Stress Awareness Month

04/05/2019
Life stress plays a significant part in the development of psychological and physical issues.

By Jessi Somogie, Research and Programs Volunteer, CHA Center for Mindfulness and Compassion

Imagine this:

  • You have been struck with news of your parents' divorce and feel exhausted.
  • You arrive late to class, your professor calls on you in front of everyone and your face turns red.
  • Your partner has asked for a break; the lump in your throat won't go away.
  • You've been laid off from your job and it feels hard to breathe.
  • Your best friend was diagnosed with cancer and your body feels heavy.

Any of these sound familiar? As your body begins to heat up, your brain is in cognitive overload, and your mind feels stuck, stress ensues.

Life stress plays a significant part in the development of psychological and physical issues (Monroe, 2008). Stress is intrinsically about an individual's ability to adapt to challenging environmental conditions over time (Monroe, 2008). All organisms experience stress, but the diverse responses that occur across the psychobiological functioning of an individual produce the "whole organism" reaction (Weiner, 1992). In essence, when a stressful situation occurs, the process that one undergoes has to do with the challenge, perception of the challenge, coping resources, perception of these coping resources, and how these play out over time (Monroe, 2008). In a society where we are constantly going, our response to stress truly does dictate the size of impact that a stressful event has on cognition, affect, and behavior.

So, how do you handle your stress? Why does it matter? And what are some resources that you could benefit from?

Mindfulness-based practices are evidence-based interventions that have proven to reduce and manage stress. Mindful practices help individuals to respond, rather than react during stress. Integrating small stress management changes into the daily routine can help.

Below are three tips and practices drawn from the 8-Week Courses (Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction and Mindful Self-Compassion) offered at the Center for Mindfulness and Compassion to help you manage and relate to your stress:

  • S.T.O.P. (Stop, Take a Breath, Observe, Proceed) - Stressing out? Dr. Elisha Goldstein notes, "Two-thirds of Americans say they need help for stress. But stress itself is not the problem. It's how we relate to stress". Use S-T-O-P practice during the day when you are feeling reactive or really anytime you need a break. This practice only takes 1-3 minutes and allows the body and mind to regroup.
  • Self-Compassion break - Are you in a moment of stress? Here are some quick steps to bring compassion to yourself in the moment originated from Dr. Kristin Neff who said, "Call the situation to mind, and see if you can actually feel the stress and emotional discomfort in your body."
    • This is a moment of suffering. This is stress. This hurts. Acknowledge the pain.
    • Suffering is a part of life. You are not alone and this is common humanity. Put your hands over your heart for soothing touch. May I be kind to myself? Ask yourself, what do I need right now? Listen to this recording for a guided practice.

  • Mindful Walking - We are constantly using our feet to get from point A to B, but do you ever take a step back and notice how you are carrying yourself, your surroundings, or even provide room for deep breaths? This is an easy practice that can truly change how you are feeling, thinking, and acting. So, slow down and remind yourself "Here I am, complete in this moment" (Kabat-Zinn, MBSR).

For more useful resources, check out the offerings at the Center for Mindfulness and Compassion through 8-week course options, lecture series, retreats, and symposiums. Additionally, listen to CMC's short guided mindfulness audio recordings.

If you are exploring options in stress management, learn more about the Center for Mindfulness and Compassion at Cambridge Health Alliance by calling 617-591-6132 or visit www.chacmc.org.

"Just as a well-tended garden bears seeds and fruit, so too will practicing mindfulness help foster all of the attitudes of mindfulness" - Bob Stahl, PhD

Cambridge Health Alliance

Contributed By: Cambridge Health Alliance

Cambridge Health Alliance is an academic community health care system committed to serving all members of our communities. We have expertise in primary care, mental health and substance abuse, and caring for diverse and complex populations. CHA patients receive high quality care in convenient neighborhood locations, and have seamless access to advanced care through CHA’s affiliation with Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. With over 140,000 patients in Cambridge, Somerville Everett and Boston’s Metro North, CHA is working hard to offer the integrated services its communities need now, and in the future.