I have decided that life is too short to spend it being stressed out.
Not exactly too short, but more like too important, too precious and too essential, to spend my days worked up about everything.
Stress is just another bad habit we pick up, as we go through life and, of course, mindfulness is the best antidote to stress. Much of our stress comes from worrying about the future and trying to micro-manage the heck out of our lives in our hope to get the best results.
One main pattern I see in people’s stress is a fear that we might not get what we want in the future.
We think that we need to work the extra job, take the extra courses, start the new project and in general push extra hard, or at least stress ourselves out thinking we have to push ourselves extra hard, while we procrastinate. We do this all out of fear that if we don’t do everything we can now, to prepare, we won’t ever get the life we want later.
But here is the truth—we can only have the life we want in the present moment.
Sacrificing this moment for the hope of a better next moment is the root of much of our dissatisfaction.
One of the most important questions we can ask ourselves is, “How do I want to approach this moment I am in right now?”
We can look at how much generosity, compassion, love, presence and intention we can bring to the present moment. What will happen in the next moment or in a moment five years down the road, we just don’t know.
If we are looking to have more enjoyment, pleasure and fulfillment in our lives, we need to become courageous and set some hard boundaries with ourselves about how we are spending our precious human time.
Here are seven suggestions for trading stress for the present moment:
1. Slash the schedule.
I am serious. Most of us are way too busy. I think cutting back our schedule is a political and environmental statement about how we want the world to be. In our busyness we struggle to be generous, we easily rationalize why we are driving so much and recycling so little and we often tell the people we love we don’t have time for them. We blame all our stress on the infamous “busy.” But who is choosing to be so busy? I have majorly slashed my schedule and it has had beautiful results. This week at least half a dozen friends and family reached out needing support and I had time for all of them. I didn’t feel stressed giving away so much of my time, instead I felt blessed to be able to offer love and assistance.
2. Get clear about your values.
We all need to make tough decisions about what we really believe in. Often we spend time doing things we think we “should” be interested in. We think “good” people and “smart” people do certain things and we want to ensure we are in those categories. But really, we are the only ones who know what we really care about. Taking the time to ask ourselves hard questions about what is really important to us, and then making concrete choices that correspond to our values, is the true way to lead a life that feels authentic to who we are. This is important because one of the most stressful things we can do to our own systems is live against our own values.
3. Look belief systems straight in the eye.
What belief systems are driving our decisions? It could be I need x amount of money to be safe, getting a divorce ruins the kids, this job is the only one I am good at, if I don’t finish my education I will never be successful or I can’t change because I have always been like this.
Outdated belief systems hold us in patterns of stagnation.
When we challenge these belief system and see them for the false advertising they are, the behaviors in our life associated with the belief systems naturally fall away.
This is what it means to become real.
4. Add exercise.
We have to get sweating and moving. Exercise is about way more then burning calories. It brings fresh oxygen into our body and lets out the old stale air that is holding the stress in our system. When we sweat we detoxify. Yes, stress is going to happen, but we don’t need to hold onto it. Let the sheer joy of moving release the stress out of the body.
5. Release, release, release.
Exercise is not the only way to release stagnant stress energy from the human system. But so does crying, yelling, stomping and shaking. If we think calories in, calories out is important for our health then we need to acknowledge that stress in, stress out is even more important. As long as we hold on to past stress, it continues to wreak havoc and cause damage. The intention I work with is, “Whatever no longer serves me, leave my system.” Then I image it all flying out of my body and energy field and dissipating back into pure, neutral energy. I find I feel fresh and ready to start again after this process.
6. Make pleasure a priority.
Enjoying life should not be an option. When we push pleasure to the back burner and do all the work and stressful stuff first, life becomes boring and dull, like we are just living for the future. Every day we need to do things we enjoy. This can be small things. A nice walk, a TV show, coffee with a friend who makes us laugh, music, painting. Something that makes us smile. Something we look forward to. This type of pleasure is essential in our everyday life to reduce stress and feel engaged in the enjoyment of our human existence.
7. Be generous.
Again, putting a halt to our own stress patterns is one of the best things we can do to heal the Earth. How often do we tell people we can’t help them because we are too busy and too stressed? How can we stop wars and create peace if we don’t even have time to help our neighbor? Carve out time to give to others, it feels good, it is good and it makes the world the place we all want to live in.
Maybe these suggestions resonate with you. Or maybe I have missed something. Perhaps, there is something else at the core of your stress response. Are you willing to take a close look at what it is? The looking is the first step, the hardest step and the most essential step.
But the path of stress reduction is worth it. Waking up in the morning feeling spacious and abundant is an option for all humans. We just need to choose to look for it.