Or Listen:

– [Ryan] Hi, welcome to Redeem the Commute. This is Ryan, I’m your host for Redeem the Commute and I want to welcome you to this course on stress and anxiety. This course is offered by Dr. Kate Witheridge. She’s a psychologist at the University of Toronto Health and Wellness Clinic, and she has a PhD in Clinical Psychology. She has extensive training in anxiety and depression and has been a private practice as well as in hospital and university health centers. This was recorded at a church in Toronto where she offered this course on stress and anxiety. And we do want to give a general disclaimer that what you’ll learn in this course is great material but they are general tips. You should see a medical health professional for your specific situation. I do hope you enjoy this course and if this is a topic of interest to you I hope you won’t just explore this alone but maybe you’ll invite somebody else you know to share this course with you. If you’re together you can watch or listen to the content at the same time but if you’re not able to spend as much time together maybe on your commute you could watch and listen to the content on the same days and when you are together, maybe over dinner, you can take an opportunity to discuss what you’ve been learning. It’s a great way to take what you’ve been learning and really apply it to your life, and get some encouragement and challenge from friends. Okay, that’s my introduction, hope you enjoy the course.

– [Kate] So these are general tips, they are things that I would normally do with people that I see in a more professional setting, but if you have questions please see your own professional help, so basically I’m not legally responsible for anything that I say. The other thing is if there is anything that is triggering to you, sometimes talking about difficult topics, anxiety can be triggering, feel free to leave the room. Do what you need to do, there’s nothing that prevents you from you don’t have to stay here, I won’t be offended. And then my almighty disclaimer not that I think this is an issue but because I’m a registered health professional if there’s any safety issues so for some reason you tell me that you are at risk of harming yourself or other people if there’s child abuse or sexually inappropriate behavior from another health professional I am legally responsible to report that so either don’t tell me or just know that that’s something that happens, but I like to leave that there. So what I thought I’d do is just start by settling in a bit. So we all come from different places, rushing, I know I managed to leave work where I’ve been doing this all day, power walked home, dropped some stuff off, brushed my teeth and came here, so we’re all a bit rushed so I thought we’d just take a moment to settle into this, do a bit of breathing and just taking a moment. So feel free to sit in whatever position is comfortable. We’re gonna do what we call the three minute breathing space. So the three minute breathing space is a brief practice. It can be used whenever we find our thoughts or moods spiraling in a negative direction. So the first thing we do with this practice, because we want to come into the present moment quickly, is to take a very definitive posture. The back is erect but not stiff, letting the body express the sense of being present and awake. Now closing your eyes, if this feels comfortable, take the first step of becoming aware of what is going on with you right now. Becoming conscious of what is going through your mind, what thoughts are around. Here again as best you can, just noting thoughts as mental events. So we note them, and we take note of the feelings that are around at the moment. In particular, tuning toward any sense of discomfort or unpleasant feelings. So rather than trying to push them away or shut them out just notice them, perhaps saying “ah, there you are.” “That’s how it is right now.” Similarly with the sensations in your body, are there any sensations of tension, of holding, of letting go? And again become aware of these sensations, simply noting whatever is arising in this moment. So, now that you have a sense of what is going on right now, having stepped out of automatic pilot, the second step is to collect your awareness, but focusing on a single act, like the movement of your breath. So now, really gather yourself, focusing your attention down in the movements of the abdomen, the rise and fall of the belly as the breath moves in and out, spending a moment or two to focus on the motion of the abdominal wall, moment by moment, breath by breath, as best as you can right here right now. Notice when the breath is moving in, and notice when the breath is moving out. Being with the breath as it moves into your body, and out, finding your awareness in this process, just be present right now. And now the third step is allowing your awareness to expand to the entire body, bringing a more spacious awareness to your experience, letting the breath be present but in the background, bringing your attention to the entire length of the body from head to toe, including any tightness or sensations related to holding or bracing. In this moment, holding your awareness in the spaciousness of this place, breathing in, and breathing out. And when you’re ready feel free to open your eyes, letting go of this brief practice. So I’m curious what do people notice with that? If anybody wants to share. Or not.

– [Kate] So clearly the purpose of that exercise is to take a moment to focus on one thing, which is not what we tend to do, right? We often aren’t noticing the tension in our body, our postures, our thoughts, right? We’re multi tasking most of the time, you know like walking down the street thinking what I have to do, and I’m sitting in church thinking about what I have to do, so I think this is a great way to start to kind of settle in. We once again all have busy lives but just taking a moment, even if we just take three minutes to breathe, to pay attention to what’s going on in our bodies can help us begin to feel a little more relaxed and a little less stressed. So I think stress and anxiety is a hard thing ’cause it’s like how do I define that? And so this is also a very broad topic. When Don asked me to speak, I did actually say I really like anxious people, and I do actually love treating anxiety, it’s a lot of what I do. I teach coping skills to 18 to 25 year olds, which you can imagine they probably need lots of those. But we also can practice these. So I think a few things just before we talk about how do you manage it just to normalize, I think stress and anxiety and other emotions that I can talk about sort of anxiety, but also applies to depression, anger, joy, are not inherently bad, right? I think we want to get away from saying, like, I shouldn’t feel stressed, I shouldn’t feel anxious, anxiety’s bad, because all emotions give us information. Right? All kind of anything we feel can tell us about what we think is going on in the world, you know, anxiety’s about threat, when I talk to my students about this I always say anxiety’s about being chased by bears. So our body is designed to deal with stress, to cope with stress, to experience stress, but it’s often what comes out of it and does it interfere that becomes a problem right? And there is research that suggests that we all need a certain level of stress to function, right? It’s why we sometimes procrastinate and then have a lot of motivation to get things done right? If it’s a boring task I need a little bit more motivation than if it’s a hard task, right? So stress, once again, not inherently bad but when does it interfere? And it can become problematic if it impacts our ability to function. So as I go through this, stress and anxiety are sometimes semantics. I think anxiety is sort of like the far end when you think about core emotions but we can think about it together so as I go through this if I switch words, for the purpose of this presentation, we’re gonna assume the same thing.

– [Ryan] Thanks for joining us for the first day of the stress and anxiety course. We hope you’ve learned some new things about what stress and anxiety are. We have a question that we ask you to think about ever day after you take one of our courses and hopefully like I said earlier you can share this with somebody else in your life as well. The question today is, what has been your experience with stress and anxiety so far in life? How has it helped and how has it hurt? Another idea for you is if you’re looking for ways to have a peaceful, calming relaxing time in your day, and you do find that hard, there is a distinct way that you can do that as part of Redeem the Commute we offer a daily prayer session. It’s posted around nine o’clock every day so it’s perfect for your lunch hour or your evening commute, some of those high stress times in the day. So check that out if you’re interested in that kind of a daily time for meditation and calm. You can find that on our app and on our website. Well have a great day and we’ll see you tomorrow. Bye for now.

Question: What has been your experience with stress and anxiety so far in life? How has it helped, and how has it hurt you?