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


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

Left to Pick Up the Pieces

There can only be one thing more nightmarish than hell itself, and that is to lose a child to  suicide. Gut-wrenchingly sad and tragic that a young life is lost. Gut-wrenchingly sad and tragic that the person has felt such emptiness and despair. Gut-wrenchingly sad and tragic that someone could feel so lacking in hope, so consumed with mental pain and anguish that this was even considered an option. And yet for their own family, who are left somehow to pick up the pieces, the consequences of this act can be so viscerally devastating, it is akin to a nightmare without end. Is it a selfish/revengeful act? An aberrant impulse? A distorted  or dysfunctional thought?

Family 2013 268While the tortured soul focuses completely on their inner world, of thoughts and feelings, they fail to realise the contagion of misery and desperation will afterwards infect the rest of their closest allies, their own family or friends. How does one face the world and continue with life, after the loss of a close family member or child?

Many lives have ended here
Many lives have ended here

The strength humans display in the face of this kind of tragedy, is nothing short of awe-inspiring. To bury one’s own child is heart-breaking, but to experience a child who deliberately ends their lives is completely unfathomable. How do people get over such an act? How do they lift themselves out of the depths of  misery?


And now, this week we have a man appear to conceal a mental illness and commit suicide on a German aircraft, taking 150 innocent lives with him. Not only that, but he has also taken his own family’s normal life and that of the victim’s families, on the path to a living hell, that is only just commencing. These people have to pick up the pieces of their own lives, and continue on, somehow.

Last week, a young boy from Australia drove a car filled with explosives into an army base, intending to cause maximum death and destruction and in the process, killing himself. A selfish act? A nutter? A kid with nothing to live for? A criminal? A sociopath?

Family 2013 272

I don’t have an answer. I don’t have a magic solution. Perhaps there isn’t one.  Each case of suicide is different, and each individual is different. Every socio-economic group, every ethnicity can be affected – no one is immune. But it is cowardly and selfish. The most selfish act imaginable. Australia, the egalitarian vanguard, has the highest rates of youth suicide in the world.

And so Life cis a roller-coaster. It is unpredictable, full of hard times and challenges, and if you are so blessed, many good times too. For some of us, success doesn’t happen and when life becomes too overwhelming, we feel like quitting, or we might feel like ending the pain, yet there is always Hope, waiting, watching, willing us to believe that things will improve. There is always Hope.

Can we stop suicide?  What can  we do:

We can be there to comfort and support our loved ones and our fellow man and woman.

We can make an effort if others appear stressed or unhappy.

We can appreciate every moment we have with each other, no matter how bored, tired, hungry, frustrated we may be feeling.

We can encourage others to seek help and reassure them of our support.

We can speak up, without shame, to others, when need dictates. Secrets kill….

And We Can  Listen to each other!

Reach out to one another – There is always hope!

Take a break – and relax!

Every person is a child of the Universe and has every right to be here.

Remember, “Everything, like the weather, passes.”

A final word from Marc: Whatever you believe to be true about yourself and life in the long-term becomes your reality.  Your beliefs are ingrained patterns of thinking that you build up over a lifetime.  They are habitual ways of processing the world around you.  If those beliefs don’t work in your favor, you can change them.  How?  In the very same way the negative beliefs formed in the first place – via repetitive thoughts that you accepted to be the truth.  Ingrain new beliefs by consciously choosing and repeating messages that lift you up.

Something sobering to ponder about.

If you need help or wish to talk to someone:




Do You Fit In? Anxiety, Emotions and Friends

Do you sometimes feel misunderstood, or like you just don’t fit in? Is socializing painful or something you avoid? Is mixing at a party or large group a torturous experience?


If so, you could be suffering from social anxiety? People suffering with this are often introverted by nature and feel that they are constantly being judged negatively by everyone around them. As such, they find it difficult to make new friends or maintain relationships.

These people are often drawn to online friendships, as the cyber world can be anonymous and much less threatening. Without the need for eye contact or body language, contact with others  over the net, can be much less overwhelming on the senses. The written word on its own, can be tolerated by someone with social anxiety, as it can give them the time they need to choose their words carefully and to be sure to express themselves in a way that would not be perceived critically. For this is what someone with social anxiety feels every minute of every day: that they are being negatively judged or critically perceived by others. For some, it destroys everyday life and  they are confined to the only place where there is no anxiety, the sanctuary of a solitary existence at home.

Although there appears to be  a genetic basis to social anxiety and its evil partner depression, there are a number of behaviours that can be un-learnt  just as easily as they  are learnt as a coping mechanism for anxiety.

As a result of these thoughts and anxieties, people with social anxiety have few friends and find making new friendships very difficult and not just because of trust issues. Their fears and negative thinking can render them vulnerable to friendship with toxic people, who in turn, erode their self-esteem and self-concept, even more and it feeds into a vicious circle.

Relationship gurus, such as Marc and Angel, list some common toxic behaviors to social interactions which is useful information for those who have social anxiety and who may wish to improve their social interactions:

1.  Taking everything too personally. – People are toxic to be around when they believe that everything happening around them is a direct assault on them or is in some way all about them.  The truth is that what people say and do to you is much more about them, than you.  People’s reactions to you are about their filters, and their perspectives, wounds and experiences.  Whether people think you’re amazing, or believe you’re the worst, again, it’s more about them.  I’m not saying we should be narcissists and ignore all feedback.  I am saying that so much hurt, disappointment and sadness in our lives comes from our taking things personally when it’s far more productive and healthy to let go of others’ good or bad opinion of you, and to operate with your own heart, intuition and wisdom as your guide.

2.  Acting like you’re always a victim. – Another toxic behavior is persistent complaining that fuels your sense of victimization.  Believing you’re a victim, that you have no power to exert and no power over the direction of your life, is a toxic stance that keeps you stuck.  Working as a life coach with people who’ve suffered terrible trauma in their lives but found the courage to turn it all around, I know that we have access to far more power, authority, and influence over our lives than we initially believe.  When you stop complaining, and refuse to see yourself as a hapless victim, you’ll find that you are more powerful than you realized, but only if you choose to accept this reality.

3.  Obsessive negative thinking – It’s very hard to be around people who speak incessantly about the terrible things that could happen and have happened, the slights they’ve suffered, and the unfairness of life.  These people stubbornly refuse to see the positive side of life and the positive lessons from what’s happening.  Pessimism is one thing – but remaining perpetually locked in negative thoughts is another.  Only seeing the negative, and operating from a view that everything is negative and against you, is a skewed way of thinking and living, and you can change that. Seek out positive people and look out the way they perceive obstacles and problems in their life.

4.  Lack of emotional self-control. – An inability to manage your emotions is toxic to everyone around you.  We all know these people – those who explode in anger and tears over the smallest hiccup or problem.  Yelling at the grocery store clerk for the long line, screaming at an employee for a small error she made, or losing it with your daughter for spilling juice on the floor.  If you find that you’re overly emotional, losing it at every turn, you need some outside assistance to help you gain control over your emotions and understand what’s at the root of your emotionality.  There’s more to it than what appears on the surface.  An outside perspective – and a new kind of support – can work wonders.

5.  Cruelty (or lacking empathy and compassion). – One of the most toxic behaviors – cruelty – stems from a total lack of empathy, concern or compassion for others. We see it every day online and in the media – people being devastatingly unkind and hurtful to others just because they can.  They tear people down online in a cowardly way, using their anonymity as a shield.  Cruelty, backstabbing, and hurting others for any reason is toxic, and it hurts you as well.

6.  Needing constant validation. – Last but not least, people who constantly strive for validation by others are exhausting to be around.  Those men and women who get caught up in the need to prove their worth over and over and over, and constantly want to “win” over everyone around them, are unintentionally toxic and draining.  Know this.  Overly-attaching to how things have to look to others can wear you out and bring everyone else around you down.  There is a bigger picture to your life, and it’s not about what you achieve in the eyes of the masses.  It’s about the journey, the process, the path – what you’re learning, how you’re helping others learn too, and the growing process you allow yourself to participate in.

What can you do to help someone/be a friend to someone you suspect has Social Anxiety? 

  • Be alert to when they attempt to join into conversations and listen to them with consideration, and without judgement.
  • Be aware that although they might appear rude and abrupt, they would never intend to come across in this way, and it is often their lack of social experiences that make them withdraw, or be incapable of responding appropriately.
  • Accept them the way they are, and always remain positive whilst empathizing.
  • Invite them to social outing without pressure, such as small groups situations or in a situation that they would not find threatening, such as stopping by their desk each day for a quick chat.

Something to Ponder About