I definitely live a high-octane life, and most of my days are very full. For example, today I started out with an early-morning conference call strategizing for The Aware Show’s upcoming events. Then while sitting in traffic, I addressed an issue on the set for my audience company. I hired three new people. I picked up a supplement for healthy hair from one of my favorite Chinese-herb shops on the way to pick up my daughter and a few other kids from school. Then I grabbed a snack and dropped them off at soccer practice, coaching them along the way on how to deal with mean authority figures (their coach is a yeller). And I was still not done.
We’ve all read countless stories that stress is bad for our health and leads to weight gain, heart disease, and a host of other emotional and physical issues. We’re told to reduce our stress, which sounds like a solid idea, but how does one accomplish that in this crazy-busy world?
Personally, I don’t let things linger too long or nag at me. The idea is to make each moment and each conversation complete before moving on to the next one so that I don’t let things carry over to the end of the day, where stress often compounds.
I also handle tension through my communication with God, Spirit, or whoever will listen. I am constantly checking in with the God of my heart to make sure I am aligned with my purpose for that day. I am constantly looking inward and making sure that my conversations and actions are aligned with the highest good. If they’re not, I try to catch myself and get back on track.
I have another simple method that keeps me aware of how to deal with the stress in my life: I remember that it is under my control, so I choose to manage my stress instead of allowing it to manage me. You might say, “That sounds like a really good idea in theory, Lisa, but what is the practical approach?” Well, I just keep focused during trying times and remind myself that the most important things in life are love, family, and health. Is this challenging situation a threat to them? If not, I can manage it.
Let’s say my computer crashes. Am I annoyed to have potentially lost my work? Of course, but this event doesn’t really affect my health or loved ones. So the first step in this management is for me to calmly work toward fixing the problem without allowing it to push my buttons. In other words, I try to make sure that each potentially stressful situation has some type of solution.
Whenever you’re experiencing stress, one of the most helpful techniques to keep you aware of the big picture is to practice the art of gratitude. Remember what you do have. Some people are prone to doomsday thinking, and believe that their life is over because of a financial problem or a job snafu. If this is you, try to live in a state of mind where you spend your days focusing on what you’ve got: A great partner? A beautiful child? A wonderful pet? Loving friends?
For example, I know a couple whose home burned down. It was so tragic because all of their sentimental items, like precious photo albums and mementos, were gone—along with their clothes, furniture, papers, and so on. Yet when I saw them a few months after the fire, I marveled at how well they were coping with this life-changing event.
As the wife said, “Lisa, I’m safe. My husband, kids, and pets are fine. Instead of getting stressed out daily about what we don’t have anymore, I focus on what we do have in our lives, which is a lot if you really think about it.”
She told me that of course they had gone through shock and grief around the fire, but now they were stronger than ever as a family because they were all “in” when it came to their action plan. Their daily concern was no longer “Woe is us,” but “How can we rebuild? How can we reconnect? How can we start over? How can we deal with the insurance company?”
Going into action really does help the stress dissipate. When you’re busy and moving forward, there is usually not enough time to allow your mind to get stuck in the loop of, “What am I going to do?”
This can be particularly useful when it comes to financial concerns. One of the biggest stresses in the modern world is money, and it’s also one of the leading causes of divorce. I’ve known many couples who have thrown away their relationship instead of trying to resolve their financial issues.
Recently, Jon and I were very stressed out because our house wouldn’t sell. We were paying two mortgages, which left us a little freaked out.
Yes, my husband and I were worried, but in an aware relationship like ours we made a new rule. First, we never yelled at each other over the situation or made the other person “wrong.” I was the one who wanted us to move and he didn’t, so it would have been easy for Jon to point a finger and say, “What did you get us into?” He never did, and instead helped us find a better real estate agent as we worked together to make smart choices to get out of our dilemma. In the end, the stress of navigating complicated financial burdens made our bond even tighter because we came through it together.
I think the most important and aware thing you can do during financial stress is to go into some kind of action plan starting with your mind. Deep down, you will choose not to go to that stressed-out, I’ll-be-homeless, A-to-Z type of thinking. Instead, you will focus on the fact that you know you have the get-up-and-go, motivation, and inspiration inside of yourself to make it work because you’ve done so before in your life, and will again.
If you look back at all of the stressful events in your life that you have made it through, sometimes better than you could have imagined, then you can use this memory to help you get through the next set of stressful events. Use it as a reminder that you can work things out as you have in the past. Trust yourself more, and trust the divine—it will help you relax through the process.
Why is it that we fixate on what’s wrong—and not what’s right—with our lives? You could have the best day, with your boss lavishing on praise for that amazing sale that will garner new business. Meanwhile, your husband calls to say, “I love you,” for no other reason than he really does love you. Your child gets an “A” on that tough history paper that he was sweating for a week. Life is sweet . . . and then some lady cuts you off in traffic and flips you the bird.
All of a sudden that little birdie becomes the “headline news,” and the story you repeat to others for days. You’re not singing your own praises about a great day at work or on the home front; instead, you’re living (again and again) the unfairness of a total stranger who, in a two-second time span, drove into your area and then gave you even more negative energy with a flippant flip of a finger.
Most of us are very good at fixating on what’s wrong, which is the exact opposite of living a full-on life. When you fixate, you’re the one who is taking the wind out of your own sails. By repeating moments of fear, failure, or basic unfairness, you’re actually living in a state of stress that’s unhealthy to mind, body, and soul.
Yes, strange, unfair, and even bad things will happen in a lifetime, and you have to allow yourself to process them. When you start to express your own personal needs, which are often the root of your fixation, only then will you reach the core issues, which are usually unmet needs or hurt feelings. When you’re honest with yourself about the root of your fixation and admit that someone hurt you, then you’re well on your way when it comes to dissipating the emotions involved with the actual event.
Bill Stierle is a communication expert who uses techniques from Dr. Marshall Rosenberg’s Nonviolent Communication. “This type of communication style is based on a language of compassion and provides the skills needed to bypass automatic judgment, criticism, blame, or shame,” he says.
The other day my daughter came home fixated on the fact that she did not win an art competition at her school. She was quite disappointed because she poured her heart into her painting and said that it was the very best she had ever done on canvas.
Since she felt it was her best, she went into the art competition feeling confident that she would win a prize. When she came home with nothing, there were tears. “It’s just not fair, Mommy!” she said.
It was my job as her mother to help her not fixate on her lack of a trophy or certificate while still acknowledging that she was disappointed. “I hear you,” I told Kayla. “I know you feel disappointed. I understand.”
She said, “But my friend said mine was the best. And how come this technique of visualization you taught me didn’t work? I visualized myself winning the art competition.”
“Sometimes we can’t control everything, and we definitely can’t control others,” I replied. “With the art competition, there might be criteria you don’t know about that went into the judging. And not winning doesn’t mean that you’re not a great artist, because you are—you don’t need a judge to tell you that.”
In the end, I didn’t try to fix it for her or explain that it wasn’t fair or that the teachers didn’t know what they were doing when they were judging. I didn’t make those sorts of needless excuses for her that would just allow her to continue to fixate. I listened to her and allowed her to get it out, so we could move on as a family.
If you dwell or fixate, then that will take up all of your energy and bandwidth. It’s fine to say to yourself, “This stinks. This hurts.” Recognize the unfairness, hurt, and unkindness, and then realize that your need for consideration wasn’t met. Don’t ignore it, stuff it down, or put it away for another day. Release it.
©2015 by Lisa Garr. All Rights Reserved.
Reprinted with permission of the publisher,
Hay House Inc. www.hayhouse.com
Watch the book trailer: Become Aware (with The Aware Show Host, Lisa Garr)
Lisa Garr hosts a popular US radio programme called The Aware Show, along with a weekly show on Hay House Radio. In addition, she has her own show on Gaiam TV, as well as a popular online personal development series. She reaches a combined audience of more than four million globally a month. Visit her website at www.theawareshow.com