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 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, unspoken tensions and 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 thinking, when it comes to stress, really matters. Being able to manage and shift our thoughts can make a big difference in the amount of stress we experience.
Have you ever noticed that it’s hard to be stressed and 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 surrender our conscious attention to the moment, the easier it is to breathe and relax.
Here are a few self-tools that can help you become more present and less stressed in your everyday life:
1) Practice non-judgment. The subtle discontentment of ourselves and others can cause us stress. When you’re 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 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, if you stay with the intention of experiencing it, you’ll notice a difference. Try to remember this wherever you go. You can even write “compassionate awareness” on a note and place it on your computer.
3) Practice Presence: Being present helps to release stress. Presence is the practice of inviting more of your awareness and attention here, into the moment. 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 fully engaged and present you are in the moment, the less stressed you become. If you want to practice an affirmation on presence you can say, “I choose to be fully here and now.” Afterwards, notice the effects after 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.” Knowing what we can let go of and what isn’t necessary can help us alleviate the stress we experience. 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, close yourself energetically and release all the activities of your day. Give it over to God, the Universe or some higher power. If it helps, you can 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.
We don’t have to finish everything in order to feel whole and complete in the present moment. Life is full of activity and responsibility. Don’t let loose ends make you feel unraveled. Gather yourself up at the end of the day and detox yourself from all engagements.
That little voice in our head can make a big difference in the way we live and lead our lives. 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 life.