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As published in Yoga Magazine
February 2011

Befriending Stress

3 Steps to Revolutionize your Responses to Stress

— by Jonathan Pofsky, MFT, CMT

Meet and Greet

The first step to transform your stress responses is the crucial act of befriending stress. When we meet a person, we might greet them in many ways. Perhaps we greet them in a personal manner that communicates openness, care, and friendliness. Or we might greet them in a closed manner that communicates avoidance, indifference, or even judgment. Meeting a symptom of stress is no different. Yet as humans, we tend to gravitate towards what is pleasant and push away what is unpleasant. So it is natural that we would greet the unpleasant thoughts, feelings, and sensations of stress with aversion, contraction, and judgment. In the world of stress responses though, this closed greeting exacerbates harmful symptoms of stress. Tension increases in both the body and mind, further activating the SNS. When the stress trigger has expired, this tension continues to cause a disturbance in our ability to rest. Even though it may seem counter-intuitive to some, meeting our stress in the mind and body and greeting it with acceptance and friendliness communicates a harmonious relationship. When we are in harmony with our inner and outer environment, we create the right conditions for a restful mind and body.

This critical first step is to remove any and all conflict with our present experience, despite our preferences for things to be different. Bring your attention inside. Take a quick inventory of your thoughts, feelings, and sensations. These will be the objects to meet and greet. Name the worried thoughts, the fear and frustration, and the knot in the pit of your belly or chest, for example. Acknowledge the temporary life of these forms and allow them space to be here. An inner monologue may sound something like this, “This is what is here right now. I see you and welcome you.” You will find the right words that work for you. Since what is happening is already happening, the sooner you recognize and accept its presence, the sooner its grasp can be released. When you struggle with the content of your experience, it is no longer free to arise and pass away naturally as do all of our thoughts, sensations, and feelings.

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Published Articles

Befriending Stress
    - Yoga Magazine

Keeping Calm
    - Yoga Magazine

Favorite Books Lists

A list of some favorite books related to helping with stress and anxiety.

Books on Stress & Anxiety
Books on Depression
Books on Stress & Mindfulness

Jonathan’s Book

These words are my truth, the result of a commitment to deep listening and trust in life below the surface of things.

Helpful Links

Links to resources for help with stress and anxiety.