. Ensuring that I work out and exercise regularly is part of it. I don’t meditate but breathing is a part of it too.

    That info on the neck thing was interesting – I’ll have to consciously do that as my shoulders are always tense.

    Interesting post, thanks.

    Reply

    1. I never in a million years thought I would “stressed out” but I guess nobody is immune. Glad to hear that you can recognize it and take steps keep it in check.

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  8. When my stress level gets too out of hand I start doubling up my sessions at the gym. After a really good work out the stress tends to just fade away. I have also learned to think things through and accept whatever the situation is and that really helps me.
    Petrish @ Debt Free Martini recently posted…5 Top Must Have Financial HabitsMy Profile

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    1. You are right. I always feel better when I exercise. I just need to make it a priority..

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  9. Glad you are finding some help with your stress. Interesting point about the neck. I would think money would or could be a big source of stress for some. I know it was for our family.

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    1. Thanks Brian. Yes the info about the neck was interesting and I didn’t get into more detail but posture in general can have a big influence on how we feel.
      Appreciate you coming by. I will keep trying to come by your blog. for some reason it is blocking me.

      Reply

  10. I went through something similar many years ago and was directed to see a therapist to learn how to cope with stress. It helped a little, but it took some years to read up on various ways to deal with stress. It really can make you sick in so many ways. I love this post and it looks like you are on your way to a much more peaceful life. I can tell you that for me, abstinence from caffeine is a big help. It can really jamble the nervous system big time. P.S. So happy to see you again, May! 🙂

    Reply

    1. Oh the coffee! I am trying to switch over to mostly decaf – but I am still drinking at least a pot a day (10-12 cups) It is bad but I keep working on it. Thanks for stopping by and glad to connect.

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      1. I’m with you on the caffeine. I actually get headaches when I try to stop. Which probably means I REALLY need to stop, but it does make it harder.

        Thank you for this post. Screw if it was related to money or not. We could pontificate until we found something, and it probably wouldn’t take very long. But this is helpful. This is real. And it’s something others need to hear and have affirmed that they’re not alone in. (I’m including myself in the others. Ha.)

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        1. I have thought about giving up caffeine but it is the best part of my day.. I love waking up to a cup of coffee. One day…

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