When my husband began teaching Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction (MBSR), I was eager to take one of his 10-week courses. I know that MBSR is a highly effective way to reduce medical symptoms, manage chronic pain, ease stress, and relieve psychological distress based on more than 30 years of proven medical research.
Honestly, few of us escape the ravages of stress in modern life. Stress has without question played an overbearing role in my own life. Post traumatic stress has etched unhelpful grooves into my brain that can sometimes turn on alarm bells at the least provocation. Fortunately, we now have tools like MBSR to retrain and rewire the brain and modulate the stress response.
To beat stress, the first step is to know your stress. At the start of the MBSR course, I received a simple, open-ended “Stress Assessment” to complete. I took my time – a few days, actually – to explore all the causes of stress in my life.
I wasn’t surprised by the “biggies”. It was the small stressors that caught me unaware. For example, I noticed how I get amped up when other people have a problem. If someone loses their key or is running late, I’m suddenly stressed out about it. It was very eye-opening to observe this blended response. Seeing it was the beginning of loosening it.
I also became aware of how managing the small details of life tends to wear on me. I need to choose and lead a simple life for my own peace of mind. Less stuff means less stress for me. I’m paring down accordingly.
The Stress Assessment
Have you ever had the chance to assess the stress factors in your life? If not, you might want to use this stress assessment to start getting to know your stress.
List up to ten situations or health issues that you perceive as current stressors in your life. Be as specific as possible. Next to each entry rate these factors or situations on a scale of 1-10 as follows:
- 1 – not very stressful
- 2 − 4 mildly stressful
- 5 − 7 moderately stressful
- 8 − 10 very stressful
If you can, give yourself a few days and watch for stress triggers in your life. There may be hidden ones that don’t come immediately into your mind.
Stress affects the cardiovascular, musculoskeletal, nervous, and immune systems. When we get stuck in an ongoing cycle of stress reactivity it can and, most likely, will lead to disorders, disease, and psychological distress.
But we can break free from stress reactivity and learn healthy ways to respond to stress. And that means more happiness and ease. Beating stress begins with knowing your stress factors.
Did you take the Stress Assessment? What did you discover?
Recommended Reading: Full Catastrophe Living, Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness by Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D.