How to reduce stress and anxiety

I wrote an article for a client last week. The title was Mindfulness Meditation to Reduce Anxiety. It made me think about a lot of things. I eat dinner on the Hill most nights because I like a Cambodian restaurant there. The woman who runs it is very friendly, the food is good and it’s inexpensive. So far, I’ve only met one man who seems happy. Most of the men I see on the Hill have frowns on their faces. I’d like to teach them how to reduce stress and anxiety, but I don’t think they would listen to me.

I had to look up mindfulness meditation. One site gave five recommendations:

  1. Watching the breath activates the parasympathetic nervous system and lowers stress levels
  2. Observing the mind as an observer can also reduce stress. The idea is to watch all your thoughts without filtering them, but do not get caught up in them.
  3. Acknowledging your emotions rather than suppressing them can help you learn to control them.
  4. Imagine a best case scenario instead of a worst case scenario. This can help you cope with stress and find a positive solution.
  5. Be comfortable with yourself rather than seek comfort from others.

Only the first two were directly related to meditation, but the other three were important as well:

  • If you objectively acknowledge your emotions, you can learn to control them
  • When we’re stressed or anxious, we often imagine the worst case scenario. There is usually a way out of a problem, but if we dwell on the worst case scenario, we can easily get stuck and make matters worse.
  • Being comfortable with yourself should be obvious. If you’re always seeking comfort from others, you will always be anxious.

So I look at these men and wonder why they are so miserable. I’ve learned a lot from the one positive man I’ve met on the Hill. He knows most of them and most of them are alcoholics. Some have very little money, but they don’t manage it well. They spend it on alcohol and prostitutes and are broke by the end of the month. That’s a vicious cycle that is sure to make you even more miserable. Alcohol is okay, but not in large quantities and if you start drinking in the morning, it adds to your troubles. Alcohol can be a depressant.

How to Reduce Stress and Anxiety

I’m not an expert on happiness, but I live quite happily here in Sihanoukville. I think it’s because I know how to access my frontal lobes. In fact, I know that’s why. When I sit down and get my consciousness into my frontal lobes, I always feel better. I don’t forget any problems I have, but getting into the frontal lobes makes me see them in a new light. I find solutions to the problems rather than feeling stuck in them.

I have a gimpy knee, so the only exercise I get is swimming. I’m a good swimmer and can swim a fairly long distance. I take my time, though, because I like to enjoy my surroundings. I swim one direction using the back stroke. I love watching the clouds against the blue sky. I swim back using the crawl. I wear goggles and watch the fish and the play of light on the sand or rocks. I also stop and take a look around me. I swim around a headland and enjoy looking at the trees and listening to the water lap against the rocks.

I also have to overlook things. The beach where I go is filthy with trash. I went the other day and trash was mingling with these beautiful purple flowers. I could have focused on the trash, but I chose to focus on the flowers instead. Trash on the beach is a problem on some beaches here, but there is nothing I can do about it. If I spent a few hours cleaning it up, it would be back within a few days.

Meditation taught me to access my frontal lobes, but I didn’t know it at the time. The technique I learned taught me to focus on the point between the eyebrows while watching my breath using a mantra. I think those years of meditating made accessing my frontal lobes easier for me, but it’s not hard to feel some relief from stress just by using Neil Slade’s “feather tickling” exercise. I’ve attached a SlideShare presentation I made a few years ago to show how easy it is to reduce stress and anxiety.