Are you Stressed?
Stress is a normal part of our everyday lives. We’re so accustomed to a lot of stressors we hardly notice them unless the stress becomes severe. Stress can come from the environment and the emotions, but it can also come from your lifestyle, work, relationships, just to name a few.
Around the holidays, we tend to feel more overwhelmed. This is a time we spend with family, friends, traveling, events, shopping. Our to-do list gets much longer, and the event calendar much busier than usual. We eat more, drink more alcohol, sleep less, exercise less, and spend more money. We have less time to recharge and less time to get centered and take care of ourselves.
It’s also a stressful time because we have high expectations of each other. It’s not always possible to meet those expectations, which can cause some added emotional pressure. There’s often a lot of unresolved emotions that arise around families these times, and that’s extremely overwhelming.
Unfortunately, when we’re under pressure and we operate from a stressful state, we become more narrowly focused, not trusting, jumpy, reactive, protective, which creates even more stress and anxiety around us.
But what can we do to make this holiday season full of joy, fun, love, and peace?
I think it’s really important to pause and pay attention to how stress affects our lives and how we communicate. Where does it come from, and how does it show up? Is it coming out in our relationships? Work? At home? Doing chores? Where and when do we feel overwhelmed or out of balance? (You can find many stress awareness tests online to help you with that.)
We can only change something when we become aware of it, and we know what to change.
Most of the time we blame our environment for all the stressors, but what do we do to get away from it? Does it mean we’re always going to feel stressed? Is there anything we can do about it?
When we can’t change our environment or can’t change much in our lives, we need to change our state and became mentally, emotionally, and physically stronger to deal with the stress. We need to learn to stay in control and not let our environment control us by learning how to handle stress better.
Keeping up with an exercise routine can help us stay centered and release stress. When we exercise, our bodies also release endorphins, which causes the feeling of euphoria. Doesn’t that sound great? The added plus is that when our bodies are stronger, we feel more in control and more centered and because of that safer.
Make an inventory if there’s anything you can shift or change in your life.
Changes might be to:
- Try not to do everything alone but ask for help.
- Learn to prioritize tasks and only do the things that are really important.
- Learn to say no—no matter what the reaction might be from others.
During the holidays we probably eat too much and drink too much, which can overwhelm our digestive systems and make us feel run down, low in energy, heavy, and slow. Most of the time when we go to events, we let ourselves go, and we eat and drink as much as possible.
I advise my clients to use this time to connect to friends and family or co-workers instead of the open bar or buffet. Having a plan before the events and sticking to it can help you stay on track too.
These are not easy things to do, especially when we already feel stressed, anxious, and a little out of control. It’s hard to make conscious choices in that state.
I believe changing our emotional and mental state will support us to make the right decisions and choices, and it will help us to go from a reactive state to responding from our heart with openness and acceptance and compassion not only to others, but to ourselves (including our bodies) too, which will help us create the peaceful and joyful environment within and around us.
Here’s a breathing technique I learned at my Kundalini yoga teacher training, with a beautiful meditation called the Calm Heart meditation.
Kundalini yoga is a yoga of awareness. I started practicing it almost three years ago, and I fell in love with it right away. It’s such a beautiful yoga practice. It helps me to connect with myself, opens my heart, strengthens my nervous system and helps me to stay calm and centered. This yoga practice uses breath, mudras (hand positions), chanting, and relaxation to stimulate the body, to get rid of blocks and to create balance, harmony, and inner stillness.
“Kundalini yoga is the fastest way to establish an aligned relationship between body, mind, and the soul,” says Yogi Bhajan, master of Kundalini yoga.
The Kundalini yoga philosophy states that our breath, our moods/emotions, and our mind are all interconnected. Our breathing changes with our emotional states. If you notice when you’re feeling stressed, you start taking shallow breaths. When we change our breathing patterns, we affect our emotional and mental states, as well.
Here is the three part breathing exercise:
Lie down on the floor on your back. Close your eyes and concentrate on your breathing. Inhale through your nose. Feel the air entering your nostrils and let your navel move up (or out). Exhale through your nose, feel your navel moving in. For a couple of minutes just listen to every part of your body, relaxing each part, letting go of all the tension in the muscles of your face (forehead, chin, neck) shoulders, arms, hands, torso, hips, legs, feet. Feel everything relaxing and melting into the floor. Feel the support under your body and trust it. There’s nothing you need to do, just be.
Pay attention to your breath again and start the three-part breathing. First, breathe into your belly, feeling your navel lifting up and out, then feel your rib cage lifting, and last, feel the air entering your chest and your chest bones rising up. On the exhale, first feel your chest move down, then your ribcage, and the belly last.
Repeat this exercise for about three minutes. Come back to your natural breath for two minutes, then repeat the three-part exercise for another three minutes and hold your breath at the end of your inhale and hold your breath after you exhale. Make sure you stay relaxed and at ease throughout this practice.
Follow the breathing exercise with a meditation called the Meditation for a Calm Heart.
1.Sit in a cross-legged position. If you can’t sit cross-legged, you can do the meditation sitting in a chair or sitting on your heels. Make sure you’re comfortable and your spine is straight. Close your eyes.
2. Place your left palm in the center of your chest. Bend the right arm up and hold your elbow against the side of your body with your hand held up. Touch the thumb and index finger while the other fingers point toward the sky.
3. Hold the position and start inhaling deeply and slowly and hold the breath as long as you comfortably can.
4. Exhale slowly and hold your breath again for as long as you can and still feel at ease.
5. Continue the meditation for 3- 31 minutes.
When you finish with the meditation, take a little time to relax.
There are many different breathing techniques and meditations you can practice and use. Find something that fits your style and do it. Change your state and change your life!
Light, love, and peace!