Management for the Busy and Overwhelmed

This class teaches you simple methods for dealing with everyday stress in your life. Stress is a common reaction to contemporary life. If uncontrolled it can cause serious imbalances and upset, and may lead to health problems. There are many easy ways to deal with stress, which will be given here. These techniques are useful in all areas of your life.

Stressed? Me? Yes, I could just scream!

Stressed?  Me?  Yes, I could just scream!

What is stress? There are many different definitions of stress. Stress is made up of many things and can be caused by a range of different events or circumstances. Different people will experience stress differently. Early researchers into stress, such as Hans Selye who was an originator of stress research, felt that there is good stress and bad stress. They believed that the effects of stress would be experienced in either case. For example, something positive, such as preparing for a vacation, can cause stress. However, more recent studies indicate that the long-term negative effects of stress are unusual in positive situations. The most commonly accepted definition of stress today is that stress is a condition or feeling experienced when a person feels that demands on him/her exceed the personal and social resources the individual can mobilize. More simply put, stress results when you feel a lack of control over your life. It depends on your own perceptions of a situation and how you feel about your ability to cope with it. The lessons in this class can help you to have greater confidence in your own ability to manage stress and cope with the demands of your life.

Questionnaire on Stress


Questionnaire on Stress

This questionnaire will help you determine your current level of stress: Please answer, with the following meanings for the numbers:

Never = 1

Rarely = 2

Some of the time = 3

All of the time = 4.

1. I feel tired at school/work even with adequate sleep. ___

2. I feel frustrated in carrying out my responsibilities at school/work/home. ___

3. I am moody, irritable, or impatient over small problems. ___

4. I want to withdraw from the constant demands on my time and energy. ___

5. I feel negative, futile, or depressed about work/school. ___

6. My decision-making ability is less than usual because of my work/homework. ___

7. I think that I am not as efficient at work/studies as I should be. ___

8. The quality of my work/homework is less than it should be. ___

9. I feel physically, emotionally, or spiritually depleted. ___

10. My resistance to illness is lowered because of my work/my school work. ___

11. My interest in doing fun activities is lowered because of my work/school. ___

12. I feel uncaring about the problems and needs of my co-workers, patients, clients, etc at work, or about the needs and problems of my classmates at school. ___

13. Communication with my co-workers/classmates, friends, or family seems strained. ___

14. I am forgetful. ___

15. I have difficulty concentrating on my work/schoolwork. ___

16. I am easily bored with my work/schoolwork___

17. I feel a sense of dissatisfaction with my job/schoolwork - that something is missing. ___

18. When I ask myself why I get up and go to work/school, the only answer that occurs to me is, “I have to”. ___

If your score is 35-55 you are moderately stressed.

If your score is 55 or more you are very stressed and in danger of burnout

The Holmes-Rahe Stress Inventory is a widely used assessment made available through the American Institute of Stress.  This inventory asks you to identify recent events in your life that are frequently identified with increased stress. Here is a link to this inventory:  https://www.stress.org/holmes-rahe-stress-inventory/ 


OK, I'm stressed. What does that mean?

OK, I'm stressed. What does that mean?

What causes stress in the workplace or at school?

A major cause of stress is a sense of helplessness and powerlessness over circumstances in your life. At work or at school you may feel a lack of control over your situation; lack of opportunity to use your creativity and intelligence; lack of appreciation; lack of input over what you do at work or over lessons at school; fear of dismissal or other consequences; lack of control over hours; insensitivity from your supervisors/school administration/teachers; conflicting job/school demands; over or under load of work.

Perhaps the best general approach for handling stress can be found in the Serenity Prayer; "Grant me the courage to change the things I can change, the serenity to accept the things I can't change, and the wisdom to know the difference."

Warning Signs of Stress:

Some warning signs of stress are frequent headaches, difficulty sleeping, difficulty in concentrating, impatience, upset stomach, job/school dissatisfaction, low morale. Stress is a factor in heart disease, chronic fatigue, insomnia, headaches, hypoglycemia, arthritis, and compromised immunity.

Adrenal health is critical. These small glands help the body to cope with stress (they are found just above the kidneys, above your rear waist). The Adrenals are responsible for maintaining body balance, regulating sugar metabolism and an array of steroid hormones. Stress directly depletes the adrenals and we become less able to handle stress. If the adrenals are exhausted they need nourishment to recover our energy. When you are under stress, the Adrenals release adrenaline to ready you to quickly react to an emergency, which to them, is seen as of a physical life-threatening nature. In your modern life, stress is rarely an emergency of a physical nature, so in repeated situations of stress, the Adrenals are overworked and easily exhausted. Early humans lived in an environment that was seen as generally safe and friendly, yet one that became quickly dangerous. The emergency was aided by the release of adrenalin to provide the energy needed for a short-term solution to the problem.

Today ongoing low-level stress is often experienced, rather than an immediate life-threatening emergency, and this situation keeps the Adrenals working continually. This low level of chronic stress is what most people experience today. The adrenalin released isn’t needed, nor used, and so it contributes further to the negative effects of this ongoing low-level stress and may result in exhaustion of the Adrenals. Another name for this exhaustion is burn-out.

What happens when you are under chronic stress? Stress results in several changes in the body, including increased heart rate, rapid breathing, and feelings of fear or anger, and muscle tension. Blood pressure rises, adrenalin is released into the blood system, and the blood flow is constricted to the digestive organs and increased to the brain and major muscles. Some of these may be present to some degree at all times in situations of chronic stress. Tension headaches may develop after several hours of tensed muscles in the neck and face, in reaction to ongoing stress. The constant presence of stress hormones begins to wear down the body’s immunological system - whatever part of the body is weakest will show signs of dysfunction first.

Are your Adrenals exhausted? Do you:

* lack energy or alertness, or have a poor memory?

* have severely cracked heels?

* have nervous moisture on hands/soles of feet?

* have brittle, peeling nails, or extremely dry skin?

* have frequent heart palpitations or panic attacks?

* have chronic heartburn and poor digestion?

* have chronic lower back pain?

* have hypoglycemia and cravings for salt/sweets?

* have unexplained moodiness, crying spells, feelings of guilt?

Note: a medical examination may uncover physical causes for any symptoms.

It is highly recommended that you see your doctor if you experience any of these warning signs.

To nourish the Adrenals eat a diet rich in fresh food, fish, brown rice, legumes, whole grains, and potatoes. Avoid hard liquor, tobacco, excess caffeine, fats, fried foods, red meats, highly processed foods. Water is essential. Dehydration causes stress and stress causes dehydration. Eat small meals rather than large ones, and keep them low in sugar and fats.

Massage therapy can be helpful in improving adrenal function. Moderate exercise, such as a daily walk, will benefit the adrenals. Both massage therapy and daily walks are among the best overall methods for dealing with all levels of stress.

The American Institute of Stress provides an in-depth definition and more information on the long-term results of excessive stress.  Read more here:  https://www.stress.org/daily-life/


Managing Stress

As a first step in managing stress, you can develop an AWARENESS of what causes stress for you. Once you can identify where you mostly feel stress, you can ANALYZE your usual response to it. Do you overreact? Do you allow yourself to become immediately involved emotionally? Or are you able to step back and take the time to respond? Next, you can develop an ACTION plan to manage your stress.

Stress is often accompanied by self-blame. The society you live tends to teach that you have the situation, whether at work, school, or at home, that you deserve, so if you are unhappy or under stress, it follows that it is your fault and only what you deserve. This leads to further stress, and the inability to make changes for the better. It helps to realize that you may not be responsible for your stress.

It may help to examine just why, if you are an adult, you choose to remain in a stressful situation. There are many excellent reasons: security, benefits, etc., why you stay. You each have your own reasons for remaining in a stressful situation. If you are a minor and in school, you may correctly feel you don’t have a choice. However, you can examine your situation and find ways to deal with it. It may be possible to choose more compatible classes, for instance. There are usually choices, and it is important to realize that this is so; the alternate choices may not be acceptable or currently possible, as while you are in school. You need to stop any self-blame that is present in your stress. You can learn about the mechanics of stress, and develop methods to deal with it.

One major obstacle to reducing stress is the Fight or Flight response, which is the built-in method of coping that worked well when early humans were faced with temporary emergency stressors, such as a fierce animal attacking – these were the best ways to deal with the situation. However, these are the same methods that lead to chronic stress because they initiate bodily changes that are no longer useful, and that can cause health problems and body weakness. The Fight or Flight response is the opposite of the current methods of dealing with stress. Most of these today are concerned with learning to relax. However, the very idea of relaxation feels threatening, because it is seen as letting down your guard. If stress is provoked by a demanding boss or teacher, for instance, you may feel the need to remain in a state of fighting-readiness, even though there is no safe way to express anger against the boss or teacher. Stress builds up but gives the illusion, even subconsciously, that it is providing safety or preparedness, so you do nothing to correct the condition.

Often people succeed in relieving stress for the short-term but fall back on old habits ways of stressful thinking and behaving. Reducing stress and staying relaxed not only helps the mind to have clearer thinking, which can help us to take the necessary actions to get rid of, or cope with, the conditions causing stress. The process of learning to control stress is life-long.

Now, look back at the three "A"'s.  Think of some situations in which you might apply them.  Here is are two examples:

AWARENESS:  My morning commute ruins my entire day.  Traffic is so heavy when I leave for work that I am completely stressed when I arrive.  I dread this from the moment I wake up and it puts me in a terrible mood for several hours.  Sometimes I am late and this makes things worse.

ANALYZE:  This is a significant stress in my life.  The problem is that I am on the road at the worst time of the day.  I can't change traffic, but perhaps I can change my commute.

ACTION:   Try the morning commute an hour earlier to see if it is better for me. If this works better, talk to my boss and arrange to change my work hours so that I arrive at 7:00 instead of 8:00 and leave an hour early as well.

---------------

AWARENESS:  Ritual work has become extremely stressful for me because I never seem to get it done.

ANALYZE:  In thinking about the past few weeks, I can identify two problems.  When I am with my ritual group, I am so nervous and afraid that I will make a mistake that I immediately do.  I never do rituals at my altar because I am just too tired by the end of the day and then when I am with the group, it just makes it that much harder because I have not practiced.

ACTION:  My problem is not lack of motivation.  Two possible solutions would be to do my rituals at home in the morning or to do them while my dinner is cooking. Secondly, I can also discuss with my ritual group the anxiety I have about doing a ritual from memory and explain that I wish to use my Book of Shadows when I lead group rituals.

Coping with stress

What can we do about stress in general? We can develop coping mechanisms.

1. Follow basic health rules of regular exercise, adequate sleep, and sensible eating habits. Don’t skip meals, especially breakfast. Be sure to eat a nutritionally sound diet. Remember this at break time or after school. A cup of coffee and a donut, or a candy bar and soda pop, are not going to lower stress. A piece of fruit may help. Take regular breaks and a lunch hour to recharge.

2. Learn to prioritize, organize, and schedule the many demands on your time. What is most urgent now? Focus on one thing at a time, before you go on to the next. If you look at everything at once, it can be overwhelming and add to stress.

An important part of setting priorities in your life is accepting that you may not be able to do everything you want to do. Examine your priorities and goals. When you have set priorities, examine them to see what you can eliminate. Determine if the stressful ones are your own goals or someone else's, which are in your control and which ones aren't, and which ones you may be able to eliminate. Even a reduction of one item on your list can bring a sense of freedom, and less overall stress. It is far better to do a few things well, than many things poorly. This elimination or pruning may require you to discuss this with your supervisor at work, your teacher/s, or parents. Do so calmly, as you explain the situation to them.

3. Your state of mind is very important – you can learn about the power of your own mind, and its role in your health. Dr. Bernie Siegel, a cancer surgeon, and Dr. Andrew Weil are among medical doctors who have written about the connection of the mind and body. Dr. Weil emphasizes the importance of a healthy diet and exercise for a healthy state of mind, and Dr. Siegel relates his experience with the power of meditation and visualization as healing tools with terminal cancer patients.

4. Take an informal inventory of daily events and activities, noting which activities put a strain on energy and time, trigger anger or anxiety, or precipitate a negative physical response (e.g., a sour stomach or a headache). Positive experiences should also be noted -- those that are mentally or physically refreshing or produce a sense of accomplishment. Try to identify two or three events or activities that have been significantly upsetting or overwhelming in the last two weeks. Again, examine these to see if something can be eliminated.

5. You need a supportive network of family and friends and an appropriate and safe way to vent feelings. Studies of people who remain happy and healthy despite many life stresses show that most have very good networks of social support. Counseling can be helpful in situations of grief. Grief occurs in all losses. If a co-worker or fellow student is transferred or leaves, etc., this may precipitate a process of grief. If a relationship ends - whether a work colleague, classmate, a lover, or a friend - grief results.

6. An important step is to shift the balance from stress-producing to stress-reducing activities. Daily pleasant events have positive effects on the immune system. Adding pleasurable events has more benefit than simply reducing stressful or negative ones. This is important to realize because many difficult stressful situations can't simply be rescheduled or wished away. If the problem is work or school-related and it is impossible to change the situation, consider as many pleasant relief options as possible. Examples include planning pleasant diversions or physical exercise during lunch hours. Making time for recreation is as essential as paying bills or shopping for groceries or doing homework. Recreation should not simply be watching TV or going on the computer!

7. You can teach yourself to change your emotional reactions to stressful events. This may be the most effective method of permanently reducing its effects. Feelings of anger or frustration that are not expressed in an acceptable way may lead to hostility, a sense of helplessness, and depression. Expressing feelings does not mean venting frustration on others or wallowing in self-pity. Some therapists advise that just talking -- not venting anger without any progress -- is the best approach. Writing in a journal or composing a letter that is never mailed may be sufficient. Expressing your feelings is not enough, however. Learning to listen, empathize, and respond to others with understanding is just as important for maintaining the strong relationships necessary for emotional fulfillment and reduced stress.

8. Keeping a sense of humor in difficult situations is important. Laughing releases the tension of pent-up feelings and helps you to keep perspective.

9. If your situation allows you to have a pet this is another good method. Having a pet often helps reduce medical problems aggravated by stress, including heart disease and high blood pressure. Petting a furry dog or cat is very relaxing, as listening to the song of a canary or parakeet. Watching fish swim has been shown to reduce stress.  If you can't have a pet of your own, visit those of friends or stop to say hello to a friendly dog when you are on a walk.  (Always ask permission of the owner first!)

10. Exercise: Moderate exercise is a great stress reducer, and has added benefits for physical and mental health, especially if done in a place of nature. Unfortunately, people under stress frequently seek relief through drug or alcohol abuse, tobacco use, abnormal eating patterns, or passive activities, such as watching television, overlong time on a computer, or with computer games. The cycle is self-perpetuating; a sedentary routine, alcohol abuse and smoking promote heart disease, interfere with sleep patterns, and lead to increased tension levels.  If alcohol or drugs have become problematic for you, reach out for help from your doctor, a counselor, or a self-help group such as AA or NA.  If you experience stress from another's use of drugs or alcohol, consider seeking help from Alanon or Alateen.

Exercise in combination with stress management techniques is extremely important, and, for those with heart disease, can even reduce significantly the risk for a heart attack. As the body attains fitness its ability to withstand stress improves. The heart and circulation are able to work harder for longer stretches. The muscles, ligaments, bones, and joints become stronger and more flexible. The mind is often better able to cope with stress and stay on an even, happier keel. Even short brisk walks can relieve bouts of stress, especially if done outdoors in nature. You may wish to begin a walking program or strength training.   Swimming is another ideal exercise for many people. Resist the temptation to overdo things at first.  Respect your limits and you will do better in the long run.

Yoga and Tai Chi are excellent forms of exercise which combine many of the benefits of breathing, muscle relaxation, and meditation while toning and stretching the muscles. (Note: Meditation is discussed further in the next lesson). Both help to balance the flow of energy in the body and to relax the body at the same time. Some forms of martial arts may be helpful as well.

Exercise that is competitive adds to stress, so is not always beneficial in reducing stress.

Remember the three "A"'s that you learned about in the last lesson?  You can apply them here, as well.  Here is an example

AWARENESS:   My life has become much too sedentary and I am not eating right.  Therefore, I don't sleep and my body doesn't heal when I get sick.

ANALYZE:   I don't eat right because I am too tired when I get home to cook so I often grab fast food or snack on candy or popcorn.

ACTION:   I could solve this problem in several ways.  First, I will make a list of possible snack options and post it on the refrigerator so that I will be reminded of them when I am tempted to reach for junk food.

I can add fruit and veggies that I like to my shopping list each week.  (Carrots, snap peas, apples, bananas, and those cute little snack sized peppers.)  I can also make some small baggies of carrots so they are handy.  I will wash the apples when I get home from the store to that they are ready to eat.

I will consider ways to use simple spells or charms to help improve my sleep.

I will research kitchen wizardry and healing teas to determine what ways I can use magickal herbs to make my meals more healthful and appealing.

I can plan something active each weekend such as a walk or a visit to the zoo.  I will take my magickal journal and continue my observation of animal energies and correspondences.

I will start taking a walk at lunch and taking my (healthy) sandwich to the park where I can enjoy the fresh air and the company of trees rather than being tempted by the donuts in the break room.


Quick fixes for dealing with stress

Breath:

Phil Nuernberger, Ph.D., has specialized in stress problems. He and others begin stress management with breath control. Diaphragmatic breathing is especially important, as it aids in maintaining a relaxed state. .... How are you breathing? Is it shallow breaths? .... Or do you take deep breaths that fill your chest, and fill the diaphragm? Take several deep relaxing breaths. Watch your breath - in and out - in and out. Concentrate on the flow of your breath - in and out - in and out.....breathing out, release stress and negative feelings....... breathing in, feel healing energy flowing through your body. Breathing is a trigger for relaxation. Breathing is the easiest response for you to learn to control. Deep breathing is the start for other breathing exercises that can help you to control the body’s responses to stress.

Alternate Nostril breathing is a basic yoga technique:

Place a finger or thumb over the right nostril - breathe through the left nostril - hold the breath - reverse position to cover the left nostril - and exhale through the right nostril. Then breathe in through the right nostril - hold - reverse position - exhale through the left nostril, and so on. Five rounds is the minimum recommended for stress reduction. Focus on the flow of air as you breathe. Follow the breath in and out - in and out.

Another yoga breathing technique to center: (that is, to collect all the energy in your body in one spot, about three inches below the navel). Using both nostrils in and out: Inhale for four counts, hold for four counts, exhale for four counts, hold for four counts. Repeat for about fifteen minutes. End with a grounding breath to send the energy into the earth -this gives you stability. You are now centered and grounded.

2. Relaxation

Relaxation is essential in coping with stress. There are two basic forms of relaxation: Autogenic relaxation, in which the mind is used to relax the body through suggestion, and Progressive relaxation, in which parts of the body are in turn contracted and released. In this form, the body relaxes the mind.

To do Autogenic Relaxation: Find a comfortable position, and repeat to yourself: “I am at peace and fully relaxed.” “My right arm is heavy ....” Continue to slowly go through your entire body in this way. Feel the warmth and heaviness of each part as you focus on it. Take your time. After going through the body, relax for a few minutes, and say, “I am refreshed and completely alert” or something similar. This method can be used at work or school and is not obvious.

To do Progressive Relaxation: Find a comfortable position. Focus on your body sensations while alternately contracting and releasing parts of the body. Go slowly through your entire body contracting and releasing. Muscle tension, followed by a conscious effort to relax the muscles, allows you to recognize the difference between tension and relaxation.

Most people find one of these methods more helpful for them than the other. Try both and find out which one works best for you. These methods are available on tape or CD and are readily available at most bookstores and libraries and are frequently offered in workshops.

3.Visualization:

The importance and validity of this tool are demonstrated in Dr. Bernie Siegel’s work with his cancer patients, many of whom cured themselves through the use of visualization. The mind has a powerful effect on the body. Visualization has proved helpful in sports training, in which the athlete beforehand imagines going through the process, such as playing tennis well, and is aided in the actual game.

Think about the effect of TV News just before going to bed. Is this something that will relax you? Do you start the day with TV news? Do you have the news on during meal times? The negative effect of the news can raise underlying stress, and prevent relaxation and peacefulness.  Try opera at breakfast or Jazz during dinner!

An excellent method of visualization for stress reduction is to go in imagination to a peaceful place in nature. The mind does not distinguish between an actual event and one that is vividly imagined or visualized, so this method has the relaxing effect of the actual experience of being in nature. It may be helpful to have a picture of a nature scene in your office, on your desk, or in your locker, and to mentally go into it for a few minutes during your break. This is another technique which is not obvious to others. (Be careful not to be caught ‘daydreaming’!)

4. Affirmations:

You probably talk to yourself all day in an ongoing internal monologue – most people do. For many people a large part of this self-talk is negative. Do you ever say to yourself, “That was dumb?” etc.? That is negative self-talk and is unconscious for most people. You can change this with affirmations. Affirmations are positive statements or self-talk that are repeated over and over regularly to “reprogram” the mind. You can become aware, and learn to stop the negative, self- criticizing statements you may say. Do your best to cancel a negative statement immediately, and replace it with a positive statement, such as, “I am lovable and worthy of love”.

“I am capable, and I am successful in all that I do”. You can learn to increase your self-respect, and be less judgmental toward yourself and others. You tend to become overly critical when you feel a lack of self- esteem. You may decide to examine your life to become more aware of the things that you are thankful for - including your job and the opportunity to get an education!

In a similar way, if you change your desires and wants into preferences, you can release the need for a particular outcome. You no longer have to have something work out as you want it; you now can say, “This is my preference”, and let it go if it doesn’t work out as you wish. You become less emotionally involved. In this way, you focus more on the present moment, which reduces anxiety and worry. Most of the time you live in the past and the future, rather than the present, and this adds to your stress.

5. Focusing:

When you are aware of the present moment, you reduce stress. There are many methods to help you to focus. Anchoring can be used to focus on the present moment. Examples:

Touch your wrist, with the affirmation, “I am relaxed, etc.” You can touch your watch to remind yourself to be in the here and now. Always, come back to the breath.

A simple Mindfulness technique is to notice with all your senses, what you are doing right now. If you are writing, feel the pen or pencil in your hand, the feeling of your other hand on the paper, the chair or stool you are sitting on, sounds around you, etc. Notice your breath. As much as you can, stop regularly and notice, sense, and be aware. This brings you to the here and now and is an entire meditation practice of its own.

6. Discharging Negative Energy:

Negative energy from another person or a situation is anything which leaves you feeling tired, depressed, low in energy, etc. This is usually energy from someone who is not aware of what they are doing. If you are around a depressed person they will automatically pull positive energy from you, leaving you feeling drained and with the negative energy you need to get rid of. This is an easy and effective method to discharge negative energy and fill up with positive energy:

Stand up. Reach up to the sky as you breathe in - feel yourself pulling in Light and energy from the sun, the moon, and the stars. You may visualize the Light entering you as a sphere of radiant light. As you breathe out, lower your hands towards the earth, discharging (that is, sending down) any negative energy you may have in your body. Do this a few times. This will ground you, release negative energy, and fill you with positive energy. You may choose to pull up Earth energy as you end, visualizing it as a cloak of protection around your body.

Optional: Eggshell of Protection: From a source over your head, fill your body with Light – extend the Light a few inches in egg/ovoid shape around your body. Harden the edges like an eggshell, and know that nothing negative can enter. This is especially helpful when you around negative or draining people or situations. This works very well as an ending or closing to the Discharging and Energizing Breaths. This is an excellent practice to do at the start of your day.

7. “Wham” situations: The Unexpected or Urgent Demand:

It’s an unexpected urgent demand and is causing extra stress (Your supervisor/teacher wants that report NOW and you thought you had another week!). What can you do to relieve this unexpected stress? Go to the washroom, into a stall, and tense up your entire body. Now shake it out forcefully. Do it again until you have released the tension.  Take some cleansing, deep breaths and return to work.

Go to the washroom; wash your hands imagining that you are washing away all stress. See the water as black and ‘icky’, and watch it become clear. Now shake your hands dry, shaking off all remaining stress.

One-minute timeouts:

1. Crumple a piece of paper into a ball and play basketball with your wastebasket.

2. Think of something funny and laugh out loud.

3. Close your eyes and picture waves on the beach or a sunset.

4. Close your eyes and let your mind go blank.

5. Drink a glass of water in exactly 30 sips.

6. Make your own ending to ‘Roses are red, violets are blue”

7. Draw an object near you.

8. Take off your shoes and wiggle your toes.

9. Close your eyes and feel a wave of relaxation that starts at your head and goes down to your toes.

10. Imagine what you would do if you won $10 million. What’s the first thing you would do? What else would you do?

11.  Write some haiku about a relaxing topic and post it over your desk.

12.  Keep a file of funny cartoons from the newspaper and spend two minutes reading through them when you need a break from stress.

13.  Keep a small sachet of lavender in your desk, close your eyes, place it about three inches from your face, and inhale three cleansing breaths.

Seeking calm in your mind and soul

In this lesson, you will be asked to look beyond stress and to seek calm in your mind and soul.

1. Find something every day to be thankful for. Focus on what is good in your life, and minimize the negative.

2. Question things, that is, think “outside the box” in creative ways.

3. Do something for someone else. Volunteer work in a senior living home, or reading to children in a public school, or helping out at a local animal shelter will each benefit others, and let you focus on their problems rather than just your own.

4. Meditate, practice positive affirmations and visualizations daily.

5. Eat and exercise sensibly and mindfully.  (That means to do something with your full attention in the moment.)

6. Do something that makes you laugh, or gives you joy, each day.

More Ways to find calm

Note: Be sure that the methods you choose are healthy ones for you. An example of an unhealthy way to attempt to have control over one’s life is manifested in eating disorders. Sometimes young people, girls more often than boys, feel that eating is the only thing in their lives that they can really control. This can be disastrous for your health! This is not a positive way to gain control of your life and will only lead to further stress.  If this has become your way of coping, it is time to talk to someone and ask for help.

Find positive ways in which you build calmness into your life. There are many if you just look about you. You may join activities or clubs. You may become active in your union at work. Join a local food co-op and become active in general meetings. Join a Little Theater Group, or coach a Little League team, find a creative outlet - making jewelry, painting, etc.  Seek out a Tarot study group or even start one!

Remember the saying, “Practice random acts of kindness, and senseless acts of beauty”. When you do this, you focus less on your own problems, and you act from love. Love softens the heart center and relaxes you. Do something every day for someone else. Smile! A smile on your face communicates to the rest of your body and mind and helps to overcome mild feelings of depression, helplessness, etc.

It’s a cliché but look at the glass as half full rather than half empty. It’s all in your perception - it’s the same glass either way. Find something every day to be thankful for. Focus on what is good in your life, and minimize the negative. Allow yourself to be successful even if it’s just in small things. A small victory or accomplishment is a victory or accomplishment. It adds to self-confidence and personal empowerment.

Desk Yoga

Note: this may not always be practical!

1. The spinal twist. This is an excellent tension release for the entire trunk of your body, which can be done at your desk. Place your right leg over your left leg, place your left hand on top of your right knee, and place your right hand behind the chair. (be careful if you sit in a swivel chair). Sit up tall, and pull against your knee with your left hand and against the chair with your right hand so you draw your body around to look over your shoulder. Make sure you work your way slowly up your body - from your hips to your waist to your chest to your shoulders to your head - until your entire upper body is turned toward the right. Come back - slowly - and repeat on the opposite side.

2. The side stretch. Raise your arms up straight above your head close to your ears and intertwine your hands with your palms facing up to the ceiling. Keeping your body straight, move slowly to the right. Come up and repeat on the opposite side. Always remember to start from an upright position before moving over to the right or left. Repeat three to five times.

3. Quick neck stretch. Bring both hands behind your chair, raise your chest and bring your head back. Hold for a few seconds. Make sure you keep holding onto the back of the chair. Repeat until you feel a release of tension in your neck. It shouldn't take more than three to five repetitions.

4. Long neck stretch. Hold your shoulders back and sit up straight. Lift your head, then slowly bring it down to your chin. Turn slowly to the right and then to the left; bring your right ear to your right shoulder, then your left ear to your left shoulder. (That's different, of course, from bringing your left or right shoulder to your left or right ear.)

5. Shoulder release. Raise your shoulders up, then release them down. Repeat until you feel the tension releasing.

6. Standing exercise. Stand in back of your chair and place both hands on the top of the chair. Walk backward until your body is at a right angle. Allow your head to drop down. Now, walk forward and allow your hands to drop to your side. Raise your chest and drop your head back.

7. Rhythmic breathing. Count as you inhale through your nose. Count to the same number as you exhale through your nose. That is, if you inhale for a count of 6, then exhale for 6 as well. Repeat. If you can't fall asleep at night, do this rhythmic breathing. Do it when waiting in line.

Meditation:

Breathing methods, relaxation, focusing on the present moment, and visualization are all components of meditation. One major cause of stress is the sense of loneliness that comes because you do not know yourself. This can be reduced by meditation. Meditation is not in itself a spiritual practice, nor is it in conflict with any religious beliefs. All it requires is some time alone, in a quiet place where you will not be disturbed.

Start by following the breath. If you choose, you can then go in imagination to your place in nature for as long as you wish. Explore it, listen to the sounds about you, notice any colors, smell flowers or the woods, the time of day, the season, etc. If you wish, you can build a place of your own here, your personal sanctuary. This may be a grove in the woods, or a cottage, etc. Your own imagination is the only limit here!

There are many classes offered on meditation, including here at the Grey School in the Psychic Arts Department.  You can also find resources in the Grimoire for the Apprentice Wizard, pages 206-210. You may just follow your breath, in and out. Meditate for 10 minutes minimum daily for greatest benefit. Short daily meditation is more beneficial than a long one once a week. Don't expect results instantly as this may take some time.  Meditation brings you to the present moment without the stress of the past and the future. Eventually, it will give you a sense of peace and joy.

A Buddhist Mindfulness Meditation: Be in a comfortable position and a relaxed state of mind.

Breathe in and out, say to yourself, “May I be Healthy”

Breathing in and out, say to yourself, “May I be at Peace”

Breathing in and out, say to yourself, “May I be Happy”

Think of someone else, a relative, a friend, someone you know of, anywhere:

Breathing in and out, say to yourself, “May they be Healthy”

Breathing in and out, say to yourself, “May they be at Peace”

Breathing in and out, say to yourself, “May they be Happy”

You may finish by saying to yourself, “May all Beings be Healthy"

Breathing in and out, say to yourself, “May all Beings be at Peace”

Breathing in and out, say to yourself, “May all Beings be Happy”

When you are ready, return to this time and place.

This can be done anywhere, anytime. It’s a great way to start the day.

Walking Meditation is just that. Go for a walk, in nature if possible, and focus on each step you take. Walk slowly. For part of your walk stay inner-focused, and notice how each part of your body moves as you walk. For part of your walk, look around you and notice what there is to see or feel. Stay detached and just observe.

Chanting is another form of meditation. You can chant a word such as "Peace” or “Love”, or chant the vowels, A E I O U on one long note. If you wish, think of the four cardinal directions and their correspondences as you chant the vowels. “Om” (ohhhmmm) is a universal chant.

Practice a form of meditation for a total of 21 days, and you will have changed your neural pathways. After 21 days you will have formed a positive habit of daily meditation. This is a positive way to manage your stress!

Spirituality:

A belief in something beyond, or higher, than yourself, is another aid in coping with stress and becoming happy. A belief in a Higher Power, however you perceive it, lets you know that you are not alone, and may give you a sense of the purpose of your life. If your life seems without a purpose, this adds to your stress. When you become aware of the sacredness in your daily life, and in each of your actions, you discover importance and meaning in your life. Then it becomes deep and profoundly satisfying and fulfilling.

Stress survival kit


1- SMILE

Your heart and body will respond to your face. Smile at others. When you see someone smile in response it will lift your spirit. Smile at everyone you meet for one day. Your smile may make the difference for someone else and lift their spirits as well!

2- RAISE YOUR EYEBROWS

Raising your eyebrows also raises your countenance. Raise only your eyebrows when the

rest of you feels too heavy to lift.

3- KEEP YOUR CHIN UP

This also will help to raise your spirits. And while it's up there, look upward from time to time. It's hard to feel down while you're looking up.

4- THE MAGIC OF MUSIC

Music has the power to put you in any kind of mood you want. Background music can aid in relaxation. It can cover up other distracting sounds. Lively music can raise your energy levels. If you know how to play a musical instrument, play it. Learn to drum and participate in a drumming circle.

5- BURN INCENSE

Your sense of smell is extremely powerful and primal. It can bring back memories of happy times in your life; it can energize or soothe you. Use incense to clear the energy in your space by using either your hand or a feather to waft it about. This lifts the energy and is good to do regularly.

6- WAKE UP ON THE RIGHT SIDE OF THE BED

Check the furniture arrangement of your bedroom and change the location of your bed if necessary to take advantage of nature's natural alarm clock. Sleep in freshly washed sheets as often as possible. Leave the window open just a crack so that you have fresh air to breathe all night, and awaken to the sound of birds in the morning. Leave the shades open a bit so moonlight can bathe you while you sleep and the sun's rays can revitalize you in the morning.

7- CLEAN YOUR HOUSE OR ROOM

Cleaning and scrubbing, in and of themselves, will work to lift your spirit, and the results will leave you feeling energized, yet serene. It results in feelings of satisfaction and accomplishment. When you clean, organize! When in doubt, throw it out. Eliminate the clutter and you will find that your outlook improves considerably.

8- DO NOTHING

If problems are stressing you, sometimes the best thing to do is nothing at all. Let it ride, learn to surrender and trust. Ask yourself what lesson you are supposed to be learning right now. Is it trust? Tell yourself, “I'm exactly where I need to be right now.”

9- EAT A HEALTHY MEAL

Sometimes we just need to recharge! A healthy meal can put us in a strong state of mind and ready us to take on the challenges we might encounter.

10- READ A GOOD BOOK

Reading is an excellent way to deal with the mild depression that may accompany stress. The reading process involves more than one of the senses. Where do you sit? What do you wear? Do you have something to eat or drink? Do you wrap up in a blanket, sit on a comfortable sofa or favorite chair, sit near a window, play pleasant background music, have a pet to curl up with?

11- GO TO A MOVIE

Go to a movie of your choice, all by yourself. An afternoon matinee is a great mini-vacation. Buy a big tub of buttered popcorn and settle back.

12- SING

If you enjoy singing, do it often. The shower is especially good for this!

13- USE YOUR TELEPHONE

You might find that you have a couple of people you can call when you need a lift. Reach out. Sometimes just expressing your feelings to someone who understands is all you need. Be sure to thank this person for their support before hanging up. Reach out to someone who may be feeling more down than you do. This simple act of kindness will lift your own spirits.

14 – CUT BACK ON TV. When you eliminate even one program, you gain an hour that you can use for something else.

15 – COOKING. Cooking is creative, and fun to do! You use your mind creatively; you involve your body, especially if you make bread and knead it, and your spirit is renewed as you eat what you yourself created. Your own food is nurturing, comforting, and healthy. Enjoy the wonderful scent of fresh homemade bread, or still warm chocolate chip cookies!


Whats Next? If you’ve completed this class and find that you’re interested in healing and would like to know more, here are some suggestions.

a. Sign up for additional healing-related classes in the Grey School.

b. Select a Major or Minor in Healing after enrolling. You will pick your Major and Minor in Year Two of your studies. Your Major and Minor require you to develop expertise in those areas, and act as a sort of “specialty” during your years at the Grey School.

c. Take the “Wizardly First Aid” class in the Department of Healing. This is a general first aid class and will also teach you a great deal about observation and physical assessment. These are valuable skills to have if you’re interested in Wortcunning and medicinal herb use.

©Grey School of Wizardry 2020, All rights reserved Current Instructor: Dean Emrhys Starhawk

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