It's Mental Health Awareness Week (14 - 20 May 2018) and this years theme is about stress and how we're coping with it.
From MIND: "We’re focusing on helping employees and employers create a mentally healthy workplace where everyone feels valued and supported. We have a range of information, guidance and support on how you can achieve this. We all know what it’s like to feel stressed – it’s part of everyday life. But when you’re overwhelmed by stress it may lead to mental health problems or make existing problems worse. Mental Health Awareness Week 2018 is a great time to think about how we can all address the causes of work-related stress."
Each day this week we will be sharing various content to promote awareness about mental health and give you tangible tools to help you cope with stress. As a yoga charity and studio, yoga and mindfulness will clearly play a huge role in how we cope with stress.
On the theme of helping to create a mentally healthy workplace, we wanted to hear from our studio teachers and ask them to share how they cope with stress. A common theme is (of course) yoga, but they also give insight into other ways that they cope with stress.
Let's hear from our teachers...
How do you cope with stress?
Stress is a really interesting thing. I have spent a lot of time the last few years, on understanding and changing my relationship to stress. I now think about in terms of healthy stress and unhealthy stress. A situation can be high intensity or challenging but feel exciting or manageable, as soon as it starts to get overwhelming or out of control it has slipped from healthy to unhealthy levels of stress. Just knowing this has been really empowering for me.
If I have a particularly stressful time in life coming up I make sure I am really good at doing the things that help counterbalance it. I need to make sure that I take good care of myself, with exercise, healthy food, laughter, friendship, time in nature – nourishing myself body, mind and soul to help carry me through to the otherwise. These are the things that are easy to let slip when something big is going on, but ultimately I believe that they are also what carries us through it.
What do you find useful when you're in a stressful situation?
A daily meditation, pranayama and yoga practise has been life changing in how its helped me with stress management. I use a lot of the technique I explore on the mat…
I become very aware of the physical, emotional and mental manifestations of stress – heart rate rising, racing thoughts, uncomfortable clench in the belly, shallow breathing. I then try and regulate the breath – it can take quite a lot of effort to draw the breath deeper in the belly and take really long exhales. It takes a little while for it to start to calm me down, but I find eventually it always does. I focus on relaxing my belly and glutes, as these areas get really tense when I’m stressed. Also, becoming aware of the contact my feet are making the ground helps to stop my brain from going into overdrive and literally helps ‘ground’ me.
One of my favourite quotes comes from B.K.S Iyengar "Yoga teaches us to cure what need not be endured and endure what cannot be cured." But I often find myself switching the word ‘cure’ to CHANGE.
So I have two options in changing the stressful situation.
1 – is it possible to remove myself from it? 2 – If not, can I change my relationship to it.
Often its option 2, so it becomes about changing my relationship/feelings/thoughts about the situation. I try and look at the bigger picture – I remind myself that the feelings/situation will end, I just need to get through whatever is going on (hopefully without losing my head!) and it probably isn’t as bad as I think it is. Telling myself that I can do it, and it will all be okay (even if it doesn’t feel like that) has been amazingly powerful for me. It helps me to step up to the situation, even when I want to run away scared.