Dealing with Stress
There are times when we build up too much stress in our lives. There were the pressures to get everything just right. There were the problems of balancing your time and your money. While it is important to accomplish things and to get things done, it is also important to be able to relax and to lessen the stress you place on yourself. Yes, you are the number one source of your stress, but the solution is not to avoid the stressful situations.
The solution is how to stay in your day to day life and remain relaxed. It takes three elements for one to relax: acceptance, a quiet mind, and relaxation techniques. First, you have to be able to accept life as it is, as it is- right now. Many of us feel our lives have changes before we can relax. We believe that with more effort or the right answer then life will change to what we want. So, as a result, we keep our mind active, running though the would have, could have, and should have scenarios of how to change ourselves or the world around us.
It is natural to want to feel strong, confident and capable, but in doing such, we will have our doubts or others may disagree with us. In those situations, deep within us, we start to respond as if we are physically being threatened. This response is called “fight or flight.” It creates tension and a feeling of uneasiness, and unless we can accept our own doubts and the opinions of others, it will be difficult to relax. Secondly, you have to be interested with a quiet mind. One problem is that when we get interested in something or someone- we tinker. Like one woman once told me, if you tell me your problems, be ready to agree with my solutions. For her, she either didn’t want to hear of a problem or she wanted to influence the solution. She couldn’t just “be” with the problem- she felt she had to “do” something. It is often difficult to feel someone’s pain and to not want to reduce it.
What can lower stress is to first accept being in pain, then ‘be’ with that other person as they face their problem, with their own solutions. Another technique for a quiet mind is for one to say silently to oneself, “not now.” There are many times when our mind needs to be told “stop,” such as when it’s time to go to sleep. Instead of being quiet, it wants to keep on running. That is when you need to tell it to stop, and mean it. Then, focus on your senses and practice relaxation techniques.
Thirdly, it is important to learn and even more important to practice relaxation techniques. These are simple things that we do all the time. The problem is when stressed, we often seem to forget about them. These techniques include deep breathing, muscle relaxation, and positive affirmations. For these techniques to be effective, they have to stay toward the front of your mind, and they have to be used frequently and on an ongoing basis.
For instance, a single slow, deep breath is a sigh. It is a reflex used by the body to relax. As long as all your breathing is slow and deep, you will relax, but if you have not deal with the cause of the tension, it may quickly return. “Muscle relaxation” means that you become mindful of the state of your muscles in your body. Remember they are voluntary muscles which means they are under your control. They tense up when your mind gets busy. You can tense up when you stop paying attention to them. Becoming mindful on the state of your muscles can be done in many ways. I like to start at the top of my head and slowly go downward, with my mind’s eye noticing how that muscle feels- wiggling it or tensing it and then letting it relax until I reach the tips of my toes.
Positive affirmations are critical for relaxation. Unless you reassure yourself, your mind will return to earlier attitudes and patterns- those that caused your tension before. To be effective, these affirmations have to be kept in your moment to moment awareness. Examples are: One day at a time, take it easy, I’ve been here before, I’m okay, and Let go; let God.” When affirmations are combined with a deep breath, a shrug of the shoulders, and a refocus on your senses, you can go onward and later note that you didn’t feel as tense as you had earlier. One last reminder - for effective results, these techniques have to be used frequently and on an ongoing basis.