The time to relax is when you don’t have time for it.
– Sydney J. Harris
You’ve been pushing and prodding and making your way in the world. Now . . . I just want you to take some time to relax. That’s right. Right here and right now. Just as ambitiously as you’ve been succeeding, I want you to ambitiously unwind. Let’s create a space together – you and I – where no one needs you, no one is asking anything of you, and you are safe. A place where it’s all about you and getting centered!
Imagine how that would feel . . .
I should probably begin with a discussion of how most of us do stress in our lives in the first place. In an interesting 1967 study, Thomas Holmes and Richard Rahe (both psychiatrists) reviewed thousands of medical records for a link between stress and illness. Their study eventually identified 43 different life events that create unhealthy stress for adults; everything from the death of a spouse to a change at work to breaking the law. What’s truly interesting is that all of these life events really break down into only two main stressors – stress that seems to come from an external source (something that happens to you) and stress that comes from within yourself (something you do to yourself). In studying hypnotherapy, neuroscience, and brain plasticity, though, I wonder whether in the end all stress is really an inside job; one that we do to ourselves. Indeed, one of my favorite quotes comes from author and psychotherapist Virginia Satir. She once said:
Life is not what it’s supposed to be. It’s what it is. The way you cope with it is what makes the difference.
Is there a way to turn bad stress into good stress (or no stress at all)? It begins with paying little attention to the type of stressor you are encountering/creating and, instead, focusing on your perception of the event, feeling, or thought. To put it another way, the first goal to eliminating bad stress and its ill effects on your body is to change your mental representation of the things that stress you out. One of the fastest ways to do that, by the way, is having a playful attitude about everything. And here’s the interesting thing: YOU CAN’T FAKE PLAYFULNESS. You either are or you’re not full of fun. It’s completely transparent when you’re not being playful.
So, here are five quick steps to creating playfulness in your life and decimating the stress you used to do:
STEP 1. Imagine you are 6 years old again. Relive what is is like to be childlike, full of curiosity, and ready to have fun! Really adopt the playful mindset that all kids have and which you believe you have grown out of.
STEP 2. Stop taking yourself so seriously. The only reason you’re worried about looking silly is because you are judging other people and think they are doing the same to you. What if being judged, just for a moment, really doesn’t matter? Go ahead, lighten up.
STEP 3. Close your eyes and just be in the moment. That’s right. Center yourself. Take some deep breaths and realize that the past is gone and tomorrow is a million miles away. Better yet, take up yoga and meditation.
STEP 4. Adopt an “of course” attitude. I’ve written about this before. Take some real lessons from improv actors; the ones who can have anything thrown at them and they simply respond with: Of course! They take what they are given and have fun with it. Nothing can rattle these pro because they find the thrill, amusement, and enjoyment in making it up as they go along.
STEP 5. Be fearless by being in the Now. You really can handle anything. Fear generally does not exist in the moment. It arises when you remember something or you anticipate something. Where you are, right here and right now, is a place of safety and power and energy.
We all have stress. It is a natural part of life and arises whenever we believe change is about to happen. It is a response we have when we believe our lifestyle will take a turn for the worse. But, as you have likely noticed by now, most of the stress we do to ourselves is needless and does not serve us well. So, just for a short while, let’s all declutter down from the confusion and tension and nourish ourselves a little better.
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