We’re facing unprecedented levels of stress, yet a commitment to self-care is lagging behind. Culturally, we’re socialized, especially women, mother’s and wives, to put others first. “I always get the burnt toast,” a client once told me.
Many of us are healers—although we may not officially call ourselves that. mum’s, wives, daughters, friends, teachers, midwives and others who are caring, empathetic, and kind. We often soak up loved one’s stress without realizing the impact on our own stress levels. We listen to their fears, we soothe their anxieties, we teach and counsel in our attempt to help those we care about to survive in an often toxic and increasingly narcissistic world.
But what about us? Who helps us?
“It must have been awful for you,” a dear friend said recently, acknowledging the impact of the traumatic episode which happened to a family member recently. “Yes, it was,” I said, simply, grateful of the acknowledgment no one else had offered. I didn’t tell her that it was only the tip of what I have suffered.
If you are supporting loved ones through mental illness, acute stress, toxic drama, addiction, or something else, you can forget that you too are suffering from this thing that is happening to your son, your daughter, your husband, your wife, your significant other. Even your client.
A lot of time and energy and commitment, and rightly and willingly so, is spent on trying to help them stabilize and get back to their old selves again. To be healthy and well. But the care and support of family and loved ones cannot, must not, do not need to come at the expense of your own health—and sanity.
It may sound cliched, but it’s true—you have to strap on your oxygen mask first. The announcement of the flight attendants prior to aircraft takeoff is simple and straightforward: “In case of cabin depressurization, oxygen masks will drop automatically.”
But, automatic self-care doesn’t happen without your commitment to making it a priority. Your approach to helping others must change.
Listed below are five easy-peasy, bright and breezy strategies to manage stress, find joy, and increase your happiness—even when you are too exhausted to try.
“You must take personal responsibility. You cannot change the circumstances, the seasons, or the wind, but you can change yourself. That is something you have charge of.”
~ Jim Rohn
By change of reaction comes change of circumstance, say many great spiritual masters and teachers. If you are distressed and on the verge of burnout, taking back control can prove challenging. It is hard to feel optimistic when you are overwhelmed, depleted and despairing.
It’s hard—but not impossible. Viktor Frankl, an Austrian psychiatrist who survived the horrors of Nazi death camps, believed that it’s not the situation which defines and controls us, but our attitudes and reactions. The key to his survival, Frankl maintained, was searching for meaning in that which seems unfathomable.
Stressed or not, you can determine your reaction. Ensure success at becoming less stressed by:
• Focusing on three good things you have done each day
• Praising yourself when you achieve a result—no matter how small
• Practicing radical acceptance of yourself, or the situation, if you feel stressed
• Find meaning and purpose in your experience.
Throughout Stress Less. Love Life More: How to Stop Worrying, Reduce Anxiety, Eliminate Negative Thinking and Find Happiness, you’ll discover strategies to help you transcend the biological stress reaction before it overpowers you. Listed below are two simple strategies:
Reinterpret the situation: e.g., change the meaning; instead of, “They should do what I want,” try, “I’m learning how to cope with other peoples’ choices, reactions or demands.”
Modify or remove the stressor/s: eg., take assertive action—make ‘no’, your new ‘yes’; prioritize your own self-care; work reasonable hours; quit a job you hate, follow your bliss and schedule ‘me time’ to do what you love (or try something you may end up loving).
If you’re a people-pleaser or struggle with saying no, you’ll find helpful tips in No! Why ‘No’ is the New ‘Yes’: How to Reclaim Your Life, Shine in the Sun, and Be Authentically You.
“Change the way you look at things and the things you look at change.”
~ Wayne Dyer
The way you view events, people, and situations can create stress. A simple way to change your level of stress begins by changing how you view circumstances.
• Reframe: change the way you see the event; e.g., if insomnia keeps you awake, rather than lie there stressing, value this as extra time to read, plan, think or simply just to ‘be’; see problems as challenges.
• Look at now: remain in the present, embrace the power of now. Take comfort that what you are worrying about may never happen. If you still fear that things may turn out badly, adopt a ‘what if’ strategy and identify what steps you can do ‘now’ to minimize this likelihood.
• Self-talk: Only speak to yourself in positive words; not “I can’t cope,” but, “I can do this; I’ve handled change before,” or, “ I trust myself to be able to handle this.” Not, as I have said during times of stress, “I’m a terrible mother,” but “I’m a great mother and I’m doing the best that I can with the resources I have.”
• Don’t think in absolutes: you will disappoint yourself. “I must be perfect at everything I do all the time,” is setting yourself up for failure.
• It’s OK to feel bad: the real fake news is that we are meant to always feel good. Give yourself permission to feel down—seek help if it spirals into depression.
• Don’t focus on the bad: not “My daughter has broken down – why her? why me?” but, “She’s now getting the help she needs to release the trauma of her past. It’s worrying, but in hindsight, I know she will emerge stronger. We all will.”
Other helpful coping strategies include advance preparation. Minimize the impact of stress and boost your resilience, by:
• Identifying stressful events in advance and try to minimize or avoid them if possible—e.g. if family get-togethers are a stressor, put a limit on how long you visit or consider missing the event altogether. Christmas comes to mind!
• Identifying your stress reactions so that you can pamper yourself, self-soothe or take extra self-care
• Planning your winning strategy: what options do you have? What is the most realistic solution?
• Planning small, realistic steps: don’t overwhelm yourself or try to do everything you need to at once
• Choosing a few important goals: prioritize and accept that some things may have to be pushed back
• Praising yourself when you cope well. This boosts confidence and self-esteem, strengthening your ability to handle future stress
In the next tip you’ll discover how, despite experiencing extreme stress, some of the world’s most influential people have found gifts from their suffering.
“Nothing beautiful in the end comes without a measure of some pain, some frustration, some suffering.”
~ His Holiness the Dalai Lama
In The Book of Joy, two great spiritual teachers, the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu—men who have both known tremendous suffering, encourage us all to look for the gifts contained within adversity. One of these gifts is the opportunity to be reborn.
“When I spoke about mothers and childbirth, it seems to be a wonderful metaphor, actually, that nothing beautiful in the end comes without a measure of some pain, some frustration, some suffering,” writes the Dalai Lama. “This is the nature of things. This is how our universe has been made up.”
In The Book of Joy, the Dalai Lama shares how the gift of being exiled from his beloved Tibet provided the opportunity to give birth to a new way of being and to share his teachings and Buddhist philosophy throughout the world. “Life is suffering,” he says. “It’s how you react to life that changes your karma”, he teaches. “I’m just one human being, but I believe each one of us has a responsibility to contribute to a happier humanity.”
It is no coincidence that successful and revered people see the cup half full, look for ways to add more to peoples’ lives rather than play the victim, and demand life treat them more favorably.
Sometimes in life, as with photography, you need the negative to develop. What at the time seemed like a low point can, with hindsight, prove to be the most life-changing and meaningful experience.
Call to Action
How might you be able to experience joy even in the face of inevitable challenges?
Following your bliss is a great antidote to stress. Whether you refer to the things, people and situations that fill you with happiness as sparking passion, joy, love or desire these powerful heart-felt emotions are natural opiates for your mind, body, and soul.
Charles Kovess, the author of Passionate People Produce, describes passion as: “A source of unlimited energy from the soul that enables people to achieve extraordinary results.”
Often when you’re feeling stressed, the things that you love to do are the first things to be traded. When you tap into something you deeply believe in and enjoy you may be amazed at the results.
Passion brings the energy or chi of love, giving you energy, vitality and a heightened sense of well-being. It’s one of the greatest stress-busters of all and promotes the generation of endorphins—feel-good chemicals that will give you an extra spring in your step. Even five minutes a day doing something you love can give you your mojo back.
Is the true source of stress your work? What may start off as a hobby could very well turn out to be your ticket to a more fulfilling career. Like for Brian Clifford, owner of Integrated Pest Management, who had always been fascinated with bugs. After becoming disenchanted with his first career, he opted to follow his passion and became a “pestie.” He loves the idea of being a white knight coming to peoples’ rescue.
Call to Action
What do you love doing? What inspires you? What makes you feel joyful? Identify these things and take some time to follow your bliss.
These are just a few of the strategies I have put in place recently, I hope, whatever you are going through, you find something helpful
and the last one is my gold-standard—it’s my 5-star go-to strategy every day…
“Our brains never get a break and the results can be increased stress, anxiety, insomnia and if left unchecked, even depression. But there is something you can do—nothing.”
~ Mathew Johnstone, author & cartoonist
Stressed, fatigued, or overwhelmed minds will never be productive. The opposite is also true—peaceful, calm, and clear minds elevate success.
Many of the most influential authors, creative artists, and business people today credit their meditative practice for their increased productivity and prosperity.
“It’s the Swiss army knife of medical tools, for conditions both small and large,” writes Arianna Huffington, the founder of The Huffington Post and author of Thrive.
When Tim Ferriss, who practices transcendental meditation, sat down with more than 200 people at the height of their field for his new book, Tools of Titans, he found that 80% followed some form of guided mindfulness practice.
It took Ferriss a while to get into meditation, he says in a podcast episode about his own morning routine. But since he discovered that the majority of world-class performers meditated, he also decided to follow the habit.
His practice takes up 21 minutes a day: one minute to get settled and 20 minutes to meditate.
Ferriss recommends two apps for those wanting some help getting started—Headspace or Calm.
“Start small, rig the game so you can win it, get in five sessions before you get too ambitious with length,” says Ferriss.
“You have to win those early sessions so you establish it as a habit, so you don’t have the cognitive fatigue of that practice.”
So, what’s the buzz? Here are a few of the many ways a regular meditative practice will improve your productivity:
• Decreased stress and anxiety
• Improved focus, memory, and learning ability
• Fantastic recharging capacity
• Higher IQ and more efficient brain functioning
• Increased blood circulation and reduced hyperactivity in the brain, slower wavelengths and decreased beta waves (Beta State:13—30Hz) means more time between thoughts which leads to more skillful decision making
• Increased Theta State (4—8Hz) and Delta States (1—3 Hz) which deepens awareness and strengthens intuition and visualization skills
• Increased creativity and connection with your higher intelligence
Recent research published in New Scientist has revealed that meditation can help to calm people and reduce fear. The research found that regular meditation can tame the amygdala, an area of the brain which is the hub of fear memory.
People who meditate regularly are less likely to be shocked, flustered, surprised, or as angry as other people, and have a greater stress tolerance threshold as a result.
By meditating regularly, the brain is reoriented from a stressful fight-or-flight response to one of acceptance, a shift that increases contentment, enthusiasm, and feelings of happiness.
Call to Action
Many successful people regularly take time to focus on the present moment. Make meditating for at least 20 minutes a day part of your daily routine for optimum success and well-being.
Consistency is key. Shorter meditations on a regular basis are more productive than long sessions every few weeks. If you are a beginner, you may prefer to aim for 5 minutes a day and add 1 minute each week.
Many people find that meditating for 20 minutes in the morning and 20 minutes at the end of the day yields remarkable benefits. I know, I do!
This is an edited extract from Stress Less. Love Life More: How to Stop Worrying, Reduce Anxiety, Eliminate Negative Thinking and Find Happiness by Cassandra Gaisford. To purchase your copy and learn how to stress less and love life more, available now from all good bookstores, click here to go to Amazon
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I am an artist, storyteller, intuitive guide, mentor and Reiki master. All my creations are infused with positive energy , inspiration, and light. I believe in magic and the power of beauty, joy, love, purpose, and creativity to transform your life. My greatest joy is helping your realize your dreams. That makes my soul sing!
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