I don’t know about you, but I often find advice to release stress and pressure to be great on paper but incredibly difficult to apply.
Just say no more often! Sounds good, but my twenty-month-old son still needs constant care and I need to earn money, so there’s a lot I can’t just not do.
Get out in nature! I do try, but it’s been cold and grey, and often I don’t get time to myself until night—when it’s even more frigid.
Exercise more! I have the best of intentions, but I’m pregnant, frequently exhausted, and there’s that whole time thing again. I just can’t seem to create more of it, try as I may.
I suppose this is true of most good advice: It’s far easier to make a list of great ideas than it is to actually apply them. And it’s hard not to resist all those well-intentioned suggestions as overly simplified and maybe even unrealistic.
That, I’ve realized, is my biggest problem—one that you can perhaps relate to as well: While my circumstances can be challenging and limiting, most of the stress and pressure I feel originates with some form of internal resistance. Resistance to what was, what is, what might be, what I’m doing, what I could be doing, who I am… the list goes on.
And it might look like this:
Rehashing the past (and pressuring myself to somehow fix my mistakes)
Dwelling on worst-case scenarios (and pressuring myself to find ways to avoid them)
Fighting my current reality (and pressuring myself to change it)
Worrying about what I have to do (and pressuring myself to do it perfectly)
Obsessing about what I should be doing (and pressuring myself to figure it out)
Fixating on what I can’t do right now (and pressuring myself to get around my limitations)
Wishing I had more time for myself (and pressuring myself to somehow create it)
Judging myself in comparison to others (and pressuring myself to be better than I am)
Agonizing about what people think of me (and pressuring myself to meet their expectations)
If you’ve done any of these things yourself, I’m sure you know they’re exhausting.
That’s not say we are the sole cause of our stress. Sometimes life demands that we do more and deal with external challenges beyond our control—job loss, health issues, financial troubles, divorce…
And it’s true that there are lots of little things we can do to relieve some of the tension. But the first thing we need to do is relieve the pressure where it’s generally the most intense: within our own minds.
How to Relieve the Mental Pressure
There are two things I’ve found to be highly effective in quieting my inner voice of resistance.
1. Allow yourself to feel the feelings under your thoughts so that you can calm and release them.
All too often we get caught in a thought loop as a way to avoid feeling our feelings, because stressful as it may be, thinking about our circumstances allows us to avoid facing our deepest wounds. But we have to face them to heal them. As they say, the only way out is through.
I’ve found that underneath my varying forms of internal resistance, there’s usually:
About things I think I’ve done wrong, about who I am (when I mistakenly assume my poor choices define me), about expectations I failed to meet or might fail to meet (my own and other people’s). And this triggers my core childhood wounds that led me to believe I’m fundamentally bad.
When I feel it:
When I’m rehashing the past, judging myself in comparison to others, and agonizing about what people think of me.
Of the unknown, failing, succeeding then somehow ruining it, losing control, not doing enough with my life/making the most of my time, not living up to my potential, hurting or disappointing other people. Once again, this triggers my childhood wounds that led me to believe I’m not good enough, and never will be.
When I feel it:
When I’m dwelling on worst-case scenarios, worrying about what I have to do, and obsessing about what I should be doing.
Toward myself for what I think I did wrong, toward other people for how I think they did me wrong, toward for myself for maybe causing them to do me wrong (because I often find a way to blame myself), toward life for being unfair. This triggers my core belief that life should be fair, formed, you guessed it, in childhood, when life felt very unfair.
When I feel it:
When I’m rehashing the past and fighting my current reality.
Because I’m not connecting with myself, others, my passions, the world at large, or anything that would fulfill me.
When I feel it:
When I’m fixating on what I can’t do right now and wishing I had more time for myself.
When I can get below the thoughts and identify one of these feelings, I can sit with it. I can cry it out—the ultimate release!
I can empathize with myself and tell myself what I need to hear—that I’m a good person who’s always done her best, that I will do my best in the future and can handle what’s coming, that everyone else is doing their best, and we all deserve understanding and forgiveness.
And I can also do what I really need to do to feel better:
Maybe take a warm bath if I’m feeling ashamed to remind myself that I deserve comfort even when I think I’ve messed up.
Maybe do something fun and childlike if I’m feeling afraid of the future to help me find joy in the present moment.
Maybe write a forgiveness letter if I’m feeling angry to help me empathize, accept, and let go.
Maybe call someone I love, journal, or do something creative if I’m feeling empty, to meet my need for connection.
The point is, after we feel our feelings, we can do something to address the specific root cause of our stress in a moment instead of arbitrarily choosing an activity from a one-size-fits-all list of stress-relievers.
So ask yourself: What am I thinking that’s stressing me out? What’s the feeling underneath it? What does that feeling have to teach me? What does it need to hear? And what can I do to help ease that pain?
2. Get out of your head (and perhaps into your body or a state of flow).
It’s ironic but true that two pieces of seemingly contradictory advice can be equally helpful and powerful, and such is the case when it comes to relieving stress. Or at least it has been for me.
On the one hand, it can benefit us to look closely at what’s going in our minds so we can understand it, challenge it if necessary, and calm the feelings underneath our thoughts.
On the other hand, sometimes we simply need to disengage from our mind’s stories—about our unfulfilling work, our mounting bills, our insensitive relatives, and so on. To recognize we’re getting caught up in a mental maze from which we may never escape unless we consciously choose to get out—and then make that choice.
Our brain’s default mode network (DMN), which is designed to protect us, tends toward negativity, often focused on the past, the future, and the intentions behind others’ behavior. Research has shown a link between a disproportionately active DMN and depression and anxiety—and has also shown that meditation can help influence the default network.
That’s why it’s so important that we learn to get out of our heads, either through traditional meditation or by getting into our bodies or a state of flow (when you’re so consumed in a task that you forget about everything else and lose track of time).
It’s not just about temporarily quieting our thoughts. Mindfulness can actually change patterns of brain activity over time, enabling us to more frequently get out of the default mode network—where we inevitably feel stressed!
How do we get out of our heads and into our bodies or a state of flow?
Here are a few ways to practice mindfulness through movement:
As you sync your breathing with your movements and focus your attention on the subtle muscle shifts required to get into and hold each pose, you’ll find your mind naturally quieting. There are lots of different styles of yoga. My favorites are vinyasa and Bikram, since I find the heat particularly soothing.
You can find all kinds of yoga videos on YouTube, and odds are, when life gets closer to normal again, you can find a free or donation-based class near you. I personally find it easier to practice in a class than on my own, since the presence of other people holds me accountable, and there are fewer cookies and TVs nearby to distract me!
I have less experience with Tai Chi, but I did practice for a while in college, as part of an acting class. Acting requires you to get out of your judging mind, and Tai Chi is a perfect practice to facilitate that, since it’s all about integrating mind and body through slow, low-impact, controlled movements and breathing.
Tai chi is less physically taxing than most yoga practices (aside from restorative yoga, which is incredibly relaxing), which makes it perfect for anyone who’s more physically limited. It’s particularly popular among the senior crowd, since it’s easy on the joints, but it’s a powerful and effective mindfulness practice for anyone, of any age!
Mindful hiking or walking
Any form of movement can be meditative if you focus your attention on the sensations in your body, and hiking and walking outside bring the added benefit of immersing you in nature—a natural stress-reliever!
Studies have shown that just twenty minutes in nature can significantly lower your stress hormones. And it can also stimulate all the body’s senses, as we tune in to the sound of running water trickling nearby, the scent of pine (known to lower depression and anxiety), the colors in a picturesque sunrise, the feeling of leaves crunching beneath our feet, and the taste of a freshly picked piece of fruit.
Here are a few ways to get into a mindful state of flow (suggested by flow researcher Steven Kolter):
Through social triggers
We often think of flow as something we achieve individually, but group activities bring the added benefit of facilitating deep connection as we move in sync or work toward team goals. This might mean getting into a collective state of flow as part of a sports team, dance troupe, or through synchronized swimming.
I remember one particular piece of choreography from a community theater show I did as a kid. There were at least twenty of us, seated, doing clapping motions with each other’s hands, tapping our own and each other’s legs. We all needed to move perfectly in sync to get it just right, which required intense focus, and I have to say it was deeply gratifying to move as part of a whole—to lose myself in the group and become immersed in something bigger than myself.
Through creative triggers
Any creative activity can get us into a state of flow if we enjoy it and lose ourselves in the task. Painting, playing an instrument, dancing, jewelry making, even doodling—pick whatever calls to you so deeply you can’t help but concentrate on the present, losing your sense of self-consciousness because the act itself is so fun and rewarding.
Through environmental triggers
Rock climbing is a perfect example, since you need to be fully absorbed in the moment to safely navigate the rock formation. As you push yourself to your physical limit, balancing and adapting to the changing terrain, you’ll find yourself going deeper and deeper into a state of flow.
Though I’ve never done outdoor rock climbing—which I imagine is all the more thrilling, since it’s riskier and you’re totally immersed in nature—I participated in a climbing course as an experiential therapy treatment for bulimia in my early twenties. I remember all my worries falling away as I focused on not falling off the beam, and I recall appreciating my body for what it could do instead of judging myself for everything I thought I was doing wrong.
The beauty of most of these practices is that we can adapt them to our needs and available time. You can take an hour class or just practice for ten minutes. You can work on a painting for two hours or sketch for a brief window before bed.
Easier said than done? Of course! It’s far easier to watch Netflix in our one free hour of time or mindlessly scroll in that brief window before bed. (Guilty as charged.) When I do that, all my heavy unfelt feelings fester, settling deep into my brain and my bones and suffocating me like an invisible straitjacket.
But I know when I do something that’s good for me, I feel it—and I want more of it. And my resistance to doing it naturally fades away, along with my stress.
So really, we just need to show up once—really show up. Be so present that we allow ourselves to fully live that moment so we can love that moment, and that love will bring us back. Back to the practice, back to our bodies, back to ourselves. Our deepest selves, underneath the stress and pressure. The true self who knows we don’t need to be more, we don’t have to do more, we just have to let ourselves enjoy more. Because within that enjoyment there’s peace and healing. And no matter what our negatively biased brains tell us, we absolutely deserve it.
7 Reasons You Shouldn’t Settle For Someone Who Doesn’t Make An Effort
Isn’t it the best feeling to hear “It wasn’t the same without you” or “I missed you so much”?
We all want to feel desired, wanted, and needed. We all want to feel loved and cared for. We all want to be missed. When it comes to significant others, we need to feel desired. That desire drives the passion, intimacy, and love that we feel between each other.
Sometimes we feel the passion but not the desire. We receive the response to our text a day or two later without any acknowledgement that it was late. Sure, people can be busy. Of course, we’re always busy. But how busy do you have to be to not respond with a “So sorry, busy day, will respond later”? It’s the respectful thing to do.
In our society, texting is many times our primary form of communication. We get to know each other by what emojis we send, whether or not we use periods or commas, and of course, our response time. We’re never asking for much, but we do expect a response within a respectable amount of time.
It might be that you’re trying to plan a date with the person from your English class that you’ve been crushing on for the entire year. It might be an old fling that you’re trying to reconnect with. It might be someone you’ve gone on a few dates with and you’re really feeling the potential.
Whether you’re in a potential, new, current, or nonexistent relationship, there’s never a reason to settle for someone who doesn’t make it known they want you. Here are seven reasons why.
1. You deserve better.
First comes first: You deserve better. If your best friend was complaining that the guy she likes was only texting her back every three or four days, what advice would you give her? You deserve better. It doesn’t matter whether this person is the sweetest person ever when you’re together. Making plans is a crucial step to continue getting to know each other. If they’re wishy-washy, it’s not worth it to you.
2. Your time is valuable.
When this person is off “being too busy,” you’re waiting around for their text and either coming up with excuses for them or feeling sorry for yourself. Stop that! Your time is valuable and you could be doing much better things than thinking about the “what ifs.” Stop “what if-ing” and spend your time investing in someone who will also invest time in you.
3. The Golden Rule.
Treat others how you want to be treated. You know that you wouldn’t be this flaky with someone, so why let yourself be treated this way? Indirectly, it’s insulting to you. You don’t need to be insulted or played with.
4. You won’t know what other opportunities are out there.
When you’re distracted by what this person could be doing instead of texting you back, you’re wasting your own time. You could be missing out on bumping into that cute person at the coffee shop who is completely willing to spend the 30-seconds it takes to reply to a text and make plans. Who knows what else you’re missing? You don’t! Not until you start looking.
5. You’ll become dependent on someone who isn’t dependable.
Let’s say you end up waiting 3 days for the reply. Even though you’re frustrated that this person made you wait, you make plans for Saturday and you’re looking forward to it. Saturday is a blast and your optimism is restored that this person is the one for you. They end up taking another 3 days to reply when you try to make plans again. This becomes a cycle of feeling so down when you’re waiting for the reply, but so happy when you finally make plans. You don’t need this madness! There are already so many stressors in life; waiting the whole week to confirm your weekend plans shouldn’t be another one.
6. There are better things to do than wait around.
Cook a new recipe. Bake cookies. Sing. Dance. Go to the beach, for a drive, for a run. There are endless possibilities for you to do that will stimulate your mind, body, and spirit much more than waiting around for a text back.
7. You are strong!
You might be feeling like it actually is worth it to you to wait around or that there actually aren’t better opportunities for you out there. But trust me, there are. Be a little more patient—the best has yet to come.
The bottom line is that if someone wants you in their life, they’ll make an effort to keep you in it. You’ve done nothing wrong. Don’t wait for someone to “come around” and show you they want you. If they do, you’ll know.
It’s the day after Christmas. Generally, this day is a flood of emotions that can vary from one person to the next, however, I think there is one word that most likely describes all of us: exhausted! Maybe your home is like mine – with all the extra food, all the packaging from the gifts, the used wrapping paper, and more. And then there may even be a pile of returns. Ugh. But, the day after Christmas doesn’t have to bring you stress – it actually can be a peaceful day if you allow it.
Sound like a dream?
It’s not. Just keep reading.
Breath is the finest gift of nature. Be grateful for this wonderful gift.
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You may still be in the midst of exhaustion if your Christmas festivities are still continuing. Whether today marks the end of your holiday festivities or that day has yet to come for you, we all must resume our regular lives in the midst of the exhaustion that the holidays leave in their wake.
How then, are we to do this? How do we dig ourselves out from the torn packaging, mountain of wrapping paper and the kitchen that have most likely fallen victim to holiday cooking of some kind. Then there is the endless amounts of toys that need to be assembled or brought to life with countless batteries?
Let’s not forget about the sugared up, sleep deprived, most likely “regular rule” breaking kids since there is rarely room for “regular rules” in the midst of the holiday cheer.
Feel like your head is spinning yet?
HERE ARE SOME SIMPLE DAY AFTER CHRISTMAS THINGS YOU CAN DO SO YOU CAN CATCH YOUR BREATH TODAY AND BEYOND.
1. TAKE A DEEP BREATH
We must start here. If there is one thing I know as an exhausted, sleep deprived, overloaded, overfull, and stressed out post holiday mom it is the need to start with a deep breath. Most likely, you probably have not had a deep breath since last week sometime.
2. PRIORITIZE WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE
The list of things that need to be done all seem urgent, but the entire list of what needs to be done can’t be urgent. We only have so many hours in the day. As a mom, we are in the midst of trying to get our kids to return to “normal” as well.
Take a quick inventory of what needs to be done in the near future. Then, put this inventory list in order from most important to least important.
3. MAKE A PLAN
Plan the times that you will be devoting to working your way through your prioritized list of tasks. We all still have our “regular” lives, so fitting in all the extras that the holiday rush thrusts in our lap will have to be planned into our daily schedules, most likely little by little.
4. START WITH GOOD ENOUGH RATHER THAN PERFECTION
Start with making things good enough to get by.
Do you have a bunch of things that need to be returned?
Start by gathering them in one place. Then, get the necessary receipts and put them in a bag or box in your car, ready to be returned.
Do you have a bunch of clothes that your kids need to try on? Try putting them in a neat pile somewhere in their room. This way they are out of the way, but not causing a bunch of clutter around your home. You can get to them when you can get to them.
I am sure you have a bunch of new things that all need places to go in your house. With a family of 11, the new things that now need to find homes is astounding.
My favorite way of handling this is to break the things down, room by room, and then put each room’s things in a box or bag in the room that it will need to be put in. Again, this way I can get to it when I can get to it.
5. ACCEPT WHAT IS
Accept that your house, your kids, and your life will be in a state of disarray for the next little while. Just accept it now – you can’t change it anyway. Know that things will go back to normal in a few days, at least ideally.
6. LOOK PAST WHAT ISN’T GREAT
Look past the things you can’t get to right now. Look past the box of stuff waiting for your attention in each room. Know that it is already partially tended to since you have started organizing things to be put away. But, look past the fact that everything isn’t done to completion at this point in the game. You’ll get there eventually.
7. START WITH THE VISIBLE AREAS FIRST
Start with putting things away in the most visible areas. Attack the main living areas first since this is where you spend most of your time. The list of things you need to take care of is most likely seemingly endless at this point.
However, if you are anything like me, the sooner you can get the areas you look at most under control, the better.
8. WORK IN ORDER
Get one area or room completely done before moving on to another area. I find it to be so much better if I can get one room completely under control. Then, when I feel overwhelmed by another area, I can breathe in the solace of the one completed room I have.
It also motivates me to keep going on the rest as I can check rooms off my list.
I put this last on the list not because it is least important. In fact, I think it may be the most important thing, and it is something that you need to start working in to your digging out process right from the start.
Recognize that in most cases, you have had several long days, all in a row. This means that you need some time to rest and recuperatere. Resist the urge to pass over this rest part in an effort to have more time to devote to the things on your list that are screaming at you.
Plan some time of rest into each day.
More importantly, get to bed on time tonight and in the nights that follow. You are no good to anyone when you continue to run on fumes.
Although we all love the holidays, the after part is not nearly as much fun. However, with every Christmas holiday season comes the time of transition and let down when Christmas is finally over.
Being intentional in breathing deeply, prioritizing and planning, creating ways that things can be good enough to get by while looking past everything else and getting adequate rest will help get you back on the path to sanity in your life once again.
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Mihran Kalaydjian – A Tear And A Smile – Poem by Khalil Gibran
I would not exchange the sorrows of my heart
For the joys of the multitude.
And I would not have the tears that sadness makes
To flow from my every part turn into laughter.
I would that my life remain a tear and a smile.
A tear to purify my heart and give me understanding
Of life’s secrets and hidden things.
A smile to draw me nigh to the sons of my kind and
To be a symbol of my glorification of the gods.
A tear to unite me with those of broken heart;
A smile to be a sign of my joy in existence.
I would rather that I died in yearning and longing than that I live Weary and despairing.
I want the hunger for love and beauty to be in the
Depths of my spirit,for I have seen those who are
Satisfied the most wretched of people.
I have heard the sigh of those in yearning and Longing, and it is sweeter than the sweetest melody.
With evening’s coming the flower folds her petals
And sleeps, embracingher longing.
At morning’s approach she opens her lips to meet
The sun’s kiss.
The life of a flower is longing and fulfilment.
A tear and a smile.
The waters of the sea become vapor and rise and come
Together and area cloud.
And the cloud floats above the hills and valleys
Until it meets the gentle breeze, then falls weeping
To the fields and joins with brooks and rivers to Return to the sea, its home.
The life of clouds is a parting and a meeting.
A tear and a smile.
And so does the spirit become separated from
The greater spirit to move in the world of matter
And pass as a cloud over the mountain of sorrow
And the plains of joy to meet the breeze of death
And return whence it came.