The other day, I woke up and felt an invisible cloud of pressure hanging over me. It was the feeling of having to do and perform, of not feeling like I was doing "enough." It was running me around with a feeling of "should." "Should be more, should do this, should do that." It felt oppressive and stressful, as if I was living "under the gun." I realized it was a negative voice of judgment that didn't really belong to me.
Do you ever feel like you're living under some kind of authority that's judging you, that wishes you would do more, be more... something other than who you are now? Where does it come from? Perhaps it sounds like the voice of your mother or father. You may notice that it isn't your true voice, even though it's coming from inside your head. Many of those feelings and expectations aren't really you but what you've learned to adopt from the consciousness around you.
Most of the stress in our lives is invisible. It's the voice in our heads, the unspoken tensions... our own self-berating attitude. It happens no matter what we're doing or who we're with. Our mind is constantly judging, analyzing and criticizing Self and others. It loves to live in other realities other than now. Our own mind, when it comes to stress, really matters. Being able to manage our thoughts can make a big difference in the amount of stress we experience day-to-day.
Have you ever noticed that it's hard to be stressed and fully present at the same time? Stress is resistance to what is -- resistance to the present moment. Instead of relaxing and embracing the moment, we brace against it. The more we can learn to surrender our conscious attention to the moment, the easier it becomes to breathe and relax.
Here are a few tools that can help you become more present and less stressed in your everyday life:
1) Practice non-judgment. The subtle feeling of discontentment of ourselves and others can cause us stress. When you're constantly thinking from a place of judgment or analysis, you may notice tension in your body and your breath. Consciously practice non-judgment of yourself and others throughout your day and notice if it helps you to alleviate tension and stress.
2) Practice Compassionate-Awareness. Take the practice of non-judgment to another level. See yourself and everyone with compassionate awareness. Even if you do not feel compassion, see if you can stay with the intention of experiencing compassion and you'll notice a difference. Try to remember this wherever you go. You can even write "compassionate awareness" on a post-it note and place it on your computer.
3) Practice Presence: Being stressed often has to do with being attached to some other imagined reality or thought that isn't grounded here in the moment. The more engaged and present you are in the moment, the less stress you will experience. You can practice presence by inviting more of your attention into the moment.
If you want to practice an affirmation for cultivating presence, you can say "I choose to be fully here and now." Afterwards, notice the effects of saying this several times silently to yourself.
4) Know when enough is enough: Oftentimes we experience stress when we've taken on too many responsibilities and have over-committed ourselves. This is easy to do in this day in age when "more is more is more."
What can you let go of? What isn't necessary for you to do? Have the courage to live simply. Remember that less can be more.
5) Get in the Body: The root of stress comes from the ego-mind. You live from the mind, the shoulders creep up to your head and you forget about the rest of the body. When you experience this, take three slow breaths. Imagine breathing in and out of the soles of your feet. Notice how this simple practice shifts your energy and attention.
6) Surrender Control: Are you micromanaging your life or trying to control too many parts of your life? Ask yourself questions like, "who am I trying to please or prove myself to?" Notice if you fear disappointing others or even that voice in your head.
7) Energetically Close Your Day: At the end of the day, energetically close yourself from all the activities of your day. Give it over to God, the Universe or some higher power. Imagine drawing a circle around yourself and separately around your activities and projects. See the circles diverging and going their own ways at the end of your day.
Don't let loose ends make you feel unraveled. Life is full of unfinished tasks and responsibilities. You don't have to finish everything in order to feel whole and present. Gather yourself up at the end of the day and detox yourself from your engagements and activities.
Remember that the little voice in your head can make a big difference in the way you live and lead your life. Pay attention to your thoughts and notice if they're overly negative or out of proportion. Invite yourself back to place of non-judgment and compassionate awareness of yourself and others.
Steve Maraboli writes in Unapologetically You, "I promise you nothing is as chaotic as it seems. Nothing is worth diminishing your health. Nothing is worth poisoning yourself into stress, anxiety, and fear."
How true. I hope these tools help you in achieving more presence and ease in your own life.