Last week, I offered a webinar for the first time. One thing I discovered is that I have a lot to learn about doing webinars. The topic was about 3 things you can do to help you when you’re stressed.
There’s an old Cherokee story about 2 wolves you may have heard: A grandfather was speaking with his grandson about the violence and cruelty in the world. He likened it to two wolves fighting in our heart – one was angry and vengeful, the other was understanding and kind. The grandson asked which would win, and the grandfather replied – the one I chose to feed.
Leading up to giving the webinar last night, I experienced a lot of new things, including stress. The following is exactly what I suggested you can do when you’re stressed, and what I did for myself that night, feeding that second wolf.
- Get my head and feet back – by breathing out. When we breathe in, we’re actually exciting our stress response system (our sympathetic nervous system); and when we breathe out, we activate our relaxation system (our parasympathetic nervous system, to be exact). Every time we breathe out, we relax our body. And so what I did was to take a few deep breaths, taking twice as long breathing out as I did breathing in.
- Give myself a smile, opening my heart. Once we’ve taken a few breaths and are back on our feet, then and only then are we ready to re-connect, opening up our heart and becoming available to the world around us by giving ourselves a smile. Look at a photo of a loved one, hug a pet, send a note to a friend, hug a tree. When I do this, I become available and present.
- Pause, giving myself inner space. This is easier said than done because when we’re stressed, our minds are in the future, worrying, planning, anticipating. Pausing, doing nothing for a few seconds, expands us inside, gives us the inner space we need to act responsibly. When I take a moment to simply pause, I am able to experience my own naturalness.
These three things – breathing out, giving yourself a smile, and pausing, aren’t independent of each other. We need to calm down before we can get into a better, more open place, and we need to be in that place before we can realistically pause.
In Pema Chödrön’s latest book called “Taking the Leap” – she talks about how people need more than a private spiritual practice these days. It’s true that a lot of people have a spiritual practice to help them feel better in this stressed-out world. But this stressed-out world is in trouble; it’s in crisis; and so these days we not only need to feed our own souls, we need to become leaders in our community. What I talked about as the 3 brief ways, she calls the 3 qualities of being human – natural intelligence, natural warmth and natural openness.
Natural Intelligence – is when we know instinctively what to do, when we’re not caught up in hope and fear.
Natural Warmth – is our ability to love, have empathy, and a sense of humor, to feel grateful – it has the power to heal relationships.
Natural Openness – is mental spaciousness, giving our intelligence a chance to be able to tell us what it really knows.
When we cultivate these three things, we are creating a fresh new start for ourselves and by extension, our community.
What I just talked about is something that will get us through a given situation, but won’t reverse or stop chronic stress.
Why? Because chronic stress took a while to become chronic and so for that reason alone will take a while to reverse. It’s something that is a result of being stressed more often that otherwise, and putting our bodies into a state of stress-readiness that it was never made for – over and over, for sometimes a number of years – is a problem. There are consequences from doing this, just as there would be with any complex machine or organism that is constantly over-worked.
I want to go to a quote from Kris Carr that pretty much sums up what Burning the Candle at Both Ends is all about: If you don’t think your anxiety, depression, sadness and stress impact your physical health, think again. All of these emotions trigger chemical reactions in your body, which can lead to inflammation and a weakened immune system. Learn to cope, sweet friend. There will always be dark days.
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At times we need more – we know the logic, know what to do. And yet something is still blocking us. As a registered psychotherapist and stress coach, I offer individual one-on-one consultations. For more information, visit my websitewww.thejoyofliving.co/programs or contact me directly firstname.lastname@example.org