Stress Awareness Day: An exercise in de-stressing using mindfulness practice

Mike Fisher, trained counsellor, facilitator, anger-management consultant and author of Mindfulness & the Art of Managing Anger has a whole chapter in his book devoted to dealing with stress. Today, Nov 7th, is Stress Awareness Day so here are a few de-stressing exercises.


Stress is often misperceived and misunderstood, with people failing to acknowledge the real impact it has on their lives. Stress in itself is not what causes the suffering – it’s the anxious thoughts that drive the emotional distress in the body that are responsible.

People often think that anger is the driving force behind stress, but actually stress is anxiety-/fear-driven. Stress is created when we believe we have no control over situations. It might be true that we have very little control over the inevitable, but we do have control over our thoughts. We can train the brain to consider positive outcomes as opposed to fearing the worst. Rather than being at the constant mercy of stress, we can look at it from the perspective of what is getting in the way of us dealing with our stress.
An Exercise in De-Stressing

I invite you to investigate these five key underlying factors and determine your relationship to each. Start by looking at your resistance to:

1. Not making ourselves a priority in our own lives
2. Relinquishing control, or at times needing to take control
3. Not trusting ourselves or others
4. Seeking approval or trying to prove ourselves
5. Putting ourselves under too much pressure.

Once you have identified which underlying factor/stressor above is most pertinent to you, investigate it further by using the Shaking the Apple Tree process below. (It may be that you want to run this process through with all five stressors).

There are two parts to this exercise. Firstly, identify the biggest stressor in your life and note it in your journal. Then, in relation to that stressor, ask yourself the following questions:

1. What do I need to let go of?
2. What do I need to admit?
3. What do I need to acknowledge?
4. What do I need to accept?
5. What do I need to give up?

Now look at the list above and decide which statement really stands out as the most significant for you. Circle or highlight it and move on to the second part of this process, a series of questions and answers arising from that statement.

Bingo! That’s the answer we all want.

Through this process, you may start to notice several things about yourself:

1. Your emotional investment in how the world sees you
2. How you create your own suffering without considering the implications for yourself or others
3. How stress impacts on your self-esteem.


My biggest stressor is putting myself under so much pressure!In order to stop putting myself under so much pressure, I need to…
• Let go of thinking I am superhuman.• Admit that I tend to believe I have to do everything myself and not ask for help.
• Acknowledge that my world won’t collapse if I give myself a break.
• Accept that taking the pressure off myself gives me a lot more time to relax and enjoy myself with family and friends.
• Give up believing that everything needs to be done right now and accept that some things can wait.

The statement that really stands out for me is: ‘Believing that everything needs to be done right now.’
Q If I stopped believing that everything has to be done right now, how would my life be different?
A I would stop putting pressure on myself.

Q If I stopped putting pressure on myself, how would my life be different?
A I would probably feel calmer and more relaxed.

Q If I felt calmer and more relaxed, how would my life be different?
A I would be pleasant to be around and the people in my life would be happier.

Q And if I were more pleasant to be around and the people in my life were happier, how would my life be different?
A I would be happy!

Posted by

Emily Owen

Press and Publicity Officer at Ivy and Leaping Hare, get in touch for review copies of any of our titles

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