This week is International Stress Awareness Week. The International Stress Management Association states:
"Stress is a response to demands on the body and life, a response to crisis and fears. If stress gets overwhelming it can cause other mental health issues, emotional exhaustion and physical illness and can impact on work, relationships, families, and every aspect of life. When someone is suffering from negative or overwhelming stress, they may not act or react normally in some situations, for example driving or in an argument, with disastrous consequences."
One of my colleagues, Jonathan, sent the team an email set out in italics below about the difference that noticing and gratitude can make to managing stress. I thought it would be useful to share more widely, because it struck a chord with me. I was introduced to the concepts of noticing and gratitude after my brother died unexpectedly a few years ago. Initially I went through the motions and ‘got on’ with everyday life – there was so much to do, and so many people including my parents that needed my support.
Over the coming months I couldn’t get back into a rhythm. My world had been redrawn and I found it difficult to reconnect, and things which ordinarily brought joy or contentment just didn’t. I wanted to pull up the duvet and shut the world off. I was devastated at the death of Andrew, and had a deep sense that I no longer knew my place in the world. As with so many people – men in particular – I ‘chose’ not to talk too much, and I didn’t want therapy as it felt important to experience the grief in my own way and in my own time.
A friend suggested learning about the practice of noticing and gratitude. She thought I would be able to manage it, and that it might be helpful, which it was. It was brilliant to help me refocus through the unimaginable grief I was experiencing then, and I still find it beneficial as a regular practice.
Thank you to Jonathan for sharing the below with staff and allowing me to share it more widely. Whether or not this appeals to you, and however you find works to help you manage stress, I recommend this beautiful two-minute YouTube video that Jonathan shared with us. It is a delight.
Einstein said: “You can either treat your life as if nothing is a miracle, or treat your life as if everything is a miracle”. Noticing and gratitude are two sides of the same coin that can help melt stress away.
Noticing – this could be anything that catches your attention – you could try just noticing sounds on the way to the office. No need to go searching or listening for particular sounds. Instead, as best you can, simply remain open, so that you are receptive to awareness of sounds from all directions as they arise – sounds near, sounds far, sounds in front, behind, to the side, above or below. In this way, you are opening to the whole space of sound around you – the ‘soundscape’.
Gratitude – once you are noticing more, it is a small step to being grateful! It is good to note that gratitude is not just about being thankful for the good things in your life. It is about being thankful for everything in your life. Some gratitude meditation practices also include keeping a gratitude journal. Don’t feel you have to do it every day, because this can get a bit like homework. Any meditation practice is done best through a lens of kindness and acceptance. Our company shout outs illustrate this perfectly, but feel free to compliment or thank a friend or colleague too.