Ways to Reduce Stress

xanthostemon chrysanthus

Tell a friend you have taken up bead meditation and said ‘friend’ may suddenly look askance, thinking you have gone ‘weird. ‘ But being in touch with your inner ‘flower child,’ can have untold benefits in combating  stress and potentially improving daily life, memory, concentration and overall well-being.

I was introduced to bead meditation some years via after my yoga class, and have to say that I experienced many benefits of a daily five-minute practice. But lately, I have been too busy, too rushed to continue my practice. And now, as I face a stressful time in my life, I have once again turned to Bead meditation.

The practice can be done anyway and or anytime, as long as you can do it uninterrupted. Carry the beads in your bag and you can practise in those few minutes of down time, where you might be ordinarily checking social media on your phone, or whilst waiting in the car for someone, waiting for a bus/train, last thing before bed, even in the loo! For me, it seems to work best first thing in the morning, when I know that I should get up soon, but don’t want to, just yet.



Benefits I have enjoyed from Bead Meditation

  • Sense of Calm
  • Less anxiety
  • More control in crisis or stressful situations
  • Lower Blood pressure
  • More sustained attention span and improvement in effortless single focus concentration
  • Relaxed start to the day
  • Distractions from run-away thoughts or self-destructive negative thinking
  • Increased sense of compassion and empathy
  • Increased energy levels
  • Improved sense of well-being & self-esteem

The secret seems to be in keeping the mind busy on a single activity, and in doing so, worry and stress can not seep into your consciousness.  The mind will try to wander and intrusive thoughts will tug at you, and  if this happens, gently bring it back to the task at hand (sorry no pun intended there) Do this as often as you need.

“The mind is harder to control than the wind”, it was said. So now, not only can the mind be quieted by having something to do, the movement of your fingers on the beads, gives the body something to do and allows the body to feel more content and relaxed.

Prayer beads have a similar purpose, however this is more to do with religious devotion and counting prayers, which is not within my realm to recommend or discuss here. Rather than focusing on spiritual growth, secular meditation techniques such as this, emphasizes stress reduction, relaxation and self-improvement.


Wiki tells us, “Most of the ancient religions of the world have a tradition of using some type of prayer beads as tools in devotional meditation.[125][126][127] Most prayer beads and Christian rosaries consist of pearls or beads linked together by a thread.[125][126] The Roman Catholic rosary is a string of beads containing five sets with ten small beads. Each set of ten is separated by another bead. The Hindu japa mala has 108 beads, as well as those used in Jainism and Buddhist prayer beads.[128] Each bead is counted once as a person recites a mantra until the person has gone all the way around the mala, which is counted as 100, with an extra 8 there to compensate for missed beads.[128] The Muslim mishbaha has 99 beads. Specific meditations of each religion may be different.”


Start with the head bead ( the one that is large and different) and start chanting a mantra of choice ( samples shown below), and with each repetition, move your fingers along to the next bead, and repeat, until you are completely round the circle. If you have time, reverse and do the same back to the head bead again. This depends on how quickly or how slowly you chant the mantra. Choose a mantra that speaks to you.

You only have to say the mantra loud enough for you to hear. It is not necessary to sing it, or say it loudly. Don’t worry so much about your breathing technique; it is not so important in this form of meditation.


The eternal wisdom contained in the yoga texts explains that a ‘mantra’ is a spiritual sound vibration that purifies one’s consciousness and brings about ever-increasing spiritual insight and happiness. When performed as a group, you can really feel that vibration!!


  • Gauranga
  • Nityananda
  • Om Hari Om
  • Gopala
  • Govinda
  • Chaitanya Nityananda Gaurhari
  • Gopala Govinda Rama Madana Mohana
  • Haribol Nitagaur Nitaigaur Haribol
  • Madana Mohana Murari
  • Haribol Haribol Haribol

waterlilly - Copy

The following passage, from Wiki illuminates the scientific basis for claiming health benefits of meditation. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meditation

Scientific Evidence to Support Benefits

 A study of college students by Oman et al. (2008) found that meditation may produce physiological benefits by changing neurological processes. This finding was supported by an expert panel at the National Institutes of Health. The practice of meditation has also been linked with various favourable outcomes that include: “effective functioning, including academic performance, concentration, perceptual sensitivity, reaction time, memory, self-control, empathy, and self-esteem.”(Oman et al., 2008, pg. 570) In their evaluation of the effects of two meditation-based programs they were able to conclude that meditating had stress reducing effects and cogitation, and also increased forgiveness. (Oman et al., 2008)

Li Chuan Chu (2009), found that meditation enhances overall psychological health and preserves a positive attitude towards stress. (Chu, 2009)

Mindfulness Meditation has now entered the health care domain because of evidence suggesting a positive correlation between the practice and emotional and physical health.

Examples of such benefits include: reduction in stress, anxiety, depression, headaches, pain, elevated blood pressure, etc. Researchers at the University of Massachusetts found that those who meditated approximately half an hour per day during an eight week period reported that at the end of the period, they were better able to act in a state of awareness and observation. Respondents also said they felt non-judgmental. (Harvard’s Women’s Health Watch, 2011)

“Meditation as Medicine” (American Academy of Neurology) [150] cites scientific evidence from various studies which claim that meditation can increase attention span, sharpen focus, improve memory, and dull the perception of pain.

A review of scientific studies identified relaxation, concentration, an altered state of awareness, a suspension of logical thought and the maintenance of a self-observing attitude as the behavioral components of meditation;[67] it is accompanied by a host of biochemical and physical changes in the body that alter metabolism, heart rate, respiration, blood pressure and brain activation.[46][152]

Meditation has been used in clinical settings as a method of stress and pain reduction. Meditation has also been studied specifically for its effects on stress.


Some people feel meditation is an alien concept and take it like they would a bitter pill, while others embrace it wholeheartedly. Are they the less stressed?

It will be something I shall ponder about what you make of it.

schnauzer at beach



Hidden Lives and Human Resilience


When visiting Auschwitz concentration camp and the Birkenau selection facility in Poland, the sobering reminder of man’s inhumanity to man, was painfully obvious. It was then that I was reminded of a transcript of an interview, I had read some time ago. This transcript discussed the surprising fact that suicide occurs less among those people, who lived in severely impoverished/low socioeconomic areas and those in concentration camps, as opposed to those who have resources and perhaps live in more comfortable circumstances. What can be learnt from the incredible resilience of survivors, who when faced with extreme brutality or hellish circumstances, continue on and survive?

Johanna Reiss explains it like this:

“the middle class and the upper class are much more likely to commit suicide than those who have to find their daily bread, so to speak, (In) Elie Wiesel’s book.  In concentration camps, the biggest goal for most of them was to get the next crust of bread. And they were already being punished by the Nazis and so they didn’t think they had to punish themselves too. And so there were very few suicides in concentration camps, which is strange when you think about it, it surely seems like a place you’d want to get away from.”


Kitty Hart a survivor of Auschwitz, in her documentaries, speaks of how she trained herself not to “think,” but just to do – just to live in the moment and do that, without thinking anything about the future, or indeed the next day.

Flowers outside Birkenau

Impact on the Victim’s Circle

A parent’s mental state is forever changed when the tragedy of depression or suicide involves their child, no matter the child’s age, nor whether the child recovers or not. Many of those persons, closest to the victim, experience anguish that seems to leave a permanent scar, for which there is no miracle cure, perhaps only amelioration. How can we promote resilience for these people, who suffer a daily living hell?

“I think you can say that when there is a suicide the entire family becomes totally unhinged. And even though we all seem to go back to normalcy, something has been broken forever. In my own case, having been abandoned by my father in a way – he never was much of a father,and then having being abandoned by Jim. The only person who never abandoned me except when he died was Johan Oosterveld, the farmer in the Upstairs Room, the man who saved my life. He was always there for me. He even left a closet, in his attic, with a hole that you could crawl into, where I had hidden from the Germans. Because he always said: ‘You never know – it might come in handy again, and then Annie you can come back from New York and you can get right back in there.”

[Johanna Reiss, author of a Hidden Life.]  Click here to read more
Developing Resilience

I think this is a really important thing to remember if we are to combat suicide rates in all levels…. that the sufferer is not left feeling alone, feeling abandoned. Could it be that if an individual has a sense of responsibility towards another person more vulnerable, or if that person feels that the other absolutely needs them, the victim might cope better/ hang in there/be more resilient, no matter what? Might a reason to stay alive, be that they can then feel hope; that there is somebody or something that is so important, the victim cannot contemplate leaving, no matter how bad things become?

Elie Wiesel wrote about his experiences in a concentration camp as a boy and that he “was considering running into the barbed wire once, but he didn’t because his father needed him.” And that’s the only time he mentions the ‘allure of suicide.’

Oswiecim (Auschwitz)

In reflecting on suicide in today’s world where it appears to be a hidden spectre, together with my own experience with a close friend’s depression and suicidal behaviour, I wonder if the resilience/coping strategies of people such as those mentioned, might just be something that could potentially encourage resilience and give hope to victims, where often there seems none?

Something Serious to Ponder About


Proverbial Thursday – Global Words of Wisdom

I find there to be profound wisdom in proverbs, sayings and quotes and I marvel at the way they are so succinct in communicating messages to the reader. Mostly anonymous, they come to us from past generations and from across cultures. They speak of the experiences of lives lived and lessons learned. Quotes, like proverbs, make us think more deeply about something.

Each Thursday, I post a Proverb or Saying and a Quote that I find thought-provoking. 

I hope you will too.

In action, anxiety disappers. Unknown proverb

That is one of the remarkable things in life, It’s never so bad that it can’t get worse.

Bill Watterson

Proverbial sml

Proverbial Thursday gives you something to ponder about.

Survivors – FMFW Day 18 – Worth and Day 22 – Value

How Three Survivors of Suicide Spent Their Last Days On Earth – http://wp.me/p6xgta-oS

Incredibly powerful stories, revealing in the way the writers take the reader into their heads and reveal their thinking.

As a young person, I worked as a Nurse and never understood my patients as much as I did after reading this post. Many people are not able to empathize with the sufferer but these words do help to relate the hopelessness and understand the thought patterns that lead to the most tragic act.

I think we can better understand the nature of suicide from survivors like this.

It is so important for us all to check in with others about how they are doing. A txt or phone call could mean everything.

This post constitutes Day 18 and Day 22 of Five Minutes of Summer –

Five minutes of Free Writing every day  for October


Something serious to ponder about

Five Minutes of Summer – October Online Blogging Challenge

The 31 Days Free Writing Challenge, dictates that bloggers pick one topic and write a post for five minutes or thereabouts, (I confess to being verbose!), on that topic each day in October.

Day 11 – Storm

“There’s a storm brewing” –

The word “Storm” evokes thoughts of threatening and damaging forces out of our control. We have storms in summertime only. Winter is dry and dusty. Summer thunderstorms  mean a sub-tropical venting of nature’s spleen, which has filled to bursting with rapidly rising temperatures and high humidity, in the tropical areas of the world. The Storm bird, known as the ‘Koel’, knows the Storm is coming, even before the weather man knows, and it sings its unique call, early in the morning or the days prior to a storm. But how does it know?

The ants also pick up the ominous signs and move to higher ground, and invade my kitchen as well! (I guess that is where the good stuff is)… This pisses off my temper which has already been pushed to the limits by my lack of tolerance for hot weather and humidity.[You can see why I like snow and the cold]

Here is a typical day for a storm:

First, we need a blistering day with mercury soaring above 29 degrees and a rapid rise in night time humidity that ensures a stickiness in the air that would challenge Scotchtape! By early next morning, the crickets signal it is time to get up from soaked, sweat – ridden bed -sheets; by morning tea, dare to step outside in the sun and you will burn in just 10 minutes, by lunchtime, the asphalt road surface shimmers with a mirage- like heat haze, and folk start to complain loudly and vociferously about “the heat,” whilst dripping with sweat, and then around 3pm, invariably when the children have to be picked up from school, the storm will break- heralded by huge raindrops the size of tennis ball that render raincoats next to useless  and ferocious wind gusts that turn umbrellas into some kind of frilly flying javelin ready to impale some unsuspecting citizen.

The summer Storm is vicious and nasty and hits with a thundering force accompanied by spectacular lightning and occasionally damaging hail.I like to see the lightning, especially the forked lightning, so spectacular, unless you are out on the sporting field. The rain is torrential, enough to fill a large water tank in minutes. It often rains vertically upwards at my place in a summer storm, as the rain lashing at my house’s guttering fails to cope with the deluge and is then directed upwards! The storm can un-roof houses, turn a paddling brook into a gushing torrent in minutes, marooning kids on pushbikes and cars alike. “If it is flooded, forget it”, is now the motto from the Road Safety Authority due to way too many cars attempting to cross flooded creeks in the midst of a storm. {At times, resulting in drownings!}

For children, storms are fun. As a child, we lived in a street with a natural gully or dip where the rainwater would collect during the summer downpours, and this invariably came close to Christmas school holidays. For an hour or two, during or after a storm, this street’s drainage systems would struggle to cope with the volume of water meaning the children of the street welcomed the instant, albeit, muddy-co loured, ad-hoc swimming pool and the odd car was left floating until the water subsided.

If the storm comes at nighttime, my dog panics! But this year, she won’t worry, as she is so old, she has gone deaf.  When I was 5 years old, I used to panic, like my faithful canine companion, when the storms came. My mother used to tell me it was fine, it was just Santa dragging his sack of Christmas presents across the sky, in readiness to give to the children on Dec 25th.[She didn’t explain the rain or the wind gusts, but thinking about Santa and wind is probably an area she did not want to broach, for good reason! ] The thought that this cataclysmic natural event was Santa’s doing certainly gave me plenty of comfort and was one of the most thoughtful things my mother said to me.  This challenge has brought that memory flooding back. Which also reminds me of this Gangajang song which I associate with summer in Australia and the word, “Storm” –

Out on the patio we sit,

And the humidity we breathe,

We watch the lightning crack over the cane-fields

Laugh and think, that this is Australia

Summer storm season is almost upon us, and that is something we need to prepare for, not just ponder about.

Other days in this writing challenge are found here