It’s All About Perception
Traffic, financial challenges, health fears, obstinate children, meddling in-laws- stressful right?
There is nothing inherently stressful about any of those challenges. Yes, it is true these kinds of issues can automatically lead to a fight or flight reaction because on some level, it feels like a threat.
However, there is good news here.
There is a way to think about every one of those problems in a way that can significantly reduce the stress you feel in your body.
Here are a few tips to help you achieve a calm, relatively relaxed state even in the heat of what life has to offer you:
1) Decide to accept that life has its challenges.
I remember the opening sentence of the bestselling book by Edward Peck, The Road Less Travelled. It opens by saying, “Life is difficult.” Then he starts a new paragraph and says (I am paraphrasing just a little here), “However, once you accept that life is difficult, it immediately and paradoxically becomes significantly less difficult.
With the mindset of accepting life’s challenges, you can roll more with the ups AND downs of life.
2) Look at your life using symbolic sight rather than literal sight.
What this means is that you can look at your life from the standpoint as a curriculum that is there to teach you some very valuable lessons. These are lessons that help us improve as people, develop emotional strength, keep us in balance or help us develop an important valuable trait.
For example- if you look at the problem of congested traffic (living in Southern CA gives me a constant dose of this challenge) as awful, you will likely be very irritated, frustrated and tense. However, heavy traffic can be a great curriculum for developing patience.
The same could be said for obstinate children.
The great thing about most obstinate children is that they grow up into adults that are assertive and are less like to be taken advantage of. As parents, we should not want EASY children. It is the job of parents to practice being less stressed when our children are (healthily) obstinate and defiant. That is their job- to challenge us, as they become their own individual selves.
Another more intense example is that with many of my adult clients who were abused as children.
I help them see their past experiences as helping them learn the lesson of personal power. As they go through life and as they go through therapy, they see that there is a way to get their power back. Now I am not saying AT ALL that getting abused is a good thing; it is actually a horrible thing.
However, an adult who was abused as a child does not need to hold on to the stress.
This way of looking at life can help a person feel that his or her life including the suffering has had some inherent meaning and that the former victim can think in a way and act in a way that could be life-giving as opposed to chronically stressful.
3) Attend to your body often and do conscious breathing.
One thing that causes stress is excess thinking. Focusing on calm, conscious and rhythmic breathing pulls us back into the present moment. There is nothing more relaxing than living in the present moment.
Excess thinking usually has to do with the past (which we cannot do anything about) or the future, which has not happened yet so there is nothing to do about that either. Attending to your breathing as well as the sensations in your body bring you into the here and now.
Practicing this attending and focusing often will slow down your mind.
I have been angry and stressed about something before doing some Yoga and after Yoga, I am not angry or stressed ay all. Nothing changed out there; the only thing that changed was my inner perception. Whereas before I was over-thinking about how I was treated unfairly, as I focused on my breathing and my body as I stretched, I discovered that there was nothing to be angry about.
Why should I suffer for something that had already happened?
I am realizing that there is nothing more important in my life than the subject of this blog and I hope you make this important for you as well.
Realizing that you have the power to think differently about the challenges and unpleasant experiences in your life can be immediately life changing as well as give you many more healthy years of life in the future. I would love your comments about how YOU are practicing how to reduce your own stress.
As we approach 2017, what a great time to practice a lifestyle that encourages healthful living from the inside out. You and the people in your life will all be glad you did!