Combat stress with no-nonsense mindfulness


‘HOW CAN I COMBAT STRESS EFFECTIVELY?’ is a question millions of people around the world ask themselves on a daily basis. Sadly, the number of people suffering from stress is rapidly growing. More than 50% of employees in the US feel burned out, find it hard to focus, experience anxiety and suffer from exhaustion.

Not only are we being treated by specialists for physical ailments that develop from emotional issues, but we also spend billions of dollars on synthetic medicines or therapy to fight depression.

If you’d like to combat stress, then this might be the most important article you could read in your life.

Because in this article I will not only cover all the ins and outs of chronic stress, the harmful effects on your mind, your body and the people around you.

More importantly, I will make you understand that mindfulness can give you a completely new life – without the need for chemical substitutes or continuous therapy.

I will also explain how you can learn to use mindfulness in a quick and easy way to get your health and sanity back on track – and keep it there.

So allow yourself to take some time to read this article. It’s written by a true stress veteran turned successful mindfulness teacher (moi indeed). Mindfulness has impacted and changed my life profoundly. I now live the life that I used to dream of when I was still hopelessly stuck and chronically stressed out.

I know you can change your life too – once you find the right mindfulness approach. Start with reading this article: it could be the most important decision of your life.

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No time to read this article? Download my free ebook and discover how my unique mindfulness approach can help you combat stress and give your life a health boost. You’ll feel more balanced and emotionally stronger within just a week.

I teach you how to combat stress with the power of mindfulness

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Hi, my name is Marisa Garau and my international bestsellers, e-courses, articles and blog posts have already helped thousands of people in Europe, US, Australia and New Zealand to reduce their stress and lack of fulfilment. Not just for a few months, but for the rest of their lives.

The power of mindfulness

After having followed my e-programme, many of my clients and followers share with me how great the impact of mindfulness is on their daily lives.

  • Thanks to mindfulness they no longer allow themselves to be dominated by negative thoughts, or to be overwhelmed by out-of-control emotions.

  • Thanks to mindfulness they now enjoy inner peace and mental clarity, and embrace their life and all its challenges with more calm and trust.

  • Thanks to mindfulness they are more patient and balanced and friendlier too. 

It’s not only healthier for themselves, but also for the people who are close to them.

In short: with mindfulness they can finally be the person they deserve to be and enjoy everything life has to offer.

Tip: also read my in-depth article on stress

Combat your stress by controlling your thoughts

The principles of mindfulness are rooted in the 2500 year old Buddhist philosophy that reality isn’t good or bad, but that our thoughts judge reality to be good or bad.

The judgements produced by our human brain sometimes cause a sense of timeless happiness and contentment.

But more often they cause feelings of stress, restlessness, frustration, anger, sadness, envy and dispair.

Only we colour reality with our opinions, because we possess intellect and are able to think about the past and the future. Animals do not have this ability, and do not know the psychological stress we experience.

Because we also have animal instincts which protect us from life-threatening situations, our brain is almost completely focussed on recognising danger.

Fretting about the past

If you would take a minute to actually ‘watch’ the thoughts your brain produces, you’ll see that they tend to fret about things that have happened to you in the past:

‘That should never have happened!’

‘The next time I won’t take it anymore!’

‘Why did this happen to me, it’s so unfair!’

Worrying about the future

And when your thoughts wonder about future events, your brain will again start fretting about potentially dangerous things that might happen to you:

‘I hope that my boss won’t complain about that project.’

‘Hopefully it won’t rain tomorrow when we take a walk, otherwise I’ll be soaked and our day will be ruined.’

‘This next vacation must be really good, otherwise I won’t be able to relax and then I’ll be exhausted when I get back to work.’

‘I have to be in time for this meeting, otherwise my friend will be upset.’

And you wonder why you so often feel restless, frustrated and stressed?

How life-threatening is missing a meeting?

Your protective brain produces all sorts of frightening thoughts to warn you of danger and threats. Unfortunately this part of the human brain isn’t very clever. And so it warns you about ‘threats’ that in reality are not quite life-threatening. It even warns you of threats from the past… things that you can’t change anymore, even if you wanted to.

The ‘potential danger’ warning prepares processes in your body to make you ready to fight, flight or freeze. Your body produces adrenaline to be able to act immediately. The stress hormone cortisol lowers the energy supply to the organs so that the big muscles in your arms and legs receive a steady flow of energy, in order to fight or run away.

But, because ‘danger’ in our modern and safe society often isn’t real danger, your body won’t actually shoot into action even though it’s fully prepared. Not putting all this built-up energy to good use is quite an unhealthy situation. 

Imagine: you have an important meeting, but your train is delayed. So your brain starts producing negative thoughts about the future: ‘Oh no, I’ll be late for this all-important meeting! They will all be waiting for me and I’ll make a complete fool of myself.’

These thoughts trigger your body to go in full action mode: to flight or fight. But since you won’t be really fighting or flighting, all those hormones can’t really do their job, and thus damage the sensitive systems in your body. They will also make you feel really stressed when this process takes place within your body.

Awareness versus unawareness

Being subconsciously overwhelmed by negative thoughts doesn’t only impact the refined systems of your body, but your emotional wellbeing as well. If you want to stop this from happening and combat stress, it’s important to get back in control.

Fortunately, this is not really difficult. The only thing that you have to learn, is that you become aware of those thoughts which harass you with their so-called threats and then unleash all kinds of tiresome judgements about your reality as it is.

Knowing and acknowledging that your brain produces a whole lot of useless but stressful thoughts – pulling you into ‘if only this won’t happen’ and ‘if only they won’t think that about me’ scenarios – is the key to creating a more relaxed life with less worrying.

Negative thoughts are okay

Mind you: you don’t have to change these negative thoughts. Understanding that your brain produces these thoughts is enough to separate yourself from them and stop yourself from being pulled into their frightening content.

Let’s go back to the delayed train. You think that the situation causes your stress. But that isn’t the case really. Your thoughts about this situation, the instant judgements and the random conclusions are the real causes of the stress you feel.

In short: all the stuff your brain manages to produce – not the situation in the outside world. ‘I’ll be late and make a fool of myself.’ This is something your brain cooks up, it hasn’t happened yet. 

Your brain runs off to a future scenario and judges that your showing up late will create some disaster in the office. And so your heart starts to pound and your mouth gets dry and your hands start shaking.

But… reality can be very different. Maybe the meeting was cancelled. Maybe the others were only worried about your absence and are happy to see you. Maybe you won’t make a fool of yourself. Maybe there was a fire in the office and you’re extremely lucky that your train was delayed.

So, in this present moment, while you’re waiting for your train, there is nothing wrong really. The situation is completely ordinary and stress-free – you are on the platform and you wait for your train to come. If you wouldn’t have a brain, and wouldn’t be able to produce thoughts, then this would be the plain reality with nothing disturbing about it. A person waits for a train to arrive. Period.

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Download my new ebook for free. You'll learn all about mindfulness and how it's the best way to combat stress and grow inner balance – not just for now, but for the rest of your life. 

The impact of unawareness on your everyday life

Being subconsciously pulled into the frightening content of thoughts which your brain produces even when in rather innocent situations (like waiting for a train), triggers damaging responses in your body since the stress hormone cortisol runs rampant once it’s activated.

I know all about this process as my unaware, tense responses caused chronic stress, which led to a serious thyroid disorder and severe muscle and eye problems (I had eye surgery three times). Others who suffer from chronic stress get an irregular heart beat, insomnia, irritated bowel syndrome, skin problems like psoriasis, and lung diseases like astma.

Apart from this whole range of physical disorders, chronic stress also causes emotional problems. I have been depressed for many years, until it got so severe (I was starting to consider suicide) that I needed urgent psychotherapy for more than a year to sort myself out.

The impact of unawareness on everyone you love

But helplessly believing and reacting to negative thoughts also has a massive impact on the people in your life. Imagine that you really missed the start of that all-important meeting. Once you rushed in, all sweaty and shaking and out of breath, you can’t really focus for the next fifteen minutes because you have to try to calm yourself down first. Most likely you aren’t able to make a useful contribution at all. And this is only a very innocent result of stress.

In most cases chronic stress causes much more serious and damaging behaviour. Take for instance envy. This is always based on some presumption the brain likes to produce: ‘My husband must see someone else since he’s always working overtime.’

If you allow yourself to be dragged into the content of such a thought, you will at some point honestly believe that your husband must be seeing someone else. While, in reality, he is working overtime, period.

Imagine the devastating effect of this belief (based on nothing but a frightening thought) on your marriage – your accumulated frustrations will need to find a way out and you’ll start a fight and accuse your husband of infidelity.

Your husband will lash out to you since he is really working overtime to be able to keep you and the kids comfortable while you are coldly accusing him of infidelity.

It’s not difficult to understand how this will impact the bond between you and your husband…

Blindly believing the content of frightening thoughts can seriously disrupt your life

All (yes, all) conflicts between people are caused by unawareness and thoughtlessly believing the content of negative, undermining, judgmental thoughts that are not acknowledged or examined. 

You see it happening every day in Twitter responses when a famous person has tweeted something controversial: the evil tweets are always numerous, including death threats.

This is caused by our human brain which constantly produces ridiculous judgements and conclusions, and then encourages us to express all this self-righteous nonsense without any limitations.

I’m certain you can see that this process causes a lot of sadness, fear and frustrations among other people, only because we tend to mindlessly listen to the silly reasoning of our out-of-control thoughts.

The healing impact of mindfulness on your relations

Once you are aware of the workings of your mind, and once you know how to stick to reality as it is – without losing yourself in all those opinions and judgements which only distort reality – you’ll find that you won’t hurt others any longer.

Instead of stressing out only because a train is delayed, or because your husband is working overtime, you’ll simply stick to reality. The train is delayed. Your husband works overtime. Period. 

Since it is what it is, you had better not worry about it. There is nothing wrong with reality as long as you are able to keep your fretting mind under control.

Once you can see and practise this mindful attitude, you will see that it’s really a lot healthier for your relations.

You’ll have more focus and overview because you won’t get overwhelmed by stress hormones and nasty thoughts.

This clarity and inner calm naturally leads to more patience and faith, which makes you a much nicer person to deal with.

In this mindful state-of-mind there won’t be any senseless accusations, hopeless discussions and harsh words… and you’ll simply stop accusing others of ‘crimes’ which only exist in your judgemental brain.

The healing impact of mindfulness on your body

But above all, mindfulness is a lot healthier for yourself. Because when you no longer believe the content of frightening and judgemental thoughts, your body won’t need to produce hormones to prepare you for the flight, fight or freeze response. This way you will keep your adrenaline and cortisol levels nice and low, without disturbing all those refined processes in your body like breathing, heart rate, blood pressure and digestion.

You will soon find that you’ll be less tired, that you’ll no longer catch every cold or flu, that you’ll suffer less from infections. By controlling your thoughts you will build more physical resilience. I promise you that within no-time you will be able to cancel the next appointment with your psychologist or hospital specialist!

The healing impact of mindfulness on your emotions

With mindfulness you will also grow stronger emotionally, because you’ll feel a lot more relaxed. With mindfulness you understand that the brain produces all kinds of negative, warning thoughts when you find yourself in an unexpected situation, and that your task is to only observe and acknowledge.

Acknowledging is the key to stopping the chain reaction of ‘losing it’, after which you can continue with whatever you were doing without anger or fear.

You’ll prevent your body from producing damaging hormones, so that it doesn’t need to recover. You’ll have more energy and you’ll find that you’ll remain calm, kind and patient. 

Finally you will become your true, wise, calm self.

Combat stress today

In this article I have explained how stress is caused and how you can get back into control quickly.

These are some highly effective steps that you can follow if you feel you start stressing out.

Step 1: Stick to the present moment

The present moment is your reality right now. Your judgemental thoughts pull you into disaster scenarios of the future or the past. But in the present moment everything is alright.
Step 2: Focus on the breath

Focussing on the breath helps to anchor your attention in the present moment. When you breathe in, feel how the air is entering your nose and lungs. Then breathe out and follow the air leaving your lungs and nose. Tell yourself that you are here, now. And that everything is fine.

Step 3: Accept your thoughts

Your mind will quickly cook up a toxic concoction of negative, frightening and maybe even hateful thoughts. Don’t fight this process. It’s nothing but normal brain activity and it’s what your brain is supposed to do. So don’t blame your brain or yourself. Instead, stop breathing energy into this process. Now fully accept what your brain is doing. Observe this super-rapid thought-producing process… and don’t allow yourself to get overwhelmed by the content of all these different thoughts.

Step 4: Clouds in a blue sky

A helpful way to master the technique of observing your thoughts from a healthy distance, is the clouds and the sky metaphor. You are the sky: permanent, blue, calm, quiet. Your busy, stressful thoughts are the clouds. They come and go. They might look threatening, but you know they will soon lose their shape and volume. They will dissolve if you don’t cling to them.

Try these steps as soon as senseless thoughts start to form in your mind. You’ll be surprised to find how easy it is to not get overwhelmed by these thoughts and how you can combat stress effectively with applying a few simple mindfulness steps.

Happy practising!
Marisa x

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Download my new ebook for free and learn how to fight the frightening content of your thoughts, so that you can start combat stress and become more resilient and emotionally balanced. 

Marisa Garau