What do marathons have in common with mastering stress?
They require intention and a commitment to follow through.
Few of us can wake up one morning and say, “I think I’m going to run a marathon!” and then leap out of bed and get it done.
The reality is that running a marathon takes weeks and weeks of consistent effort.
I might be able to force myself to run a mile or two, but if I’m going to run anywhere close to 13.1 or 26.2 miles, then I’d better be prepared for long weekend runs, protein-rich diets, regimented stretching, runs through wind, rain, and blazing heat, blisters, sore muscles. . . you get the picture.
The same is true of mastering stress. It takes a lot of work to properly care for your emotional well-being and build new habits.
If you’re serious about mastering stress, it’s going to require a similar level of determination, commitment and perseverance. You likely have habits that are working against you, and it will take time to reprogram your mind and body as you learn to undo those habits and replace them with new ones.
For example, when I was first developing tools for my Inner Peace Blueprint program, one of the hardest behaviors for me to let go of was my broken record. I had convinced myself that if I just kept replaying the story of all the hurts I had experienced throughout the years, I would somehow find a way to escape them.
I couldn’t have been more wrong.
At the time, it would have been difficult to convince me that my habits were actually self-destructive. I had to experience this for myself. And as I started unraveling my damaging behaviors, I began to see how my attempts to alleviate stress were actually feeding it.
I wish I could say that life got a lot easier once I began to see progress, but old habits really do die hard. Even today, many years after integrating the Inner Peace Blueprint into my life, there are still moments where I have to remind myself to go back to square one, and this is why the tools work so well.
No matter where I am, or what I’m doing, I can always ground myself by focusing my attention on my breathing. When I’m in a meeting and am triggered by what’s happening, I can breathe and relax my shoulders to release tension. When I’m in the grocery store and get overwhelmed by the large and impatient crowd, or when I’ve hit a wall and find myself completely overwhelmed, these simple tools center me and help me slow down long enough to find workable solutions.
If you’re new to the Inner Peace Blueprint or are just looking for small ways to find peaceful moments, here are the top 10 things I do to master my own stress:
- Take a walk during your lunch break. Be present to the things around you: notice the landscape, the people, the colors, the sounds. Take note of each one before moving on to notice the next thing.
- Practice mindful eating. Pay attention to the texture and taste of each bite. Practice eating slowly and intentionally as you focus solely on the act of eating.
- Journal your thoughts. You don’t have to be an amazing writer to do this one, either. Write in full sentences or use single words or fragmented phrases. Record specific emotions you are feeling (or want to be feeling) or spend time writing about a specific event that triggered you. Consider how the event made you respond, the fears that were triggered, or the joys that were inspired.
- Push pause on technology. Put down the smartphone. Don’t tune in to the TV or the radio. Tune in to what’s happening around you, instead. What do you see? What do you hear? What do you feel?
- Do the dishes (or another simple task). Instead of thinking about the next task you need to get to, focus on the task at hand. Feel the soap against your hands and the warm water as it runs across each dish. As your mind drifts, bring it back to the task. You may have to do this 50 times, but the more you practice, the easier it becomes to practice having a mindful focus on whatever you’re doing.
- Sit and contemplate. Don’t feel obligated to do anything besides sitting still and observing your thoughts and feelings. What emotions did you deal with today? How do you feel about those now?
- Breathe. When you’re noticing physical tension and emotional distress, bring your focus back to your breathing. Sit on the edge of a chair and relax your shoulders. Inhale deeply, and then exhale, allowing your shoulders to slide down your back. Do this for several minutes and notice the tension start to dissipate while your emotions calm down, even if it’s just a bit.
- Stretch. Get up from your chair and stretch. Focus on the areas that feel the most tense: your neck, shoulders, lower back. Now, move around a little. Spending just a few minutes every hour or so will remind your body to make adjustments to create more physical ease.
- Pour yourself some hot tea. It’s pretty hard to drink a hot drink quickly, so the very act of drinking hot tea or coffee forces you to slow down and spend a few minutes with intention. Before moving on to your next task, be mindful of the cup of tea (or coffee)—the way the warm cup feels in your hand, the flavors of the drink, the distinct smells.
- Be present. Have a conversation with someone. Listen to the words being spoken. Pay attention to the unspoken language (e.g., facial expressions, hand movements, posture). Or spend a few moments doing something your child really loves. Play a video game with them or go on a walk together. Keep your focus on time spent with them, and every time your mind drifts, remember your commitment to be present and then refocus.
Do you have a favorite activity that helps you calm down when you’re under stress? If so, would you share it in the comments below or on the 1Body Facebook page?
Take good care : )