Stress is one of the biggest causes of health problems in many people’s’ lives. Many of us feel overwhelmed by all we need to do, and it can be downright stressful. Excess stress can cause:
- heart disease,
- anxiety attacks,
- sleep problems,
- autoimmune diseases,
- weight problems, and more.
Many people cope with stress in unhealthy ways. For example:
- drugs, binge eating,
- getting angry, or
Ironically these cause more stress. Instead, it’s important to learn to cope without these crutches.
You can’t stop all stress, anxiety or feelings of sometimes being overwhelmed, nor would you want to. But, you can see them as places to practice some amazing things that will help in all areas of your life.
Dealing with stress
I’d like to share these practices; while they may not solve the most severe stress problems, but they’ll help most of us.
Be completely in one task. Instead of being in the stressful task-switching mode, take your next task, let everything else go. Be in the moment with this one task. Immerse yourself in this one task. Let go of the feeling that you need to rush through it, that you need to get on to the next task. There will always be a next task, after all the nature of task lists is that they’re never ending. So let those other tasks come later.
When you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed, it comes from a feeling of uncertainty. We don’t know how things are going to go or we worry that we can’t do it all. We don’t know how we’re going to do with any of it and we’re uncertain that we’re good enough to handle all this. Uncertainty: our minds don’t like that feeling. We want stable ground under our feet, something solid, certain, or reassuring. Unfortunately life never gives us that reassuring certainty. So we’re always trying to cope with the uncertainty by doing as much as we can. We make lists, finding the perfect productivity system, running to distractions. Instead, we can train our minds to stay with the uncertainty. Then become more comfortable in this state. And then we can be at peace in the middle of chaos.
When we’re stressed out, it’s because we’re attached to something. We may attach ourselves to try to do too much. Or we may attach ourselves to how people see us, or to meeting a goal or deadline. We may even attach ourselves to a certain self-image. What if we could let go of these attachments, and be in the moment? Things would become easier. Luckily letting go is something that’s within our power.
Our minds are stressed because we’re thinking about our uncertain future. But what if we learned to trust the present moment? What if, instead, we immersed ourselves in the activity before us? This is actually a letting go practice, and it’s also a being-fully-present practice. Be in the activity you’re doing, just one activity. As if it were the only activity and the most important activity in the world. Because it is.
Practice relaxed awareness as opposed to constant distraction. This requires a relaxed awareness is a consciousness of our thoughts. This means an awareness of our existence, thoughts and emotions and outside stimuli. To practice: close your eyes and focus on your breath. Notice your thoughts and feelings and body. You might see negative thoughts or emotions. Don’t try to turn them into positive thoughts or push them away. Above all, practice daily to develop a habit (if you find it useful).
Wake up in the morning and think about what you’re grateful for. For example, include things about yourself. If you failed at something, what about that failure are you grateful for? If you aren’t perfect, what about your imperfection can you be grateful for? Feel free to journal about these things each day, or once a week if that helps.
As you notice self-judgements, see if you can turn them into forgiveness. In other words, if you judge yourself for not doing well at something, or not being good enough at something, can you forgive yourself for this? Can you learn to understand why you did it, and see that you don’t even need forgiveness? If we seek to understand, we realise that we did the best we could. And so we don’t need to forgive, but instead to understand, and seek to do things that might relieve the pain.
You don’t need to do all these techniques all the time. Try one or two out, see if they help, then perhaps try another one or two, etc. Above all, find what works for you. These are all transformative practices, and you can practice them one at a time or one after the other. After all, each only takes a moment, but they can transform your world. Why not try them and see a deep trust in yourself start to grow?
What do you think? Leave a comment below: