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Tips for d-stressing and its health impacts

09 October 2015

Imagine for a moment living in a home with a high wall, an electric fence and panic buttons that when deployed draw armed response guards within minutes in the event of intrusion.

Imagine further that at any moment you may be hijacked or shot, simply for going about your daily activities.

Living with fear and anxiety were everyday emotions in Johannesburg, South Africa. I felt stressed and had no idea how to manage it.

And so I began a quest to find a way to live with peace and calm within these intense conditions. I travelled near and far and found great wisdom in the teachings of African tribal leaders, Indian spiritual masters and modern day psychological theorists.

I started to integrate them into my daily life and feelings of composure and equanimity began to develop. I decided to commit to living these practices and I found meaning in situations where on the face of it there were none. 

In 2009 I put pen to paper and wrote D-Stress, Building Resilience in Challenging Times incorporating the key principles and practical applications I found to be the most useful. It was awarded the No 1 self-help book in the USA in the Independent Publishers Book Awards.

A year later my ability to manage stress was tested yet again. I was diagnosed with stage 3 Non Hodgkin Lymphoma. My spleen, gall bladder, half my pancreas, a portion of my stomach and diaphragm were removed and heavy bouts of chemotherapy were administered. It was a 2-year period of immense pain and suffering.

How ironic that I chose the title D-Stress, Building Resilience in Challenging Times. It was as if the book served as a reminder of what I needed to practice in order to survive this illness. But could I practice what I preached and embody these techniques when facing a life threatening illness? I felt that this was an initiation and if I was to teach these principles I had to truly integrate them no matter the circumstance.

The three techniques below had a profound effect and have become my daily practice.

  1. Transform your Thought Attacks™ 

When we are thinking negatively about something we experience what I term a “Thought Attack™“. This is when the mind turns on itself and attacks the possibility of feeling positive and optimistic.

We have on average 60,000 thoughts everyday and most are negative! No wonder it’s tough for us to manage stress and feel good!

The challenge lies in our ability to transform these Thought Attacks™ into a more constructive way of thinking and we are able do this by asking the following question, “How else can I interpret this situation?”

In pondering this question we discover a new way of thinking and open an unexplored pathway that was unavailable in Thought Attack™ mode.

When we look for the hidden benefit or opportunity that can result from a situation, our emotions begin to shift. What if it was brought to us to teach us something or to steer us in a different direction. What if it wasn’t a mistake but a gift? How would we feel thinking about it in this way?

  1. Focus on the Now

Stress is a function of time and can only exist in one of two dimensions, the past or the future. It cannot exist in the present moment. I am constantly reminded of a phrase that was taught to me but one of my teachers “Be present to that which is present”.

When we are fully engaged in our actions in the present moment it is not possible to feel stressed. It is only when the mind enters another time dimension that stress enters our body.  

Commit to constantly bringing your mind back to the present moment when it drifts off to the past or future. One of the clues that determine that we’re not in the present moment is when we experience negative emotions.  In becoming aware of this we bring our attention back to the present moment and our feelings of stress begins to wane.

     3.  Developing a Sense of Gratitude

How does developing a sense of gratitude help manage stress?  Most often stress is related to a deficiency. We become stressed when we believe that we may not achieve a particular outcome or feel a certain way. In feeling thankful for what we have we reduce our feelings of scarcity or inadequacy.

Truly feel how blessed you are for what you do have. An abundance mentality is a powerful antidote for stress and gratitude keeps our emotional tanks filled buffering the impact of stress. So take a little time everyday to focus on the many aspects of your life that you appreciate. You’ll feel all the better for it.  

Meiron Lees is a corporate advisor and keynote speaker specializing in the areas of stress management, leadership and behavioural change, visit



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