" Stress Does Not Have to Rule Your Life" by Shobana Nuland, LMHC

Stress!  If it's not the kids arguing with one another, then it's your partner wanting more of your time or your boss giving you yet another task when you already feel that you have more than you can handle.  In between managing these issues are the endless amount of emails to address.  If the daily demands of life aren't enough, there's always the vulnerable state of the economy to worry about.  Just read any newspaper and that is certain to start your day off on the wrong foot.  There's no denying it, stress seems to be inherent in our "civilized" culture.

Life is so demanding that once we're on the treadmill, we forget that we can get off.  This invisible treadmill starts the minute we wake up in the morning until we go to bed at night where the sweet blessing of sleep cradles and nourishes us until the next day when the stressors begin all over again.  We live in a haze, forgetting that deep within us are the resources for peace and renewal.  There was a time before all our sophisticated technology when humans woke with the sun and went to sleep when it got dark.  The inner rhythms of life were in tune with the rhythms of nature.  Those rhythms are always here.  They haven't left us.  We have left them.  In some strange and desperate search for outer happiness, we have forgotten that the key to the treasure lies within.

How does one get off the treadmill?  The real question that needs to be asked is, "Do I really want to get off the treadmill"?  There's a strange comfort in what's familiar, whether it feels good or not.  Take some time to answer.  First, before anything can change, you have to decide whether or not you really want to have more peace in your life.  Evaluate how you feel now and throughout the days ahead.  Only you can decide whether this is important enough for you to be willing to do something about it.  You have to decide that you deserve better.  Once you make this choice, you have already begun.

In essence, the way to peace is to establish a relationship with the stillness that exists within.  One of the most effective ways to get in touch with this stillness, whether for a beginner or for someone with lots of experience, is to consciously focus on the breath.  The breath is always with us.  It is not like having to wait to go to the gym before we can exercise.  One just has to decide to take a few minutes throughout the day and become aware of the breath.  Eckhart Tolle describes this in his book, A New Earth.

Try it now.  Close your eyes and bring your awareness to your breath as you normally inhale and exhale three times.  Afterwards simply notice what you're feeling.  Without all the chatter of the mind, inherent stillness rises to the surface.  Repeat this several times until you can definitely recognize this calm feeling.  When you establish a conscious relationship to this stillness, you simultaneously reconnect to the same peace which exists in all of nature.

Once you realize how effective this easy technique is, it is simply a matter of remembering your commitment to lead a more peaceful life and then choosing to use your breath as a focus at various times throughout the day.  How different a day could be if you did this breath awareness first thing in the morning when you wake up and the last thing at night before going to sleep.  Do it before you watch a TV show, during your lunch break, before you get out of the car or after your shower.  Choosing when to do it will vary daily depending on your activities and how often you remember to take advantage of this simple life affirming process.  It might help to place a reminder note on the refrigerator, your calendar, the bathroom mirror or your car dashboard.  What is certain is that choosing to do this will gradually change how you respond to the stressors in your life.  As Maya Angelou has said, "You may be changed by events which happen to you, but decide not to be reduced".

Karen a 37 year old mother of three came to see me because she was overly stressed.  She had decided to go back to college to get the degree that she had put on hold when her first child was born.  Karen was exhausted trying to juggle the demands of school plus trying to be available to her children.  In therapy she learned to create new strategies to use her time better.  She learned to recognize her self defeating thoughts and change them to positive affirming ones.  Karen also learned this simple breathing technique, which she willingly used daily.  She feels that doing the breath work is what allowed her to get clear enough to  stop, reevaluate and make new supportive life choices.

The demands of life do not have to consume all of your energy.  Stress absolutely can be reduced and you do have the ability to do this on your own.  Of course, there can be times when life deals out circumstances that are overwhelming, when clarity and the ability to make healthy choices are minimized.  During these difficult times, it can be very helpful to have additional support and guidance.

If stress is a major concern in your life, you might consider reading my article  "You Can Have Emotional Freedom".   This article describes an empowering technique which you can learn to use on your own. 

For more information or to make an appointment call Shobana Nuland, LMHC 206-546-5390

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