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Monday, March 29, 2010

How Life Can Still Be Calm In Tough Times

Have you recently felt overwhelmed or stressed? Does it seem like we are living in tough times? If you answered "Yes" to either or both, you are not alone. According to a new survey released by the American Psychological Association, 75% of adults have experienced moderate to high levels of stress in the past month, and almost half reported increased stress over the past year.Often when we are stressed and overwhelmed, we are feeling out of control. Usually this is because we believe something or someone outside of us is in control or making us feel this way. In believing this we give away our personal power. Every time we say things like "I can't ___ because of ___" or "It's not fair." Or "Why is this happening to me? or Why is he/she doing this to me?" We are giving away our power and creating our own 'tough times'.This brings to mind one of my favorite quotes: "It is not things themselves that trouble us, but our thoughts about those things" by an 1st century Greek philosopher (Epictetus). It is really our thoughts about things, people, situations outside of us (such as "I can't believe he's acting this way", or "I can't believe this is happening to me") that are troubling us. It is our thoughts that are creating the feeling of stress and overwhelm.The good news is .. we can chose differently! We each are capable of changing how we react to someone or something outside of us. Our personal power lies in our ability to choose our thoughts and our reactions. This is where our control is. Then we can be calm even in tough times. When we become aware of our thoughts and reactions, we take back our power and no longer feel out of control.The key is to create a new way of handling stress. That is how life can be calm in tough times ... with a new way of behaving and thinking when you are under stress. This can take time, practice and a support system. Often the support of a personal life coach is needed.These 3 steps will support you to stand in your power. The more you practice these techniques on a regular basis the easier it will be to access them when you are stressed.- 1. Breathe - Your breath is the best tool to help you relax. Count each inhale and exhale for a count of five. Take five inhales and five exhales. Simply placing your awareness on your breath will slow you down, relax the central nervous system and slow down your thoughts. This is the 1st step to choosing to think and react differently to stressful situations. Use your breath as a tool of support.- 2. Slow down and check-in - Take a time out from being so busy and rushing around. If you notice you are flustered, take three minutes to slow down and check on yourself. Stop what you are doing. Take a deep breath and ask yourself, "How am I feeling right now?" "What might I do to feel more calm?" Be honest with yourself. Even if you don't feel stressed, you can practice taking a few minutes each day to purposely slow down and check in with yourself.- 3. Choose calming thoughts - When times feel tough and we feel overwhelmed, we are focusing on what we don't like. We are spending precious time and energy on what we DON'T want. Remember it is our thoughts that cause us to feel stressed. For example, even if our boss, child or spouse says or does something we don't like, we can choose not to react. Then we can empower ourselves by asking "Okay, what do I have control over at this moment?" Often the answer might be: "My feelings, my thoughts, my reaction, my body, etc." If you were feeling calm, what might you be thinking? What is a calming thought for you? It could be something like "It is all okay'" Or "I have everything I need within myself" "I am capable". "Everything is unfolding as it is meant to." "I chose to act from love" "There is sunshine after the storm." Choose a thought that works for you. Practice!By using the above steps you will be on your way to calm even in tough, challenging times. You will be choosing to think and react differently than before. And in doing so you will be learning about yourself and taking your power back. As Eckhart Tolle says in A New Earth, "How you react to people and situations, especially when challenges arise, is the best indicator of how deeply you know yourself."Read more: Under Creative Commons License: Attribution No Derivatives

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