Present in Stress

A general view of traffic in Beijing rush hour at Beijing Guomao (International Trade Center) CBD area on November 28, 2014 in Beijing, China.

Beijing, China – Rush hour traffic in Beijing.   Source © Xiao Lu Chu/Getty Image

Looking at this picture, I started to feel stressed and impatient for those who probably get trapped in this traffic jam each day and then I realised, what an amazing opportunity it would be to practice being present.

Below is a wonderful example of what can happen when we allow our minds to go off and become stressed.  Making a conscious decision, we can always create another opportunity to be present and see the situation differently.

Managing Stress Part 3 – source Ann S. Williams, PhD, RN, CDE. (

Imagine that a friend has forgotten to call you at a time you both agreed to. You try to call your friend, and no one answers. Your immediate feeling is disappointment. Disappointment is closely followed by anger. Perhaps you feel insulted, and furthermore, you may feel that this so-called friend, and many other people too, often ignore you and insult you.

In fact, you may start thinking that you should tell this person just how angry you really are, so you begin composing a lecture in your mind about how the person has wronged you, retelling all the times you have felt insulted and ill-treated in both large and small ways by this person.

As you recall all this bad treatment, you become more and more agitated. The stress hormones in your body rise, your muscle tension rises, and your blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol all begin to rise. You may even be gritting your teeth, or tightening your hands into fists. Your thought process has moved rapidly from the present moment to the past and to an imagined future, and your experience of stress has grown larger at each step of the process.


As soon as you notice a physical or emotional stress, you simply acknowledge and accept it. You hold it in your mind and allow it to be exactly what it is, without judgment. And you also notice whatever else is present in that moment: a sound, a sight, a feeling—and allow your mind to rest on that sensation.

Since your breath is always with you, you turn your attention to your breathing.  Paying attention to your breathing will help you to calm your mind and remember the feeling of a deeply relaxed state. You notice it, feel it fully, and acknowledge it as it is.

You simply accept that you feel disappointed. Maybe you realize that you do not know why the other person did not call you. Perhaps you think you will tell the person that you were disappointed, when you have the chance. Then you turn your attention to something else in the present moment.

So just like the traffic jam or being in the long line to buy Christmas presents or food for the busy season ahead, we will always have a choice how we react to these situations.  Our reactions will also trigger either anger or peace in another person, and so we need to also be conscious and responsible how we treat each other during this stressful time.

The picture below may help you visualise where you might like to be, especially when the traffic is jammed, the kids are screaming in the back and you realise you have forgotten your wallet!  Namaste 🙂  🙂


16 thoughts on “Present in Stress

  1. What a lovely reminder of the fact that we are always at choice. Thank you for the reminder about how possible it is to create peace as the world bustles around us. Thank you, Karen.

  2. This is so true ~ and a perfect time of the year to remember that with all the frustrations around us in every day life, it means nothing. Our minds can create beaches and a paradise for us anytime 🙂

  3. Living on the southern coast of China Randall, you know better than anyone what stress can be with such a huge population. It is indeed a gift to know that at anytime, we can shift our decision to become conscious to create a different situation. I hope you know I appreciate your thoughts and comments.

  4. Karen,
    Great example of making mountains out of molehills. In your situation given; what if it was found out after the thoughts of hurt and anger, bordering on paranoia, that the friend who wasn’t available, was in reality, in a tragic accident? Now guilt is heaped upon unfounded anger.
    It is best to first react with concern for the other. If it’s anything less, then at least one has avoided the added weight of guilt, and most likely anger as well.

    1. Thankyou Alan, it is amazing where our minds can go when we let them. Having compassion and care for one another like you suggest, is much easier to do than creating stress. Have a wonderful day.

  5. Karen visually I love both images and feelings I get from both. I also love how you create ways to stay calm when friends disappoint us. I go through all those emotions and then just let it go and tell myself there is a reason for everything that happens. Breathing out now as I soak up that beach.

    1. I think we have all experienced those emotions and thoughts Kath and seems like such a waste of energy, especially when we don’t know why? That beach has such a calming affect, I will join you in breathing out too! Thankyou.

  6. Perspicuous advice Karen. I use scenarios like this for ‘grounding’ – hands on wheel; grip; feel texture; stroke texture etc. It empties the head of the tense conditions. Russell Brand talks about this in the early chapters of his new book.

    1. Thanks Mike. That is a great example of how we can become present in the car and aware of what could be a stressful situation. I haven’t read Russell Brand’s new book but I have heard it’s interesting. I appreciate your contribution to this post!

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