Stress is lethal: it messes with your body and can disrupt how you feel and function. It can cause everything from breakouts and bleeding gums to strokes, stomach problems, and for men, erectile dysfunction. Stress can make you forgetful, more fickle, and agitated. It will make you gain weight, lose hair, disrupt sleep (which leads to all kinds of other side-effects), and generally, is an impediment to your happiness and well-being.
So why don’t we do more to tackle this monster?!
This article will show you how. We’ll identify 11 simple things you can do right now to manage your stress and untangle yourself from its vicious web. Before getting started, however, it’s important to understand what kind of stress you have. We have to diagnose it.
There are two kinds of stress
There is stress that comes from your mind, which we’ll deal with in this article. And there is a stress that originates from your heart. (We’ll touch on that in a subsequent article). For now, let’s focus on ‘mind stress.’
Eckhart Tolle says that: “All stress comes from resisting the present moment.” Namely, wanting to be somewhere else or do something else other then what you are doing right now. And all this resistance to the present moment happens in YOUR MIND.
Maybe you are sitting in traffic and thinking about all the places you’d rather be – like at home with your kids, or on the couch watching Netflix and eating nachos. That’s agonizing, but it’s your mind that’s causing the stress. Or maybe you are thinking about someone that ticked you off at the office; or about an injustice, a family squabble, a work deadline, or why your husband (or wife) isn’t doing more around the house. Or maybe you wish you were in a different job or living in a different city…
Your mind is constantly thinking, comparing, judging, and analyzing, and this takes you away from enjoying what could otherwise be a pleasurable moment. Roughly 90% of your daily stress arrives in this way. And it’s totally unnecessary.
The one constant is your mind. YOU NEED TO GET OUT IT!
You have to learn how to give your mind a break, a mini-vacation.
As the street artist Banksy put it: “One of the simplest ways to stay happy, is letting go of the things that make you sad.” Let’s discover how to do just this.
Managing your stress
Here’s the good news. We intuitively know how to deal with stress. In fact every human past time from sports, to spending time in nature, listening to music, or dancing comes from the human desire, the yearning, to transcend the mind and get back into the heart. This is because the heart is the seat of life. It represents your core, your being, and the place from which your life energy flows. There is a reason we are called human beings and not human “thinkings”! We are not supposed to live in our minds. Which is why every ancient civilization pointed to the heart when referring to the mind. The word ‘mind’ actually meant ‘heart!’
Let’s break this down a little:
Why do we love vacations? Yes, the swanky hotels, new restaurants, and extra sleep are awesome. But it’s really the novelty of our new surroundings that gets us out of our mind and into the experience. It’s the novelty that makes vacations pleasurable because we are forced to live in the now. This is why people who live in the places we vacation: like Paris, or Rome, Fiji, or Maui aren’t as thrilled to be there as we are. They’re dealing with their own stresses and have lost the sense of wonder that comes with being in the moment. They’re in their mind, not in their heart.
Why do people drink and get addicted to alcohol? Simple.
Alcohol numbs the thinking part of your brain and connects you to spirit and the feeling aspect of your being. There’s a reason it’s called ‘spirits’. (Drugs: same story but with detrimental effects).
Sex? Yes, it feels great. And that’s exactly the point. Sex puts you back in touch with your physical body and gets you out of your neurotic, analytical mind. Try thinking about the boss or your sales targets when you are about to orgasm. You can’t!
Bungee jumping and extreme sports: People love pushing themselves to the edge by standing on a cliff or jumping from an airplane or skiing down a mountain slope. Why? Because the closer you are to death, the more alive you feel. As Joseph Campbell put it: “You and I aren’t looking for the meaning of life. That’s not it.
What we are really looking for is the experience, the feeling of being alive.”
And so although we are born without an analytical mind that separates I from other, self from mother; the purpose of ‘growing up’ is to return to that same place, that same free-flowing state of no-mind, albeit with the understanding, wisdom, and knowledge we gain through the world of experience.
Tools to manage stress in your daily life
So if you are feeling overwhelmed by life right now and are experiencing crazy levels of stress, here are 11 stress management tips to get you out of your mind and into the moment. Choose any three of these tips and act upon them for at least three weeks (the amount of time it takes for your brain to rewire itself), and you’ll begin to notice real changes. Guaranteed!
1. Spend time in Nature:
By chilling with other beings that are just being, you learn to do the same. Take a walk in the park, or at the beach, or in the forest. “A walk in the park may soothe the mind and change the workings of our brains in ways that improve our mental health, according to an interesting new study.” (1)
Animals don’t think. They don’t pretend or put on airs. They just are. Which forces us to relax and take our guard off when we spend time with them. As a result, “cat owners enjoy a 30 percent reduction in heart attack risk. Watching swimming fish lowers blood pressure. Stroking a dog boosts the immune system.” (2) The research and evidence is compelling!
Get more of it. Sex will get you out of your mind and into your body fast. (but hopefully not too fast 😉 This NBC news piece explains the effects of your sex life on your stress life.
Same thing…minus the pleasure. (Although exercise does release endorphins that are comparable). Get your heart rate up for at least 10 minutes a day, and you’ll start to become more grounded and less neurotic. Physical movement is one of the best ways to manage stress.
It’s amazing what a good night of sleep can do for you. (3) Your mind needs it. It needs to shut off from the conscious analytical part of your brain in order to reboot. Make sure to invest in a comfy bed and get curtains to block out sunlight so you can sleep longer and deeper. Arianne Huffington has staked her career on the virtues of sleep, and she’s right!
Dance like nobody’s watching and something beautiful will happen. Your mind will stop dancing and become perfectly still as your body moves to the music. Learn more on how Dance can improve stress management and reduced psychological distress.
Close your eyes, put on your favorite track, and let the music take you somewhere…Whatever the destination, its always out of your mind and into a feeling of nostalgia or inspiration or love. There’s simply nothing better to get out of your mind then music. Read more on the stress-reducing effects of music here.
The whole point of meditation is to get you out of your head, by concentrating on one thing, and ultimately, no-thing. Start by focusing on your breath as you inhale and exhale for a minute a day. Just watch and notice your breath as it goes in an out. Then do this for two minutes, and then three. It’s that simple. No OM’s or chanting required. This article by Julie Corliss in the Harvard Health Blog explains the virtues of meditation.
Stress relief from laughter? Its no joke! Laughter forces you to be in the moment. It’s like a mini mind vacation. Try laughter Yoga, or surround yourself with people who tell great jokes and are lighthearted. It’s contagious.
When you serve other people you automatically shift your point of reference from yourself (the mind) to someone else. You are not thinking about your own predicament, but feeling a sense of compassion and empathy towards someone else (Heart). In fact, service is how people with the greatest amount of mental trauma and stress, such as holocaust survivors, were able to cope with and overcome their trauma. This article by Christopher Bergland in Psychology Today shares the science behind service and its effect on our brains.
11. Social Media cleanse:
Give it a rest people! Put your cell phones away after 9 or 10 pm each night. Seriously, try it. And don’t open your cell immediately after you wake up. The Instagram pics of people’s puppies, or yoga poses, or yogurt bowls can wait until after breakfast. And if you are really up to the challenge, turn your cell off for a full day on the weekend. It’s what filmmaker Tiffany Shlain calls, technology Shabbat. Make it a ritual.
Your quality of life depends not on what you think, but where you live emotionally, day-to-day. Your quality of life is in your heart, not in your mind! It’s how you feel. So if you want to crush stress you have to start shifting your center of gravity from your mind to your heart. Stop thinking about your life and start living it. Enjoy it. Because trust me, you will never be as young as you are now.
Now think about that for a moment. Or better yet, don’t!
This article was written by Elan Divon. Heralded by Deepak Chopra as an emerging spiritual leader for the next generation, Elan is a Harvard-educated author, social entrepreneur, speaker, and mentor. Elan’s mission: to help people develop clarity of purpose, break-through limiting beliefs, and be ‘initiated’ into their highest selves. You can follow him on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.
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