Wouldn’t it be great to start the New Year off with lots of energy and anticipation? For sure — and maybe you are already excited about the start of 2016 and what it will bring.
But maybe you have had some challenges this past year and the stress or worry may still be looming around. For me there is always an expectation of having to achieve something bigger and better as the year begins, and this causes me some stress. If stress is something you want to avoid or easily overcome in the next few months, then this newsletter might very well be for you! I’m about to give you some new ways to think about stress and turn it into joy and expectation instead.
If you have read or heard anything about stress (who hasn’t these days) you know that some good practices like meditation, physical exercise, yoga and “tapping” are great to have in your toolbox. And while I will say something about meditation, (and you know about exercise and yoga, and can google tapping or EFT), I will also cover Three Key Principles and Seven Techniques you can add into your day without taking any time out of your schedule.
I suspect that a Zen Monk who has meditated three hours a day for 25 years might have a pretty easy time with little or no stress at the start of a new year, but you and me? Not so easy. The reason for this is that the monk has trained his or her mind in such a way that repeated focus on some object has caused the brain to actually become focused and “harmonized” by physically decreasing the size of the brain’s amygdala, (the unmanaged fight or flight response that results in stress). While the monk has gained freedom from the negative impact of miscellaneous thoughts, you or I might “latch on” to an anxious thought, expand it into a mind movie about how the future might not turn out so well, and as a result feel quite stressful as a dose of cortisol is dumped from the adrenal glands into the amygdala to put us in an unmanaged flight or fight response. Which causes all sorts of problems over time.
If you meditate (which is a great stress reducer in itself), you probably have been taught to focus on your breath as the object of attention, which makes concentration easier. But researchers have also found that when practicing calm acceptance during meditation, you will develop a brain that is more resilient to stress. And if you meditate while cultivating feelings of love and compassion, your brain will develop in such a way that you spontaneously feel more connected to others. (Excerpted from Your Brain on Meditation, by Kelly McGonigal, www.mindful.org)
Here are the Principles and Techniques that will strengthen your ability to live stress-free. I’ll first start with the Three Key Principles for managing and pre-empting the worry thoughts that might enter your mind. Here they are:
1. Accept. Whatever the present moment brings allow it to be OK. Simply stated, stress is caused by resisting what is occurring or what shows up. So instead of fighting with reality, become a witness to what is occurring, get curious about it, and see what you can learn from it. “If you argue with current reality you will only be wrong 100% of the time!” — as was stated by Byron Katie).
2. Claim Your Uniqueness. Consider life a process that is unfolding only as it can for you alone. You are unique, so no need to compare yourself with anyone else, because they are unique as well. With this unfolding nature of your life consider and affirm that “everything is working out for me in perfect timing.” And one thing many of us have been conditioned to believe is that we need to be the best. One notion to take worry out of this equation is to “strive to be ordinary,” and watch stress disappear.
3. Take One Step at a Time. We call life a journey for good reason. On any journey there is a next step to take. As life is unfolding in perfect timing, be sure to remember that what you want — and will ultimately achieve — happens one step at a time. If you find yourself racing around and trying to achieve too much too fast, say to yourself “stepping stones” as a way to remember to slow down and remain mindfully in the present moment.
Now on to the Seven Techniques for Defeating Stress:
1. Gain Awareness. If you find yourself getting anxious (which for me was trying to make things “perfect”), interrupt the thought-feeling response by taking three slow breaths. Next, give yourself a pat on the back for being able to do this! Then ask “what is going on? Is it really so important?” The more you are able to check out and acknowledge what’s going on, the more you are able to take charge of your mind and manage your thoughts.
2. Be Content. If you typically find yourself wanting something different than what you have, you are most likely comparing the ideal to your current reality. This alone causes stress, so insert the notion that you would prefer to have something better, but you can get along just fine with what you have. Allowing whatever you have to be OK can begin to produce contentment, which may lead to gratitude. Appreciation is energy that actually opens the door for more good to come your way. So if you catch yourself complaining about what is, flip it upside down and be content with what is. And as you feel more and more grateful your stress will diminish.
3. Be Yourself. Use your new-found technique of Awareness to catch yourself comparing yourself with anyone else. There is no one like you in the Universe. You have a special assignment, which may be as simple to make flower arrangements (because you love it and are good at it) that make people smile and feel happy. Your current situation is perfect for you right now, albeit one that is unfolding to your greater good. It’s easy to say “love yourself” and harder to do, so just give yourself a pat on the back a few times each day and let that put a smile on your face and contentment in your heart. Forget trying to raise your self-esteem (which is solely achievement based) and go for self-worth instead — by acknowledging your basic goodness that is already dwelling within you.
4. Rise Above Your Problem. Look directly at whatever is bothering you squarely in the eye, then whatever image it produces place it on the ground beneath your feet. “Say what?” Yes, beneath your feet so that you are walking on top of it! You are now “top dog” and are walking all over your problem and can handle anything that comes your way!
5. Ask for Help. Honor the energy that created you, the world, and the universe as one of Wholeness. In fact, you cannot be anything other than connected with this all-powerful loving energy, and are free to tap into it and ask for assistance at any time — knowing it will be given — and typically provided in the form of inspired ideas to resolve whatever anxiety or concern you may have.
6. Flip Your Limiting Beliefs! We all have beliefs — some that serve us and some that are based on confused interpretations from the past. Check out which ones seem to run you most of the time, or which ones stop you from taking action in the face of an unknown. Whatever the belief, know that you can never fail at doing anything. Yes you can make mistakes, learn from the experience, and gain new knowledge . . . but never fail. So if you come across a belief that keeps hammering you, or a critical voice saying you are unworthy, “not good enough,” or a failure, look sternly at the message and turn it upside down. Recognize and claim the opposite. Then think it, feel it, and say it out loud. You are the master of your ship, so take hold of the steering wheel and turn it in the direction of your power and goodness.
7. Claim How You Want To BE, and Trust That It Will Occur. This is maybe the most important of the keys. When you wake up every morning immediately say to yourself ten “I am’s” — slowly and with feeling. Like, “I am wonderful, I am wise, I am worthy, I am stress-free, I am powerful, I am happy, I am abundant, I am healthy, I am content, I am skillful, I am loved.” Do this first thing before any negative or worry momentum begins. As the qualities you claim begin to take hold and you gain the faith to believe them as true, you will see the “fruits of your labor” appear to a greater and greater extent.
So my suggestion is to begin 2016 stress-free and let it deepen as you give these Principles and Techniques your attention. And while the upcoming New Year can be your best one ever, remember that it is made up of tiny moments of happiness along the way. Thinking ahead can actually cause you some stress you would rather not have! I remember this truism as a quote from Abraham that I think about quite often:
“A happy life is just a string of happy moments. But most people don’t allow the happy moment, because they’re so busy trying to get a happy life.”
May your new year be one filled with Health, Wealth and Abundant Joy throughout 2016!