As a health coach I lead educational workshops in Paris and the number one question that rises every time is how to keep one’s cool and live stress-free in our faced-paced, fragile world … People feel crushed by expectations and pressures at work, at home, in their community… News about wars, crime and politics fuel their anxiousness. Their faces express loss and anger when they talk about it… “It’s all very well the peace I feel after a yoga class, but once I am out the door, the pressure’s back, it’s a non-stop stress”.
We talk like this when we live a “reactive” mode. My life experience has taught me how to regain control and live with a feeling of calm no matter what’s happening around me. It’s like being in the eye of a hurricane…
You can’t change the world, but you can change your attitude and behavior.
We grow up in a matrix, with rules and standards we are supposed to follow: go to school, get a diploma, get a job, a car and a house, get married & have kids, grow your career, go on vacations, have lots of friends, have a hobby, become a boss, retire happily on a paradise island. These are the standards of success promoted by our educational and economic systems. The only way to “fit in” is to share these values and consume heavily. Health coaches see so many people who’ve undermined their health while trying to “fit in” the “successful” crowd. Indeed, human’s worst nightmare is to become an outcast, someone “different”. We all have a deep need to “belong” and “be a part of” a bigger circle.
I was a part of the rat-race for a longtime, living in a reactive mode. I ended up with a burnout, which provoked a number of serious ailments like thyroid, kidney and heart disease, chronic stress and insomnia, hormonal imbalance, skin issues. It took me years to heal all of it naturally, but there was 1 fundamental step, a key, that unlocked my entire physical, mental and spiritual healing and transformation, which resulted in me feeling like I am the master of my life.
That key is mindfulness.
In the middle of my crises I was in a weak state and decided to go see a Life Coach. I didn’t quite understand what exactly he could do for me, on top, he was super expensive, but when I saw him work with a group of people, I felt such depth and wisdom in him, that I thought he might guide me out of my black hole.
He asked me so many questions, which I couldn’t give an answer to… And when I told him how I cry my eyes out day and night and how lost I feel he said:
Just do this one thing… When you feel emotional, stop for a moment and name this emotion. Give it a name. Try to locate it in your body. Say out loud or write what exactly you are feeling and why you are feeling it… Once you name the emotion, you are presented with a new choice: to continue feeling what you are feeling, or to move emotionally to another place. You have a choice to change your attitude. And when you have a choice, you become the Master of the situation. It’s you who chooses the direction, makes the next move, and shapes your environment and your situation.
This exercise had an immediate healing effect on me. I started applying it daily almost to everything: observing my feelings, my thoughts, my reactions, naming them and changing them.
Yoga practice has also helped me incredibly to become a better observer of myself and develop my mindfulness. My dear teacher Anya once said:
“In challenging asana people behave exactly as they behave in challenging life situations: some get stressed and suffer, start moving their body parts, some give up, some moan, and some just breathe through… Mindfully focusing on their breath, keeping it steady, directing attention to the point of tension in the body they just continue breathing… And in life, when the crises comes, they breathe through it, just the way they breathe trough a challenging asana.”
I no longer was a prisoner of what life threw at me. I gained control over my reactions and actions, feeling empowered to make choices.
Today I do not listen, watch, discuss news. As Tim Ferris says in his book “4-hour work-week”, all the really important news you need to know you’ll hear from friends/colleagues/family. I save a lot of my time and energy by doing this. I can’t change much about how the world is run, so I choose to direct my attention and energy to the projects I am responsible for.
I have removed toxic /stress-inducing people and activities from my life. Sure from time to time I find myself in annoying situations, but then I choose to breathe and focus on what’s next…
I watch my thoughts and if I notice some rumination I analyze why this is happening by journaling and then it goes away. This type of exercise revealed to me that many of my thoughts belong not to me but to my ego, which is like a small kid who needs to be heard, understood, reassured and loved.
Next time if you catch yourself thinking about /judging something or someone, ask yourself: is this thought — my voice, or the voice of my ego that is hurt /needy /insecure?…
I have allowed myself to stop being a perfectionist. I am achiever still, but I make my to-do lists shorter, I do not bash myself if I don’t hit all the targets. “Progress, not perfection” has become my mantra.
Having learned to observe and better understand myself I no longer try to fit in. Every day I live at peace with who I am, where I am going, the choices I am making and risks I am taking. I have taken the responsibility. My life isn’t rosy, but I know why I am doing what I am doing. I know that mistakes are inevitable, but these are 100% my choice and it means I will have to learn the lesson.
For me there is nothing more precious than to wake up, live the day and fall asleep feeling a deep sense of peace. The world didn’t create this for me. I have done it, with the help of coaches and mentors who taught me mindfulness.
If you too want to feel liberated of the pressures & stress, don’t wait, get help.
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Originally published at medium.com