“Do you want to run smoothly or do you want your life to run smoothly?”
Mark Peter Kahn
It’s well documented how useful exercise and yoga and eating properly are beneficial for stress reduction and yes they are. I’m not going to talk about that here now because you can read up about that anywhere, anytime. Long term, if you don’t eat well and don’t exercise, it’s likely to impact your health and your stress levels.
Bad health is stressful!
The problem with all of these things is that they are an important foundation to dissolving stress but most of us need much more than this. They are just the foundation but not the rest of the house.
The Victim Position.
If you fight reality, you lose, but only every time. This is the Victim Position. Mostly we want the world to be different so we can feel better. It’s not going to happen very often. The more you learn to ‘run smoothly’ the better you will navigate the ups and downs of life.
Close the Gap.
“It isn’t money that makes the world go around, it’s our fantasies.”
Mark Peter Kahn
Learn to soften and dissolve your fantasies, you remember that gap I talked about last week. You need to close the gap between fantasy and reality.
Couples in successful marriages do this. They might start out with a bunch of fantasies about what marriage should look like and how their partner should behave but they change this, their fantasies soften and they learn to honour the reality of their partner and to indeed love the reality that they live with.
There is a lot of research around mindfulness as a stress management technique and it’s used all over the world in all of the major universities and I can’t argue with the research but what I can say is that mindfulness techniques – which means staying in the present moment and bringing yourself back to what is happening right now – have just never worked for me and most of the people I know just haven’t been able to sustain this kind of work.
I think the reason for this is that you’re trying to push the mind, by using the mind, to stay in the present.
My preference is therefore to begin to suggest to yourself in a very loose and relaxed kind of way that perhaps wishing the past would change or trying to control the future is an unrealistic fantasy and just feel your way into releasing these ruminations and fantasies and notice if it doesn’t make you more present and more engaged right here right now and most importantly less stressed.
Is This Really an Emergency?
Are you the kind of person who makes emergencies out of nothing? If you are a driving, pushing, perfectionistic type personality like me, then this section is for you!
Start noticing as you go about your day if you don’t get anxious about having to do something immediately when in fact, in reality, there’s no urgency to do it at all. It doesn’t matter whether it’s about replying to emails or texts immediately or if it’s that you just have to make a phone call now, or you have to be able to answer somebody’s question immediately.
I learnt an amazing lesson many years ago watching Gary Hart, a presidential hopeful in a democratic debate. He was asked a question and his response was: “I really don’t know, can I get back to you on that?” I suddenly realised that not only did I think I had to answer people’s questions immediately, I also had to know the answer to anything anybody asked me.
A major issue in this arena is around our ‘wanting.’ You are surfing online and you see a piece of music, or a book or you trying to download a video and it’s not working and you make this ‘not getting’ an emergency and your stress level goes through the roof. If you tend to be like this, there are hundreds of ways in which it manifests.
Ask yourself the question, ‘What would my life be like if I didn’t have this thing right now?!’ Or ‘How was I feeling before I knew about this thing and would my life be really any different if I did have this thing?’
You’re cooking dinner and the steak is ready but the chips aren’t. Is that an emergency? Your kid is crying and you have to fix it now! Is that really an emergency? You get an invoice to pay someone and it’s double the correct amount. Is that really an emergency?
You’re creating a spreadsheet and you think the folder has been deleted before you’ve saved it. Does that have to be an emergency? You’re creating a new document on your PC and it seems to have disappeared. Is that really, really and emergency?
We make emergencies out of things that we need fix or sort out, now! Can just start to notice as this happens and stop for a moment before you get into action and see if you can just begin to let go of the stressful contraction that is making this into an emergency in your mind.
The mind makes a catastrophe out of thin air!
I learnt a wonderful thing from John Kehoe some years ago. He mentioned how a friend came up to him one day and said: “Did you go to that amazing concert upstate New York last week?” And Kehoe said: “No I didn’t.”
And the friend replied absolutely horrified: “I can’t believe you missed it!”
And Kehoe smilingly responded: “I miss things all the time.”
What a beautiful teaching.
Learn to Live With Incompleteness.
Quite simply life is filled with things half done or not started yet and it’s endless. If you can learn to embrace this you will dissolve an immense amount of your stress.
There are decades of research exploring the value of meditation in the management of stress and all of the research is positive. Neurological research has shown conclusively that when we meditate our stress levels reduce and we are happier. Amongst may other effects, meditation has been shown to activate the left prefrontal cortex, an area responsible for us having positive emotions.
The problem with most meditation techniques is that they are concentration techniques, which means you can’t focus on the mantra or the breath or the image that you are using in your meditation when you are going about the rest of your life, which is why I fell in love with Adyashanti’s True Meditation technique about eight years ago in which there is no need to concentrate and to try to stop the mind.
In this technique one is able to access a very deep Stillness whether one’s eyes are closed or not and to take it into any situation in your daily life including pressurised meetings, driving to work and dealing with conflict situations.
Heart Rate Variability.
The heart speeds up as we breathe in and slows down as we breathe out. The relationship between the ‘in’ and the ‘out’ is called heart rate variability. (HRV) When they are in balance, coherent, HRV increases. This is associated with reduced stress. Go to your app store to check out devices, alternatively just breath in for 5 seconds and out for 5 seconds to begin to improve your HRV.
Love Yourself More.
Not many people notice how self-rejection and judgement drains energy from their mental, physical and emotional systems. Judgements are stressful. To learn to connect with an energy of love more and more of the time internally and ultimately to Love yourself for no reason, reduces stress immensely.
What is also not often noticed is how love and anxiety tend to be mutually exclusive emotions. In other words if your anxiety is high, the chances are your self-love is low and vice versa. So to love yourself more of the time is to reduce anxiety and of course anxiety is deeply stressful.
In Love & Power,