In our modern times, everyone feels demanded upon. The truth is, what is being asked of us is to give a multitude of things our attention, all at the same moment. This and much more can create stress for us on an internal level.
The good news, as I have discovered in my own life, is that there are very real simple steps that one can take to minimize the stress in your life to bring about greater ease on a daily basis.
1. Pause and see the space around you and take a few deep breaths.
Conscious breathing affects your mental state significantly. Conscious breathing connects you with your body and spirit.
Action Step: Once a day: Feel the floor supporting you. Inhale slowly and mindfully to a count of four, start by filling your belly and then expanding your chest, then inhale to the top of your head. Hold gently for a count of four. Then exhale slowly releasing from your head, to your chest to your belly for a count of four. Pause and hold for a count of 4. Repeat this 3 times. Notice the tranquil effect this practice has on you.
2. Move your body.
One of the things I took away from a class once was: “Move your body. Don’t remain stationary all day.” I took that to heart. Though I have a spine injury and can’t do every movement I want. I can move my body and get some exercise each day.
The instructor said, “The body was designed to move.” So, make sure your form gets the message that you understand it was meant to move and that you value it and will give it the nourishment it needs and wants.
a. Create a list of 5 physical activities that you enjoy, add them to your schedule 2 x’s this week.
b. Start today by taking a walk in a park or taking a yoga class. (Yoga teachers note: Taking a yoga class is not giving a yoga class).
3. Pay Attention to Your Sleep.
I know for me when I don’t get enough sleep I feel tired and stressed. Not getting enough sleep can be a trigger. If you’re having trouble sleeping, start winding down much earlier than normal. Internally you can say, now I am winding down. It could be at 6 or 7 pm which may be well before your bed-time. Being aware of your eventual rest puts the notion of ease on the cosmic clip board, so to speak, and sets your system up for relaxed connected closure of your day. Work to consciously not rev up your system. Another way to put it, work to be at ease well before bed.
Action step: Take a warm bath, listen to relaxing music or write in your journal. Avoid late phone calls. Remind your self that tomorrow you can work to resolve more, but now is the time for letting things take rest and nourishing your body, relaxing your mind and feeling your spirit.
4. Challenge the What if Piñata.
As you move into a more consciousness life, you want to notice the general movement of your thoughts. It will be important to learn the skill of identifying an unhelpful or meh thought. Ask yourself how specific thoughts affect your feelings, energy and ultimately your behaviors. Notice: Is it helpful or is it a meh thought? Meh thoughts usually arise in the form of “what ifs,” “all-or-nothing thinking,” or “catastrophizing.”
When I was stressed or anxious, a friend of mine and I used to call it the ‘What if piñata.’ We’d say “uh ho don’t go near the What if piñata.” Things like: “What if I fail this exam?” or “What if this airplane crashes?” or “What if I don’t make the flight.”
Challenge your self and these types of what if piñata thoughts.
First ask your self: “Is this anxiety realistic?” “Is what I am imagining in my what if piñata likely to happen?” “If the worst possible outcome does happen, what would be so bad about that?” “Could I handle that?” “What can I do?” “If something bad happens, what do I think that means about me?” “Is this really true or does it just seem that way?” “What might I do to prepare for whatever may happen?”
Then, reframe the meh thought or what if piñata, work to soften it and make it more accurate. Here’s an example: “I would feel awful if I failed this exam. Reframe: I recognize that that’s a feeling; and it won’t last forever, and I would get through it if it happened. If I fail the exam, I will learn new things and will practice again to take it over. Recognize that you would grow in the process. Soften the what if piñata.
5. Say something kind to your self each day.
Saying daily kind and positive statements to your self helps to give you support and grounding. Remember all feelings are temporary they are not permanent.
Action Step: Today I value my efforts at _________. I have accomplished ________ this year. I have grown myself in _______ this month. (Fill in the blanks)
6. Engage your support system.
Social time can be very nourishing for your spirit and your sense of stress. Call a friend. Make a date to spend time with a trusted individual in your life. Laugh and share stories of your experiences. Laughter can be very nourishing to your spirit.
Action Step: Plan an outing and invite a few friends. Invite friends for a dinner party. Chat about fun and interesting topics. Ask a friend to go to a new movie.
7. Watch your intake of caffeine or sugar.
Stay in awareness of what research has shown us for a long time that certain substances deplete us or rob us of our natural sense of inner health and ease. In effect, certain substances exacerbate stress or anxiety. Caffeine and sugar taken in moderation don’t cause too much stress, but in excess can truly deplete your system.
Action Steps: Be mindful of your intake of caffeine and sugar on a daily basis. Once a month, plan a day or two without caffeine or sugar.
8. Take small breaks.
It’s helpful to take breaks throughout your day. Our world with its growing technology places intense demands on our attention all day. Be aware of this and take small breaks throughout your day.
Action Step: Go for a short walk. Listen to a lovely song and deliberately let all else fade from your mind. Contemplate something, which you are grateful for in your life. Really allow that feeling of gratitude to fill your heart.
9. Make a list of your stresses and suggest solutions.
Life has genuine stresses, which exist for everyone. One way to minimize your stress and anxiety is to write a list of your current stresses and then actively look at possible solutions.
Action Step: For 20 mins make a list of your general stressors then jot down one or two solutions next to each.
10. Contact a therapist.
When my mother passed, I missed her physical presence significantly. So after about a month I decided to enlist the support of grief counseling. I knew that grief was a specific emotional journey and that with the proper navigation I could become even stronger by it if I worked to understand, stay open and listen deeply. It is wise to enlist the support that you need when you need it.
Action Step: If you feel a continuous sense of stress or anxiety about something, contact a trained therapist for added support.
11. Recognize and accept the anxiety you have.
Travis Bradberry, a leader in stress management, says, “While I’ve run across numerous effective strategies that successful people employ when faced with stress, the real challenge lies in recognizing when you need to use them and having the wherewithal to actually do so in spite of your stress.”
One of the key elements in minimizing stress and anxiety is to actually acknowledge that you have it. That alone brings awareness to the fact and allows more wisdom to activate around it. It might sound counterintuitive, but stress and anxiety are not our real problem. Instead, it’s our repeated attempts to control or deny it, to kick it from our awareness that bring about a greater disconnect from self.
Action Step: Take small steps. Watch and accept that you have an anxiety. The acceptance will bring awareness and awareness is the biggest energetic catalyst for change and healing.
© 2014 Luminous Soul/Sanskrit Studies & Manorama