In this day and age of fast cash, faster food, distractions and depression, I’d absolutely love to share five simple tips that I’ve picked up along the way to slow myself down and help restore my sanity. Life can be rather overwhelming sometimes and most of us simply don’t have the time or the discipline to follow a noble spiritual path while our worlds fall down around us. By incorporating these five pillars of my life, as they’ve truly become pillars for me, I have become much more skilled at fighting off stress and depression and have found a little bit of peace in my otherwise turbulent world.
Some of these concepts may sound familiar to you, but please understand that it’s through practice that real understanding is gained. It’s for the sake of practice that I’ve stripped these concepts down to their most essential. The easier it is to understand these tips and to start utilizing them, the sooner you will see the results that you are looking for. Try them for yourself and you’ll see.
1. Don’t take it personally.
This one is probably the hardest one for me to stick to consistently, but it is also the most important one, in my opinion. There are over 7 Billion people in this world, and each and every one of them can and will try to ruin your day sometimes. I learned this lesson to it’s absolute fullest when a woman I was dating, whom I was deeply in love with, walked out my front door for the last time. I was hurt and alone and left wondering why she would do this to me. It took me a long time to understand that she didn’t do it TO me, she did it FOR herself. I was merely an emotional byproduct. She was younger than me and still had a million lessons to learn in her life. If we stayed together, it likely would have ended much worse than it did. She left while it was still early enough to allow us to maintain our friendship afterwards.
Many times we forget that other people are much like we are. They get hurt, scared and confused and often times they have to make the best choice they can, with a limited number of resources. The sad truth is that the people we love can hurt us much more than the people we loathe. We build up expectations for them and their behavior that may not even be fair to them. We are all human beings and we will all make a million mistakes before we die. Don’t make life harder on yourself for holding on to resentments towards people in your life that you feel did you wrong. More likely than not, they had to make a choice for themselves and you simply got hurt in the process. Teach yourself to look past your own emotions and make an attempt to understand the situation from their point of view. I guarantee that you’ll see things in a way you never have before.
2. Remember to breathe.
It sounds simple enough, but there’s a small catch. Don’t just remember to breathe, but become intently aware of it. There’s a quick breathing technique that I do when I’m feeling a little overwhelmed that has always been great at taking the edge off, and you can do it anywhere at any time:
Take a normal breath in. Pay attention to the precise moment that your body switches from inhaling to exhaling and hold that for just a moment, neither inhaling or exhaling. Now exhale, and as you empty your lungs and your body shifts to inhaling again, pay attention to that moment as well. Again, hold it for just a moment before resuming your normal breathing and inhaling. As you cycle through a few breaths, you will notice the time between inhaling and exhaling (as well as exhaling and inhaling ) has increased and your breathing will have slowed… even if you only do this for 5 quick cycles.
As you move on from this technique, you’ll notice that whatever it was that just had you stressed out or overwhelmed isn’t so unmanageable now. Stress is a natural reaction in the body, and you just neutralized it with an uber-quick meditation.
3. Let it go for now.
So it’s bedtime and you can’t seem to let go of that one thing that’s pressing on your mind. Maybe it’s a work deadline, the kids got into a fight, your boss was rude to you, it could be anything. Heck, it could be everything. The biggest question you can ask yourself while you’re laying awake in bed is “What can I do about this right now?” If the answer is “Nothing”, then let it go and go to sleep. It doesn’t mean that you aren’t ever going to address the issue, it simply means that right now is not the right time for it. There is always a time to do things, and bedtime is time for sleep. If there is nothing you can do tonight about your pressing issue, then simply accept that fact and put it out of your head. There is no point in worrying about things that cannot be changed. Which brings us to…
4. Worry is a wasted emotion.
This little lesson was a very hard one for me to learn, but the simple reality of the nature of life is that worrying about something will not change anything except your emotional state. If you’ve been in an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting or a Christian bookstore, you may have seen a small text known as the Serenity Prayer. This wonderful piece of literature is short, sweet, and rather to the point. It simply states “Lord, give me the serenity to accept the things I can not change, the strength to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
Never in my life have any words held more meaning when it comes to my own emotional states. So many times we worry about what someone is saying about us, or what someone is doing. We allow this worry to fill us and to dictate our lives, however, worry without action is wasted emotions; and worry for something we can not change is simply insanity.
Worrying about anything has never once changed the outcome of it. Whether or not I worry about losing my job has zero to do with whether or not I actually lose it. Worry as a stand-alone emotion prevents us from actually addressing the situation that we are worried about. It handicaps us and forces us to use emotions instead of reason. Sometimes the people we love will put themselves into situations where we worry about them, but do not allow your dread to consume you… either help change the situation, or accept that you can not. There is nothing wrong with surrendering to a situation that you simply can not overcome in order to save yourself some emotional strain… the harsh reality is that this universe will not always wrap things up in a bow for you. You need to be at peace with that.
5. Stay Positive
I know this little tip probably makes you want to reach through your computer and smack me in the mouth and honestly, I’m okay with that. I’ve been getting this advice for most of my life and I’ve always secretly loathed the people who would tell me this. They must have thought their own lives were so perfect…
Imagine my surprise when I found out that it actually works. Of course, unlike all of those other people that have told you to stay positive, I’m going to explain to you why and how it actually works. First off, let’s assume that you are going to be speaking with people today, maybe some of them are people you’ve never even met. If you are wearing your depression or stress all over your face and body language, it sets the tone for how people are going to attempt to interact with you. It’s human nature to mimic the person that we are conversing with because psychologically it makes us similar enough so that it will be easier to build rapport.
News flash!! If you are clearly stressed, worn out and filled with negativity, the people that you interact with will tend to adopt your negative aura in search of commonality… meaning the more negative you are, the more likely you are of having to deal with negative people.
Fake it until you make it. Put on your smile and pretend for a few minutes that you aren’t all frantic and stressed inside. Now, you come off as a positive optimist and people start treating you as such. Their demeanor will shift to match yours. As you go through the day, you’ll notice that people seem friendlier and more eager to help you out. Eventually, you’ll forget that this whole positivity thing was a ruse and you’ll start feeling it yourself.
I hope that you are able to take these tips with you and apply some, if not all, of them to your daily life. They have helped me greatly and now I move on to step 6… lovingly sharing what I’ve learned with those who may need it as much as I have. Bless you all.