Stress comes in many forms, from a sudden crisis to the slow drip-drip of life’s daily demands. Acute or chronic, it creates tensions and imbalances within our system that bring an intensity to the way we engage with everything.
The imprint of stress remains in the body’s cellular memory and neural pathways long after the crisis has passed and everyday demands eased. Stress, literally, shapes body and mind – which perpetuates its vicious cycle.
We can manage stress better by becoming more aware of how we engage our attention and energy in everyday activities. If we step back a bit and soften the level of intensity we engage with things – whether it’s our own thoughts, talking on the phone or working at our computer – it allows our system to relax, and begin to re-balance itself.
If there is one mantra I would recommend on a daily basis as an antidote to stress, it is this: “Soften, and step back”.
There are other aspects of stress that are also worth looking at. Contemporary psychology shows that a major cause of stress is our own internal stressor: that inner voice that tells us we should do better; must get things right; have to keep going. This uses up vast amounts of nervous energy and makes deep, recuperative rest difficult. At some fundamental level, in order to rest we need to give ourselves permission to! Internal beliefs drive habitual thought and behaviour patterns, so it’s important to examine our own beliefs in order to explore what gets in the way of our resting. We may need to re-evaluate our relationship with rest. For instance: do we see it as time where nothing useful happens, or how much do we identify self-worth with the act of doing?
Rest is the body’s natural growth and repair state and is essential to our health and well-being. In order to really benefit from rest, we need to engage with it fully rather than busying ourselves with computer games, networking sites, internet browsing, television which all tend to stimulate the nervous system rather than allow it to rest properly. Here are some tips that will help you use less nervous energy generally, manage stress better and rest more deeply:
1. Soften the way you engage with people, ideas and things. Turn that inner intensity dial down.
2. Notice if you are putting more nervous energy into an everyday activity than you need to. Pause for a moment then put in a third less.
3. Draw your mind back from being so close up on everything. Practice softening your mind.
4. Step back from situations and get the bigger picture rather than being lost in the detail and drama.
5. Set healthy personal boundaries. It’s not your responsibility to take on other people’s stuff.
6. Check in regularly with the set and posture of your body, and allow the parts of you that are holding tension to soften a little.
7. Really give yourself permission to rest – let yourself know that it’s ok not ‘to do’ for a while.
8. Ask yourself if you are constantly on-the-go as a distraction from an inner need that want addressing, then take appropriate action to address this need.
9. Build regular rest time into your daily schedule and commit to it.
10. Finally, try this quick de-stressor anywhere, anytime:
Pause what you are doing/thinking • Soften the way you are engaging with everything • Step back • Turn that intensity dial down!
Linda Hall is a talented and experienced meditation teacher and a valued member of The Guided Meditation Site. Please follow this link to explore Linda Hall's guided meditations.
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