Working Consciously for Better Health


On any given day, how many moments, actions and emotions are part of your conscious thought process?

According to Anne Rice, a Decatur-based licensed professional counselor, the lack of presence or consciousness in daily life often leads to stress, anxiety, depression and illness.

“Work stress levels have escalated progressively over the past few decades largely because, rather than valuing breaks from work, we feel guilty about taking them,” said Rice. “When you aren’t present with your emotions at work, you will bring them home with you and the brain continues in work mode. Eventually the home will not be a restful place.”

According to the American Institute of Stress (AIS), work is the leading source of stress and anxiety for American adults. The AIS breaks down the primary causes workplace stress in the following categories:

  • 46% workload
  • 28% people issues
  • 20% juggling work/personal lives
  • 6% lack of job security

Stress is a highly personalized phenomenon, most often tied to an individual’s sense of control or decision-making latitude. In fact, scientific studies have determined that workers who perceive they are subjected to high demands, but have little control over their situations, are at increased risk for cardiovascular disease.

Regardless of your position within a company or organization, Rice said that everyone has reasons to be stressed, but we make matters worse when we fight it. When you’re feeling stressed, anxious or depressed, it’s important to accept the way you feel so you can move forward. Masking feelings only allows them to stagnate, she added.

To help her clients deal with stress, Rice often encourages them to practice being fully present with daily activities like drinking a morning cup of coffee. Rather than compiling the day’s task list or mentally preparing for a stressful meeting, she encourages them only focus on the activity in the moment, fully feeling how the body and mind reacts to every sip. Then, think about how that activity and sensory experience would be explained to an alien that just landed on Earth, as if every part of the daily routine is a new and enlightening experience.

Rather than unconsciously allowing external forces to determine our wellbeing, Rice’s exercises often help clients transform stressful situations into more pleasant experiences because they’ve gained the ability to choose their reality. Obviously, this doesn’t work for every situation, but it can be a good tool for daily living.

“With presence, comes control. However, a common pit fall is getting caught up in controlling what you think. Our control is not in what we think, but rather how we react to thoughts that cause negative emotions. The key is the ability to consciously catch yourself as you begin to slip into a state of agitation,” Rice said.

When we learn to be conscious of feelings like stress and anxiety, we have more of an opportunity to take conscious control over our wellbeing. Admittedly this is no easy task. In attempt to manage the human body, we are dealing with the most sophisticated instrument on the planet.

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