I once participated in an interesting group exercise. We were in a circle and each participant was asked to write down his/her greatest trouble or stressor on a piece of paper, fold it and then put it into the center of the circle. After everyone completed their writing, we were asked to pick a folded paper out of the pile. We then had the option of keeping the trouble we selected from the pile (which was someone else's) or taking our own trouble back. Inevitably, each person decided to keep their own troubles versus taking on someone else's.
It's interesting that we are most suited to handle the problems that come our way, isn't it? Do you ever feel as though you aren't handling your stresses in the best manner though? I know I have! What happens then when faced with uncertainty and chaos? What do you do in times of trouble when you need to be anchored and grounded? What brings you stability and inner peace?
Here are some suggestions that work for me and clients I work with:
1. Take a break and enjoy the present moment. I like to call these my "respite retreats." (This is my own definition of R&R). Remove yourself from the situation at hand and change your pattern. Perhaps you can take nap or a walk. Explore and enjoy nature. Take a long bath. Treat yourself to a cultural event such as a museum or concert. Remember to breathe deep and savor the moment. If you are like most people, you'll find your perspective is new once you have stepped away from your stress for a bit.
What can you do to give yourself a break and a fresh perspective?
2. Hold on to tradition or routine. We humans like what feels comfortable to us. For long-term stress, one of the best things we can do for ourselves is to maintain a familiar routine.
I remember a few years ago when I was going through my divorce. It was tough on my kids being divided between two homes. One thing that kept us grounded during those turbulent days was spaghetti. :) I often make a big pot of spaghetti sauce with fresh herbs and meatballs, letting it simmer all day long. The "recipe," if there ever really was one, was handed down from an elderly Italian lady, who passed it on to my Dad, who then passed it along to me. Big spaghetti dinners are not just a meal, but an event at our house. These meals were familiar to my kids and brought comfort (comfort food) to them, even though their world was turbulent while adjusting to divorce. Our spaghetti suppers became a sacred time for honest sharing between my kids and me. Spaghetti is still a tradition we established that really anchors my family.
What traditions or routines do you have that bring you comfort?
3. Connect with others and with God. Faith can be waning when times are tough. It's especially important during these times to keep the communication open between God and you and also others and you. Make time for prayer and meditation as well as seek the guidance of a trusted friend or family member. If you attend a place of worship, go and find solace there. If you don't, consider going or designing your own way to reach out to God.
When my son, who was 7 at the time and is now 13, was diagnosed with Type I diabetes, my world was rocked to the very core. I know there are worse fates, but having a sick child is pretty devastating to a parent. Diabetes is especially cruel to children and is a chronic condition in which there is no cure or break from. I was in a daze, angry and hurt for a long, long time. Reaching out to others seemed to be too strenuous of an effort and attending church just seemed inconsistent with my spirit at that time. I was fortunate to have a dear friend who listened, but told me to snap out of it, pick myself up and get on with life. I needed that kick in the butt more than anything! We all need to have friends like that! It took some time but I was able to reconnect with other friends and God, who equipped me so adequately for handling the pressures associated with having a diabetic child. Without that connection and without faith, I can only imagine how difficult it would be each day to face challenges solo. I am grateful for a pretty healthy child and a bright (hence the name BrightSide Coaching) outlook on life.
With Whom and how can you connect?
4. Distinguish between your perception of your stress and what is real about your stress. Focus on the aspects of your obstacles (which can be opportunities in disguise) that will empower you. If you have a personal responsibility that needs to be handled such as an incomplete conversation, forgiveness or acceptance, then increase your self-confidence by taking care of it. This can be challenging and training your mind requires persistence.
I recommend writing in a journal and using affirmations as a way of strengthening yourself to respond to stress in the way that is healthy. Developing this muscle is the same as developing your physical muscles -- it takes repetition and practice. What's really going on with your stress and what can you do about it now? So often we think that peace of mind is just something that we have when all is going well. Not true! Peace comes from a combination of many factors and each one of us can tap into them when we choose to. When we use these suggestions consistently we can find that peace that will sustain us when the world around us is chaotic.
Beth Burns is a Professional Life Coach, partnering with motivated people on their personal and professional goals.