You and your mind are the biggest cause of all your stress.
I don’t know this from some scientific stat, but I am pretty sure in my 32 years of human-ing it’s true.
In my 32 years of observing others… and of course myself.
Ok, maybe the first 4-5 years don’t count. Anyway, the cool thing about this fact (AKA my opinion) is that because YOU are the cause of your stress… you are also the solution.
I started thinking about this idea as we’re hosting a free Masterclass on using Yoga, Pilates and Breathwork to manage stress. The recording is now available inside the MerryBody Online Studio.
I don’t actually see myself as a stressed person but that is a complete lie. I just internalise all my stress. And create most of it from my thoughts.
My stress is my overthinking, over analysing mind.
My stresses are the repetitive worries about my future.
My stresses are my co-dependent thoughts… me continually worrying about the happiness of the people around me. Or my people-pleasing habits that still show up every now and then.
Yep, it’s all created by my mind.
I allow these thoughts to float in… and instead of letting them float out, I hang onto them tightly. This habit impacts my mood and perspective on life.
These thoughts take me from a grateful mindset, where I appreciate and love everyone and everything in my life to a fearful, anxious mindset… where I question EVERYTHING in my life.
It feels kinda self-absorbed and a waste of time to spend this much time self-reflecting and thinking about how my mind works… but I know that when we become more self-aware, we surely then can live with more flow and less suffering.
We can be more present, enjoy life more.
We can offer more of our unfiltered selves, of our own individual magic to the world and people around us.
If you resonate with any of this… I want to tell you what I try to do when I find myself spiralling into the vortex of these thoughts.
Note: I want to tell you what I try to do… I am well aware that I sometimes really suck at being the solution to my stress.
First step… do the self-awareness thing.
Don’t judge what comes up, just look at the thoughts with a sense of curiosity (easier said than done).
And if the thoughts aren’t floating out, if they are spinning around your mind and you begin to feel the anxiety creeping up from your belly towards your chest and head, stop what you’re doing.
Take a moment, take a breath and just be with these thoughts and feelings.
Remember, don’t judge yourself. Then try one or all of the following…
Question the thoughts
Ask yourself this…
Is the thought true?
If this doesn’t help… ask…
Is it really true?
These questions help you delve deeper into the thoughts, they help you realise that they’re not your reality and then you work towards letting them go.
These questions and this ‘work’ comes from international author and speaker Byron Katie.
“A thought is harmless unless we believe it. It’s not our thoughts, but our attachment to our thoughts, that causes suffering.
Attaching to a thought means believing that it’s true, without inquiring. A belief is a thought that we’ve been attaching to, often for years.” Byron Katie
Get out of your mind and into your body
If you’re at home, roll out your yoga mat, actually, you don’t even need a mat, simply find some floor.
Get on your all 4s in a tabletop position, hands under shoulders, knees under hips. Inhale, arch the spine, drop the belly toward the Earth, gaze up towards the sky, and then exhale press the Earth away, drop the head and neck, gaze toward the navel and puff up the back towards the sky. Repeat 3-5 times.
This simple action connects your breath to your physical body and takes your attention away from your thoughts. It will literally take 3 breaths for you to experience this.
If you’re at the office find an empty meeting room, or do the movements seated at your desk.
If you have the time do a whole Yoga class. This will completely transform your state of mind.
To help you slow everything down, find your focus, stretch your body and move through it with grace and ease.
Yoga practice shifts and changes your thought patterns. It has become my go-to tool for getting out of my head.
Talk to someone
Literally as soon as I talk about my thoughts, inner-stresses and conflicts I instantly feel better.
And in fact, actual scientific studies have shown that talking about your problems and sharing your negative emotions with someone you trust can be extremely healing. It helps to reduce your stress, strengthen your immune system, and reduce physical and emotional stress (Pennebaker, Kiecolt-Glaser, & Glaser, 1988).
I know this but sometimes I struggle to feel confident and comfortable to talk because I am so deep in fear land.
Fear of their judgment, of their rejection, of them not understanding why I feel like I do.
But in reality, I am surrounded by people who love me and who I love back… so when I open up and be vulnerable they give me the space to move through the thoughts, gain a broader perspective and come back to the truth.
If you don’t feel like you have anyone in your life to talk to I’d recommend writing down your thoughts.
Journaling is a great tool to figure out what thoughts are real and what might be negative thought patterns.
“I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means.” Joan Didion
Can’t write? Then I’d book in with either a psychologist, natural therapist, coach… whoever resonates with you. It’s pure courage to ask for help.
And after all this, I really think it’s important to recognize that through stress and even suffering… we learn.
Or maybe I should say we can learn because we certainly can stay in our stress and learn nothing and probably become angry, sad and bitter versions of ourselves.
But for me, I want to be better at dealing with stress and suffering.
In moments of stress, I want to learn how to communicate better, learn how to respond better. Because as I learn I also feel stronger and more empowered to speak and live my truth.
It’s not about shutting these not so good feelings off, it’s more about not extending them, dwelling in them… not staying in them longer than required.
It’s about feeling everything BUT spending less time with angry and bitter feels and more time feeling free… happier, joy-filled, content… oh and merry?!
And then! When you shift your perspective of your stresses, not only does it build resilience and character… it helps you cut through the stuff in the mind that keeps you dwelling in the bitterness, the thoughts that hold you back from fully experiencing a life you desire.
And by no means am I saying… go out and attract the stress, get suffering so you can learn and experience. No, no, no!
I’m just saying… experience all of it, the ups the downs, the ebbs and flows and know that really, all of it is happening for us.
Maybe it really is all here for a reason.
When we let go of the (idea of) control, then take the necessary next step (like the Yoga, meditation, sit in nature, music, art… whatever it is for you!) the anxious repetitive stressful thoughts begin to fade and the suffering doesn’t last as long.
We let go and come back to a feeling of connectedness and contentment. Like ahhh, all is ok.
“Everything will be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end.”
Now lastly… because we all need to hear this at times and just in case you don’t tell yourself enough. And! It’s another great way to let the stresses go.
Here’s your reminder… you’re amazing, you’re doing your best… it’s ok to just be exactly who you are, where you are, right here and right now.
It’s ok to take some space and time to contemplate and decide what the next step is.