Looking back on 2016, for many reasons it was a difficult and stressful year for many of us. Sometimes life just gets hard, right? Not to mention the collective stress of the election was shocking in its intensity. No matter what else was going on in your life, the negativity and anger surrounding politics this fall was painful. What do we do with all of those feelings now? What did you do to cope? How much stress can we actually handle?
Over the holidays I spent quite a bit of time thinking about how I can better prepare myself for stress. How can I strengthen my calming reflex so that I can withstand discomfort and difficult feelings without letting it ruin my mood for an entire day or days at a time? Obviously, I can get acupuncture more regularly and that is great maintenance for chronic stress. In addition though, what keeps coming up as the solution for me is sticking with a Mindfulness Practice.
Mindfulness or “Being Present” is a form of meditation but one that you practice throughout the day. It is a simple concept. If you are completely present, external forces and worries are no longer a problem because there is only you and your current focus. For example, if at work your job demands that you take care of an urgent task, you can stress out about it because you have a long list of other things to do. Or you can be present and focus completely on that task, and now there is only that task and you. When you’re done, you can move on to the next task. See? No stress.
If you are cooking dinner and your child interrupts you, you can stress out about getting dinner done on time or you can shift focus and then there is only you and your child. You can appreciate who your child is and be grateful for the moment you have with her. Then you go back to making dinner. No irritation, no stress.
The general idea is that stress is created in our minds. Training your mind to be present becomes a way to handle any problem. It allows everything else to fade away, leaving only you and whatever you’re dealing with right now. This is, of course, a practice. Meaning that it is fully expected to be challenging to do at first. I have dabbled in the Practice of Being Present for years but am making 2017 the year that I anchor it deep within my daily life. I hope that I can inspire you as well to find a mindfulness practice to keep stress at bay this year. When I get particularly overwhelmed, this quote is my favorite reminder:
“Drink your tea slowly and reverently, as if it is the axis on which the Earth revolves – slowly, evenly, without rushing toward the future. Live the actual moment. Only this moment is life.” Thich Nhat Hanh.
Best Wishes for a Happy and Healthy 2017!