Hello fellow warriors.
Do opportunities for JOY exist during difficult times?
The answer is YES. Anyone who is willing to think outside the box can begin recognizing and connecting deeply with those opportunities. Let’s explore.
There is unlimited power inside each of us to transform how we perceive and respond to hard times. Finding this inner power can have a profound effect on our happiness and health. Every single person is capable of connecting to this source power…if you’re breathing, you have the capacity.
But…difficulty equals stress, right? Stress is bad. We need to reduce stress. There are thousands of articles and remedies focused on stress-reduction. We hear it all the time: Stress is dangerous for the heart, it creates conditions that lead to stroke, and can cause a host of other terrible ailments that will send us to the grave sooner or later.
I wish to challenge this simplistic claim. Seriously, if stress alone was that devastating few of us would have survived the teen years! It’s true that difficult times cause a lot of stress. No denying it. And yet…what if everything we ever learned about stress is wrong? What if stress itself is not actually the problem?
Another Take on Stress
Counterintuitive though it may seem, stress is both important and necessary. Think how your muscles would feel if you never exercised – without stress they would atrophy. What if there was no stress in achieving a college degree, no stress in the loss of a loved one, no stress in being a nurse or doctor, no stress in running a competitive race? We would turn to mush! We would become absolutely complacent. Our SOULS would atrophy.
Where is the challenge leading us to complete the next stage, or helping us adapt to inevitable changes?
It is rather how we perceive and respond to stress that matters. If we view stress as negative, then we compound our negative response to the conditions that are challenging us…we may react like white blood cells rushing in to kill a foreign agent that threatens the body!
If we stop long enough to consider that stress is calling our attention, rather than merely perceiving it as something to fear in and of itself, then we can respond accordingly.
Instead, consider stress as being something that opens the door to possibilities. It can be STIMULATING in a very good way. How we perceive and respond to stress has everything to do with its effect on our heart, mind and body.
I’m not saying that dealing with stress is easy. It can be…well, stressful! But if we back off just a bit, we may begin to see stress as simply information. It tells us that there is a challenge before us. The greater the challenge, the higher the levels of stress.
Stress is a Communicator
If stress itself is not bad, then let’s look at what stress has to teach us. Consider that it is our response to stress that really matters. Instead of simply finding ways to reduce stress, we can look at stress as an opportunity to:
- Alter the ways in which we perceive adversity
- Devise self-care strategies to ease our negative stress responses
- Step up the ways in which we meaningfully connect to what brings us JOY
Yes, JOY. Remember that?
We owe it to ourselves and those we love to figure it out. Whenever we connect to our joy we are building a purity of strength inside that can be imparted to others by example. In this regard, we are TRUE LEADERS, helping others learn how to be joyful despite challenges. We can begin this process by changing how we respond to STRESS.
Like any other noble pursuit, reframing our response to stress requires attention and focus.
Here is a five-step plan to help you practice managing stress in the coming weeks. Block off a bit of time daily to build these new habits of mind…it will be worth it:
- Identify the source of your stress. Be clear. Write it down.
- Sit with that stress for a while. ALLOW yourself to feel it – it’s okay to experience discomfort! No guilt, please. We all feel stress, and it can be truly HARD to deal with.
- Next, allow time to clear your mind and heart of negativity around your stress. This could take 5 minutes or an hour. Here are some suggestions:
*Take 3-4 deep, slow breaths. Then sit in silence for a few minutes. It’s miraculous.
*Take a brisk walk or gentle stroll in nature. Allow the fresh air and natural beauty to heal your mind and heart. Pay attention to what’s around you. Connect to it.
*Clear your mind with a Loving Kindness meditation…there are many online. Find one that works for you. Regular meditation is transformative.
*Do some yoga stretches or other restorative physical exercise. It can profoundly soften the hard edges in your mind and heart.
*Write in a gratitude journal. Jot down at least 3 things you are truly grateful for. Gratitude releases endorphins and other feel-good hormones.
- Now…stretch your perception: Revisit your stress. Imagine how you may come to view these stressors from a different angle. Write your thoughts out until all negativity runs clear.
- Lastly, come up with 1 to 3 strategies that you could employ to respond differently to your stress. This one is really important because it is an action. It is repeated action that helps to embed a new pattern or habit. Commit to making it a daily practice.
Remember, changing your perspective and response to stress may take time to master, so mindful practice is key. Revisit these strategies when stress begins to overwhelm you with negativity. Above all…please be patient and gentle with yourself. These are trying times for all of us.
Over countless centuries human beings have found ways to thrive, despite hardship and unspeakable adversity. We are incredibly resilient, aren’t we, warrior?
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Keep calm and Brumbylon.
Thanks for hanging out with me – have a great week!