Stress seems to be as much a part of our lives as lawyer commercials, lawyer billboards, and lawyer faces on the side of buses. We can’t get away from any of it. We all carry a certain amount of stress with us all day every day, but what about those times of overwhelm? We find ourselves faced with the flight or fight decision without the option to choose either. Instead we just ruminate, bottle-up, and actively mount said stress in our overfilled reserve until we feel like something is about to give. Over time we get good at this little cycle of ours. We even wear it as a badge of honor at times to telll others.
Breaking the cycle for the long term is another story, but I do something in the moment to at least help a little.
I’m sure you’ve read stories about astronauts reflecting on their journey to space. They almost always speak in terms of perspective — how the world looks from above, prioritizing the important, and getting a sense of wonderment at our place in the universe.
I get it. I’ve had the opportunity to feel at least a little of this perspective visiting other countries and seeing how others live and work. Whether it’s customs, values, or lifestyles it’s invaluable to experience things significantly outside of our comfort zones.
I have to think you’ve experienced a shift in perspective at some point in your life. Maybe it was staring into the Grand Canyon, seeing your newborn for the first time, or avoiding a serious accident by chance. These things put our brains into another state. All other stresses, petty nuisances, and the nagging, self-imposed troubles of our everyday lives freeze for just a moment.
It’s up to us as to what we do with these moments.
This is the best we can do right now
Of course we can’t jet off the Bavaria and tour the Neuschwanstein Castle tomorrow, but we can try our best to calm our racing thoughts for a moment. It’s simple and definitely nothing new or sexy.
I close my eyes, feel my surroundings, and focus on breathing. I tell myself two things.
(1) Just breath for a moment. Call it awareness, meditation, or mindfulness. I don’t care. Just breath.
(2) I imagine what I look like from a broader view and tell myself, “Right here, right now I’m okay.” I think about that idea for a moment — I drink my own “Kool-Aid.”
For me this is the closest I’ll get, in an instant, to the same feelings of hiking a mountain, visiting a national monument, or observing a child’s pure joy.
I know, it’s not groundbreaking, but it works for me.
If you think about it it’s really just a shift in mindset. Creating a shift in our mental environment to invoke thoughts and feelings of inspiration, new ideas, and of course perspective. Do this enough and you’ll eventually start seeing long term benefits. Think of it like running or building muscle. The more you do it, the better you get.
What are some things you do to calm a stressed mind?
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