Here’s an important skill to practice when you are going through a stressful time. Whether the stress is dealing with an undesirable situation, or you just feel anxiety even when things are going well, this simple practice can lower your stress level significantly.
#1: Stop yourself and become self-aware. To become self-aware, ask yourself questions about how you are feeling in that exact moment. Questions like: “How am I feeling right now?” “What am I thinking right now?” “Do I need to be thinking about this right now?” “Are my thoughts factual or am I creating stories or scenarios in my head?” Our thoughts can cause the stress. This important practice pauses your busy ‘monkey mind’ and lets you objectively see what your thoughts are doing.
#2: Breathe. Although this may sound a little silly, it is quite amazing how taking some mindful, deeper breaths can settle you down pretty quickly. Even if you are dealing with a stressful situation for days or weeks, take as many opportunities as you can remember to just breathe. Breathe deeply, rhythmically, and let your torso and abdomen relax so you can really feel the expansion and contraction of your lungs and muscles fully – try to do this for a few minutes, but even if you can only manage a few breaths here and there, do it. This important practice invokes the relaxation response in your body.
#3: Reframe. Now here’s the more challenging part, but it’s worth doing. Can you see the situation with a different perspective? Don’t dismiss this challenge flippantly. For example, if you are spending hours driving your parent around to doctor’s appointments, instead of being irritated by this, can you reframe this and realize that what you are doing is honorable and you can be glad that you are able to do this for your parent? Most people are naturally wired to see the negative, so this practice takes effort to see things in a different light. This important practice lets you change how you see and experience a situation.
I was inspired to write this post because I am faced with something in my life that’s unexpected and disruptive, and when I called upon this practice, it reminded me how powerful it is. I hope that this post has come to you at a time that is most helpful. If you need it, please take the time to cultivate this and really make it work for you.
~Wendy Quan, of The Calm Monkey.