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Constant Stress is the Modern Norm, But it Doesn’t Have to Be

How I Create a Life of Peace and Calm

At the moment, I’m trying to cook dinner for my family. The kids are rushing from soccer to meeting friends, and the air conditioner has crapped out. As I’m leaning over the stove, my back reminds me that I’m overdue for an appointment with my chiropractor. It’s a typical day in our house, and it’s certainly not always what I’d call calm. But that’s pretty normal for all of us these days, right? No matter what your home and your daily life looks like, I’m gonna guess that you’re rushing from one thing to the next, over-scheduled and juggling too much.

Ah, but my spirit craves calm. Peace.

The idea of simplifying and minimalism both are super appealing, but realistically there’s only so much I can do. This life is what it is. Though I won’t accept that there’s nothing I can do about that tight, anxious, overwhelmed feeling of stress. I know there is. I’ve figured out what works for me, so I thought I’d share it with you in case it helps you too.

Wake Up With a Plan

When I open my eyes in the morning, I choose how to think about my day. I believe that happiness is a choice, and so I start every morning with my intention for the day. I consciously ask myself:

“How do I want to feel today?”

Caption: Quote by Gary Zukov

I love Gary Zukov’s book “Seat of the Soul,” and his ideas about living with intention. Reading that book led me to the way I start every morning – my daily ritual. I schedule time every morning, soon after waking up, to check in with myself. To make myself conscious of how I’m feeling, and how I want to feel. To think about what kinds of experiences I want to have during the day. To create a sense of control about the way my day will unfold, and set my intention for that day.

Today, I knew I would be balancing a busy day with meetings for my other business, and a couple of calls for Circle + Bloom. I knew my kids had a full schedule of camp, and I needed to decide on paint colors for my living room. It easily could feel overwhelming. So I considered all of these activities, tasks, and responsibilities and decided – with intention – that I would give my best to each one, enjoy each one for what it is, and when it is finished I will move on. Clear headed and at peace.

It’s not a perfect science. I have ups and downs like everyone. But being intentional about my days, and choosing how I want to feel as I move through each day is such a powerful way for me to be more in control of how I experience my day.

Write it Out

When stress hits, I often turn to old fashioned pen and paper to get it out of my head. It helps me externalize my thoughts and emotions – to get them out into a physical space where I can look at them and reframe them with more perspective.

I take out a pen and a journal. I let it all come out in a stream of consciousness. Fast, without self-correction or judgement or concern for spelling. I just let it flow.

Other times, I take out a big piece of paper and draw a circle. Inside the circle, I write out how I’m feeling and what’s going on. I write out my negative feelings, my fears, my hurts — I pour my emotions into that circle. Then outside the circle, I write down how I WANT to feel. And I write out what I need to do to get there. When I step back and look at my circle, I can visualize getting myself outside of the negative feelings. It gives me perspective and the feeling of control over my experience.

Tune In to Tune Out

When I catch myself feeling stressed, one of my go-to ways to hit pause and reset myself is to put on my headphones. I close my eyes and just listen. Some of my favorite audios are:

Move My Body

I get up before my kids so I have time to exercise. Usually that means facing my alarm clock at 5:30 a.m. It’s not always easy to climb out of bed that early, but it’s worth it. Moving my body makes such a huge difference in my baseline stress levels. I’d love to work out everyday, but in reality it’s probably three to four times a week. My favorite right now is crossfit, but I’m a huge believer in doing whatever feels good to you. You have to enjoy it to keep it up. Walking, yoga, swimming, you name it. The important thing is just moving your body. Feeling its strength. Flushing out the stress hormones, flooding yourself with oxygen, and feeling your own physical strength.

Phone a Friend

Those game shows give contestants the option to phone a friend for a good reason. Sometimes, someone else will have the answer you need. When I feel stressed, I need to talk it out. I’ll call a trusted friend to get her perspective, or just to rant and get it out of my system.

Zzzzzzzz…….

I love sleep. Even though my days are jam-packed and busy, I’m a big believer in the power of rest. To help me get quality sleep even in the summer when the sun rises a little too early, I love my Bucky eyemask. It blocks the light and is shaped so I can open and close my eyes with it on. So much more comfortable than the old-school eyemasks they give on airplanes.

It Is What It Is

Life isn’t always as simple as getting more sleep, exercising, and listening to meditations. Sometimes no matter how intentional I am about how I want to feel, there a big life stresses that throw a wrench into everything.

Do you know that childhood song, “We’re Goin’ on a Bear Hunt”? I love the part of the song that goes:

“We can’t go over it.
We can’t go under it.
We’ve got to go through it!”

When big stresses happen in life, sometimes you’ve just got to go through it. Accept the situation as it unfolds, and acknowledge the things that you can’t control. Surrender to going through the experience. Have faith that it will resolve eventually; it will end. And when I find myself going down a rabbit hole of negative thoughts and emotions, I try to catch myself, refocus and say, “nope, that’s not going to help.”

Sometimes, I just need to let go. It is what it is.

Originally published at circlebloom.com

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People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- MARCUS AURELIUS

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