If the growing health, economic, climate, and political concerns of our times are having an impact on your day-to-day well-being, you are not alone. The American Psychological Association recently released their annual “Stress in America” poll, and the results indicate that Americans, who are already struggling to manage the long-term effects of a two-plus year pandemic, are feeling even greater levels of stress than in previous years. The poll indicates that a staggering 87% of those surveyed say they live with “significant levels of stress on a daily basis.”
One factor that contributes to stress is our culture of depression and distraction. In moments of stress, we are trained not to pause and relate to the emotions we are experiencing, but to “power through” in order to maintain the many taxing responsibilities of our world. While everyday meditation practice is a highly effective way to combat stress, we don’t always have time to hit the cushion.
Whether or not a daily practice is in the cards for you, it can be helpful to have tactics on hand that stop stress from accumulating in your body, mind, and daily life in the moment you are actually experiencing it. Your Higher Self knows what you need to in order to cope in a given moment, but the pressure we regularly experience can sometimes block those insights. Here are a few quick, easy ideas for getting out of the fight, flight, or freeze mode and back to your stable center.
The Power of Your Five Senses
Your five senses are your reminders of the rich, textured world that exists around you. When you feel overwhelmed, choose one and focus your attention solely on that feeling. If you happen to be near a soft, textured throw blanket, allow yourself to focus solely on the feeling of that comforting texture grazing your skin. You can move through all your senses, finding little instances of awakeness to lead you gently back inward.
Through this return to the beauty of the material world around us, we are reminded of the support and comfort available through our Higher Self. This is a very helpful tool to call on if, for example, you feel the drive to be in nature but are not able to get away in the moment.
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A Touch to the Heart
Oftentimes we may be engaging in distractions not because they are essential to the moment but because there is some kind of emotion that we are working very hard to avoid. It could be slight, like a rude encounter at a store that left you feeling a little cold or annoyed. Or it may be broader, like ongoing grief that may be demanding to be felt in a given moment.
See what happens when, just for a moment, you place your hand to your heart, and allow yourself to feel whatever emotion is kicking up a fit. Give yourself a few deep breaths to truly acknowledge the feeling, assuring yourself that you are capable of caring for whatever arises. After a few breaths, let the emotion go, knowing that you can trust yourself to relate to the more difficult aspects of your world as they arise.
The heart is often referred to as the seat of the Higher Self, meaning that, when we rest in our heart, we are taking the first step to re-center ourselves in relation to our Highest Guide.
Motion as Moving On
So many of us lead stationary existences. Perhaps you spend hours a day in a car or at a desk. This can leave us with a stagnant, vacant feeling that follows you even when you begin to transition into a different part of the day.
Motion has the power to free us from the claustrophobia of our own experience. If you feel a sense of “stuckness” creeping in, transition into movement. This can be anything from simple stretching, a quick series of jumps to get the blood moving, or a spirited walk around the block. Carry that sensation of being “in flow” back to whatever you set your mind to next.
The Ground is Your Friend
Do you ever feel so much in your own head that it feels like your feet are not firmly rooted on the ground? Many of us walk around the world, “ungrounded,” meaning we have disconnected ourselves from the very earth beneath our feet.
To reset, scan your body from the stomach down. Do you feel a sense of resistance? A struggle to “stay above it all”? Allow yourself to relax, moving your awareness from your mind down to feel the support of your seat, the strength of your legs, and the firmness of your feet. With enough practice, you may even feel as though the ground begins to rise up to meet you, there to support you at every turn.
Ask yourself, what is it that I really need?
We humans have always used distractions to bypass uncomfortable moments in our experience. But now, a crucial difference is that these distractions have been designed to be deeply addictive, and are accessible 24 hours a day through the phone at our fingertips.
When you notice yourself reaching for a way to remove yourself from the present experience, pause and ask yourself, is this what I really need at this moment? It can be helpful in these scenarios to gently call on your Higher Self, lightly asking, what would help me in this moment instead of a distraction? Is your body thirsty? Are you feeling physically tired? Would you benefit from calling a friend?
The habit-centric mind has a way of plowing past any need that might work to solve the deeper issue. The ego is always working to protect us from pain, but can, unfortunately, end up amplifying the very problem you are working to solve. Hitting pause on your go-to distraction habit is the first step to remembering that there is solid ground beneath you, just on the other side of a mindful moment.
The Benefits of Staying Connected
Once you’ve developed helpful coping mechanisms to manage stress, you’ll be in a better position to stay connected to the present moment, your true needs, and to your Higher Self.
This will not necessarily prevent stress from arising but it does give you more options on how to navigate stress when it arises. By staying close to the intuitive wisdom of your own internal compass, you can discover new strength and capacity in a world that challenges our sense of stability.