Stress Awareness Month

Is stress really bad for you? OR is it the attitude we take towards life, it’s challenges, obstacles and stressful moments that make the difference?

Research shows that stress can be good for us. Stress can even increase our wellbeing, confidence and longevity. However, there is a catch. Stress is only good for you when we approach it with a positive attitude. If we see stress as a challenge, we can learn from; If we consider stress as an opportunity for personal or professional growth; We can thrive on stress.

This blog offers some healthy approaches to some common stressors.

Let’s start by getting rid of what we don’t need.

As a society, we throw away too much of the wrong stuff and not enough of the right stuff. Food and resources are wasted as if there were no future or future generation to consider. We horde and keep things that are unimportant, inconsequential and creates nothing but clutter.

It’s the spring season, a traditional time to spring clean your house. Let’s look at how we can spring clean all that unnecessary stress.

First, let’s turn a stressful space into a helpful, positive space.

You can do this with any space, but I’m going to use my office space as an example. You can be as creative as you like, do as little or much as you like. The idea is that you turn your space into a place that makes you happy to be there.

In my office, I keep my desk minimal, and I never let it get cluttered. I love crystals and stones, so I have a few just around the monitor, I enjoy looking at them, and they help transmute the positive ions that gadgets give off. I have a large picture on the wall in front of me of dolphins leaping in the ocean at sunset.

Behind me, I have a sofa with a large salt lamp and some small reading lights. When I want to take time out or have a think about something, I can sit somewhere comfortable in a relaxing light.

I use an aromatherapy diffuser to fill the room with scents that support my needs, whether that’s something creative, or a need for more focus.

I’ve created a space where I can be focused or relaxed and when I enter this space, I feel positive. Clearing and refreshing your space every year can make a real difference.

What can you do to change your space to suit your goals and needs?

Now for something a little more daring.

A few years ago, I did something that changed my life. I took all my to-do lists, notes and plans of things I wanted to do and needed to do that I hadn’t done yet, absolutely all of it. I binned it, deleted it and threw it all away. Gasp! What if you now forget something important? You won’t because if it were that important, you would either remember or be reminded.

When you build up to-do lists and lists of ideas about what you want to do someday, you create an attachment to them. You feel overwhelmed because you have all these lists and plans lurking in the background of awareness. Much of what is there will be unimportant or out of date, not even who you are anymore. Bin it!

Don’t get me wrong; I love to-do lists; I love getting excited about what I might like to do someday. I still make those lists and plans but now and then I bin them all. In fact, I just did it again yesterday, and that is why I now have time to write this blog. Have I any regrets because I forgot or missed something I threw in the bin. No! Do I feel less overwhelmed, more focused and more in touch with what is important right now? YES!

Bin all the overwhelm and give yourself a fresh start.

Don’t be tempted to recover your lists and plans or write new ones straight away. Please give it a couple of hours at least, go and have some fun or do something different. Then you can sit down and create a much more focused list of what is important to you right now. You’ll feel that a weight has lifted, and much more motivated to do what is truly important.

Now we’ve got rid of what we don’t need, let’s look at the pace of life.

Have you noticed how every year time passes so much faster? It’s becoming as common a topic in small talk as the weather.

Perhaps there will always be an element of this. Maybe it’s nature’s way of reminding us that our bodies are impermanent, our time is precious.

Outside of that our pace of life is faster; we can communicate with each other in an instant. As a result, we expect instant responses. We’ve created a life that forgets to allow for a pause or even punishes us if we do.

I’ve lost numerous potential new customers who couldn’t wait a weekend for a response, sometimes not even 24 hours. I’m not sad about that for myself, only for those who don’t understand what that means. Many practitioners never stop being available because they are frightened of losing customers, but then they can lose friends and loved ones because they never have their full attention. They can lose themselves in their work.

Don’t allow the world to dictate how you use your time.

Equally don’t be the person who expects instant responses, whether you are the boss or the employee, the self-employed small business owner or the CEO of a major company or the customer. Understanding the true value of our time is one of the wisest lessons we can learn.

A bit of magic.

Would you like to slow down time? Would you believe me if I said you could? Like most magical things we rarely believe it until we see it or experience it for ourselves.

Slow down! In as many ways as you can think of, deliberately slow yourself down. I challenge you to try this for one day. Any day, it doesn’t have to be an important day, but it is best if it is a day where you notice yourself rushing or feeling rushed, pressured or overwhelmed.

Think, move, act, type, breath, decide, read, do everything more slowly than you would usually. Create exaggerated spaces and pauses between everything you do and take more short breaks than you usually would. You won’t get this until you do it, but you’ll be amazed at what it does. You will feel happier, more at peace and you’ll get so much more done because time will slow down with youSlow down, do less, be more.

Take mindful breaks.

Going to the toilet, getting a drink or a bite to eat isn’t a break because it’s still doing something. Take a real break, a moment to check in with yourself and how you are feeling and responding to your day.

Remember how stress is either good for you or bad depending on your approach to it. One of the reasons people hit a crisis point with stress is lack of self-awareness. They don’t even know on a day to day basis how they are reacting and responding to things, not on a meaningful level. It’s only when they suddenly find themselves crashing that they wake up and realise they didn’t approach that as well as they thought.

Learning to slow down, create a balance between doing and being, takes practice. It’s a healthy habit we can build. It’s an opportunity to check in with yourself regularly. To adapt your approach to your current situation to one that supports you best, enabling you to grow and live a more meaningful life.

Plants and stones are your best teachers for ‘Just Being’.

Plants and stones are different from humans because they are not always trying to get somewhere; they are content just to be. In Shamanism plants and stones are considered far wiser than humans, partly because of their ability to simply be.

So, when you start to create a more positive space get yourself a beautiful plant, crystal, fossil or stone. Position it away from your desk somewhere and go and sit with the plant or stone on your breaks. Notice how you feel in your body and mind and take a moment to be more like the plant or stone. You can even do this with a tumbled stone you keep in your pocket. Slow yourself down, enjoy the beauty and peacefulness of the plant or stone. Recognise that it is ok to ‘just be’ for a short time, the world won’t end if you do and if it did, then you’d have nothing more to stress about 😊

One last thing…

Forget multi-tasking and do mindful tasking.

Focus on one thing at a time. We often get stressed when something is important to us; we don’t stress about things we don’t care about. If it’s important then we want to give it our full attention. Multi-tasking has been all the rave for a while and ironically so has mindfulness. Not everyone has caught onto the fact that living mindfully and multi-tasking is a complete contradiction. However, what happens if you try to juggle too many balls at once? You drop one, maybe even several.

Multi-tasking puts you into a more stressed state; you must be more alert to deal with more than one thing at once. You split your focus, your energy and your time. Multi-tasking doesn’t save you any time or energy. Often it has the opposite effect because we make mistakes or don’t give our best. Mindful tasking means we focus on one thing, without distraction, at any one time. When we give our full attention to a task, we do a better job, we pace ourselves better and tend to be more efficient. The result is we get more done, in less time and without unnecessary stress.

What attitudes or approaches could you change today to start creating your best possible life?

Whenever we make a positive change to our approach to life challenges and stresses, we become more flexible, more creative, more confident in our ability to handle what life throws at us. We live a more meaningful life.

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