Sometimes it seems to me that the last few years of my life have been mostly about overcoming obstacles and stress. This big cycle started in 2006 with my late husband’s cancer diagnosis. From that point on I dealt with a transplant, health insurance, losing Chris, losing my savings, my father’s serious illness, and family turmoil. So to me all those years were sink or swim. I chose to swim.
In choosing to live, to thrive and find contentment in very tough times, I’ve had to change the way I dealt with feelings and situations. I’ve learned to:
- Take deep breaths throughout my day. It helps release stress energy and it grounds me.
- Be fully in the present. Thinking how life used to be or thinking ahead doesn’t help any. It only creates more stress. I focus on now.
- Deal with one thing at a time.
- Realize although my difficulty and pain are unique to me, they are not unique to human existence. Every single one of us goes through difficulties in our lives. That helps me stop feeling like a victim.
- Step outside the situation at hand and realize that everything that happens in our lives – whatever it is – creates the opportunity for change and wisdom. So what can I learn from what’s going on?
- Rely on myself. I’ve learned to listen to my own voice. I have a better idea of what matters to me, what I can tolerate, and what brings me contentment.
- In solitude, I’ve learned I’m never alone. I have always myself and with that knowledge I can create situations that bring happiness and sooth the struggle.
Of course difficult times are just that; difficult. But if we can find ways to better navigate them, we don’t have to lose hope and despair. Keep the other side in sight and the journey becomes a path to wisdom and contentment.
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” – Aristotle
‘Drink your tea slowly and reverently, as if it is the axis
on which the world earth revolves – slowly, evenly, without
rushing toward the future. Live the actual moment.
Only this moment is life.’ ~Thich Nhat Hanh
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines stress as: a - a physical, chemical, or emotional factor that causes bodily or mental tension and may be a factor in disease causation B : a state of bodily or mental tension resulting from factors that tend to alter an existent equilibrium.
We all have stress in your lives, that’s a fact. We worry about money, health, relationships, and tasks. These issues will not go away, but how we deal with them is the difference between living a stressful life and a healthy life.
In a world where we are bombarded with information and so much is asked of us, not taking conscientious steps to diminish the effects of stress is not an option. If we just let ourselves go into this ocean of time constraints and demands we will certainly drown.
Below are five steps I believe can help anybody live a more satisfying life:
1 – Coming to terms that we are only human with limited amount of time and energy.
2 – Realizing some things are out of our control.
3 – Taking deep breaths throughout our day. Breathing helps to ground us.
4 – Be fully present in everything we do. If we concentrate on one task at a time the feeling of being overwhelmed will diminish substantially.
5 – Include some pleasurable in our everyday lives.
These five steps are simple and together create a new way of being where we are in charge of our time and contentment.
Imagine not feeling 100% responsible for everything that happens to you and to the people around you. Imagine not feeling pressured to do a million other things while completing one task. Imagine feeling grounded. And imagine that every day you can do something pleasurable for yourself which re-energizes and fulfills. That’s what a life without uncontrolled stress is like.
We can all do it. It just takes wanting and committing. Happy stress free life!
Felt a real kinship with the post below. First because like the author I too live in Los Angeles, and second because I too work in Hollywood. But that is not the point of the post. The point is as a nation we have lost our ability to unplug and relax. We have actually convinced ourselves that the more stressed out and tired we are, the more needed and important we become.
I’m here to tell you those assumptions are untrue. If we are tired and stressed we are just that; tired and stressed. We are no good to ourselves and to anyone else.
Got an email from someone in Brazil yesterday talking about stress. In the middle there was a question. How much does a glass of water weigh? Half a pound? A pound? It depends on the amount of water and the weight of the glass. But that is not the point.
Let’s say a half a pound water glass doesn’t weigh much if you hold the glass up for 10 secs. It also doesn’t weigh much if you hold it up for a minute. But what if you held the same glass for an hour? Your arm would probably be sore. Now what about for a whole day? You would probably end up in a hospital with major circulation issues.
So is stress. If you can rest and recharge there are no major consequences to your well- being. But if you just keep on going without replenishing yourself with emotional and psychological nourishment, you will most likely crash.
I love the post below. I especially love it today because I have not followed my own advice and insights. I’ve over done it. I got stressed and I burned out.
It all hit me yesterday. I’m an excellent multi-tasker and when I’m not watching, I pride myself of such quality. I also – when I’m not watching – pride myself in my never ending search for perfection. Let me qualify “I’m not watching”. It means both of these qualities – multi-tasker and perfectionist – taken to extremes are very detrimental. So I try to keep an eye on myself as not to get my excellent qualities to over perform.
Computers, smartphones, iPads and others, are all great communication and entertainment gadgets. But what are the consequences of our complete enslavement to them? Our lives have become so dependent on technology that we basically have to shut down when our internet isn’t working or our smartphone goes MIA.
How common has become the scenario of people walking by each other without any sign of acknowledgment because they are on their phones? Or what about smartphones adorning tables at restaurants?
Okay, here is a hard one to learn; we can’t change others but we can change ourselves. Why do I say it is hard? Because we are so attached to proving either our truth, intent or fairness, that we keep coming up with different ways to make our point even if every attempt only brings us frustration and disappointments.
There is nothing wrong with trying to communicate our thoughts and feelings but what becomes a waste is when it is obvious that the recipient is not ready or doesn’t want to see things in a different way. They are stuck in their position and methodology and they are not going to change no matter what we do.
One of the keys to life is adaptability. It’s the old go with the flow.
We all have plans and ideas on a daily basis on what our lives should be and look like. But on a daily basis those thoughts have to be adjusted. How well we can let go and adapt is the difference between stress/loss and forward movement.
Of course we should have a direction that reflects that ultimate goal we have in life. Let’s say if you want to have a family of your own, that is an ultimate goal. But maybe you don’t have a partner or maybe you can’t have children. So adoption or some other kind of way to have children becomes your alternate route. Getting stuck on, “I want to get pregnant like many other women”, represents a lack of adaptability which prevents your ultimate goal.
Post written by Leo Babauta. Follow me on Twitter.
The prevailing way of living in our Western societies is to plan out our lives, both for the long term and on a day-to-day basis.
We have planners and digital calendars that map out our lives, sometimes to the minute. We feel we’re in control, with plans like this.
But it’s an illusion, as I’ve said before.
We cannot control our lives to this degree, no matter how we try. Things will always come up to spoil the best-laid plans, and the more detailed our plans the more of a guarantee that something will go wrong.
And what happens when the plans go wrong? We are stressed out, because things get out of our control and don’t live up to our expectations. This is one of the greatest sources of stress for most people, actually.
Think about how often your days actually go according to plan, exactly — it’s pretty rare, because we have no way of predicting the future. No matter how hard we try. There’s always an email that will disrupt things, a last-minute meeting, cancellations and postponements, emergencies and fires to put out.
So if plans will almost always go wrong, and when they do we get stressed out, isn’t all the time we spend creating the plans a bit of a waste?
But what’s the alternative? Giving yourself to the moment. This will not work for everyone, I’ll admit: there are those who will have a hard time giving up the illusion of control, and others who are controlled by their bosses or peers and cannot work or live this way.
Still, it’s something worth considering. Here’s how to do it — starting with the don’ts:
- Don’t plan. Planning is an attempt to control the world around us, but it’s a futile attempt. Throw out your plans, for now at least until you’ve decided this method isn’t for you. What do you do instead? More on this below. For now, just stop planning.
- Don’t worry about the future. Will something bad happen? Are there things coming up that we must anticipate and prepare for? Of course, if there’s a massive hurricane headed your way, you should probably get ready. But otherwise, just realize that the future is unpredictable, and worrying about it is a waste of time. Focus on right now, and you’ll always be able to handle what comes.
- Don’t have expectations. If you expect people to act a certain way, or hope that things will turn out a certain way, you’ll always run into problems. Forget about outcomes for now. Go into things without expectations, and they will always turn out perfectly (if a bit messy).
- Don’t get annoyed when others act a certain way. Don’t expect people to act any way other than how they actually act. They are exactly the way they should be — even if that’s selfish or weird or aggressive. Those are their problems. Your problem is figuring out how you should act. I’d also advise you to try to understand others — why do they act the way they do?
- Don’t overreact. This is a major problem when people plan and things go wrong — they overreact, and get upset and emotional and blow things out of proportion. Stay calm, because if things “go wrong”, they didn’t actually go wrong — they just happened. More on how to react below.
- Don’t try to be proactive. This is a common prescription (being proactive) in management and business literature. And while I think the general idea is fine — do something to prevent problems from recurring rather than just fixing them after they happen — one of the problems this creates is always worrying about what might happen. And creating solutions before there are problems — if there never is a problem, you’ve wasted a lot of time creating the solution, and a lot of energy worrying about the future.
And now for the dos:
- Do be open. What would it be like to go into each day without a plan, but just to see what happens? A bit scary, because of the lack of security and control, a bit chaotic perhaps, a bit like we’re a piece of driftwood floating in the middle of a churning sea. But in truth, this is what it’s like to go into each day *with* a plan — it’s just that we normally fool ourselves about the amount of control we have. So start the day with no plan, and be open to what emerges in each moment.
- Do what you love. So what should you do, now that you have no plan? Do what you’re passionate about, do what excites you right now. Create something amazing. Pour yourself energetically into a project. Build something new. And what you think you’re creating might turn out to be completely different from what emerges, but you’ll have fun doing it and something even better might be revealed.
- Do act, in the moment. Giving yourself to the moment doesn’t mean being passive and just letting life happen. It means acting, but doing what is best at this moment, what you are excited about right now, what needs to be done, in the present.
- Do respond appropriately. Life happens, and we must respond. But instead of overreacting, we can respond calmly and appropriately. We can take the action that’s required, fix the problem, do what’s necessary to prevent it from happening again, and move on without it ruining our day.
- Do accept. Accept what happens. It might not be what you considered ideal, but it’s what life has given you, what has resulted from your actions in an unpredicatable world. Accept it, respond, act, move on. Don’t get caught up in things not going your way, but accept that’s what has happened.
Again, this way of living won’t be for everybody. Some don’t have the freedom to live this way, and others just won’t give up control. Some will think this is a passive way of living, but it really isn’t: it’s just a way of living in the moment without being caught up in the future (or the past) so much.
And when we live in the moment, we’re really living life to the fullest. This is the gift of the present.
Thoughts? Please share them with me on Twitter.
It is so hard to live by the beat of our own drums. The world around keeps telling us we need to produce and to succeed. We need to run faster and achieve more than our neighbors. We have all fallen prey to what we have created ourselves; equating well being with money, power and fame.
So it is hard to maintain equilibrium even when we know to achieve any level of happiness – and that is what we are all looking for right? – we need to satisfy and energize our physical, emotional, mental and spiritual needs.
Running as fast as we can thinking more is better creates high levels of dissatisfaction. I’m not a religious person but I appreciate all religions realizing the need for solitude and meditation for well balanced living.
Multi-tasking while feeling the incredible pressure to succeed turns our lives into stress tanks where we live in full immersion.
We have no time to actually mull over problems, obstacles, and issues. We have to plow forward. No time to waste. So our minds don’t get the work out they need. They are being fed the equivalent of fast food.
We also spend most of our days sitting in front of a computer eating out of brown paper bags and cutting our sleep down in order to produce more.
So to swim away from the current of “more, more, more” it takes self love and being diligent. It requires believing in ourselves and our inner voices. It takes saying to ourselves: “I will not run with the bulls. I will take my time and follow my own intuition. My path is my own.”
Change has always come from people that belief life should be different.
We have all a better guide in ourselves, if we would attend to it, than any other person can be. ~Jane Austen