You know that thing we do, when we keep something we don't really need, just in case it comes in handy? Or when we keep too much stuff through guilt or duty or sentimentality?
And we do this over and over again. Until the attic gets full of forgotten stuff in boxes.
Maybe we'd love to convert the attic into an office or an art studio, but we don't want to go up there, because it's dark, dirty and musty. And everything's covered with cobwebs. And maybe the mice have moved in ...
So we shelve that passion. And we add more stuff, more boxes as we try to ignore how we feel about it all.
I find physical clutter extremely stressful. So I have to keep things very simple (and easy to clean). Just enough furniture to be comfortable and a few ornamental things. And everything must be something I love. Including my clothes. I tune into an item before I buy it and if it doesn't give me a happy, relaxed feeling then it's out (Marie Kondo tip)!
Here's a great article I read recently about stress and clutter.
And what about our relationships? How many do we tolerate through duty or fear of confrontation, rather than letting the relationship go or establishing better, healthier boundaries? This article has some great tips about managing our intimate relationships ...
And the ultimate stress is a cluttered mind. Maybe it's our beliefs, our limitations, our programming, our feelings ... with us 24/7. Making life so much harder than it needs to be.
So how do you know you're cluttered on the inside? Often it's a feeling - maybe a recurring, uncomfortable emotion. Or something physical. Maybe a pain, an ache or even an illness.
Mindfully tuning into that intuitive, inner voice is a skill that can come amazingly quickly with regular practice. And it's the vital first step to decluttering yourself.
You might need help to tune in at first. Because, although your subconscious is very strong, its voice can be barely a whisper. Or it may like to communicate with images or memories instead. Or there could be something blocking the transmission. Or your subconscious may have given up trying to talk altogether. Maybe now it's doing something else to get your attention - causing suffering in some new, inventive way.
But as soon as your subconscious mind feels heard, it turns off the alarm bell. The mind clutter and pain can disappear like magic and you get a beautifully clean, roomy attic back.
Now, I wonder, what could YOU do with all that space ... ?
Image by Levelord on Pixabay
To calm down a stressed out mind, one brilliant thing I recommend to my clients is "The Tahiti Pose".
It resets the stress response and brings you back to a calm, relaxed state in just a few minutes. You can do it anytime and it really helps with sleep just before bed ...
They say blood can get "stuck" in your big leg muscles when you're stressed because your body's preparing you to run for your life. So to get a more balanced blood supply to your brain, you need to help your leg muscles let go, so more blood can drain back to your head.
All you do is lie on your back on the floor and lift up your legs to get your hips quite close to a soft chair or bed. Put a cushion or folded blanket under your hips so your upper legs are not quite straight up (keep a slight angle to ensure circulation is maximised). Then you bend your lower legs to rest on the top. So you make a sort of "step" shape. See the photo here. Experiment with putting your arms out level with your shoulders on the floor or keeping them by your side. Right now I prefer my arms out ...
Your face will probably feel tight for a while and when that tight feeling goes, you're done! Usually 15 minutes or so does the trick. Extra points for a stomach rumble which shows you've really nailed the rest/digest relaxed state.
The Tahiti pose is a simpler version of a yoga pose (photo here) where you put your legs up against a wall. if you prefer this one, remember to ensure your legs are not totally straight up by putting a cushion under your hips to lift them slightly. Or just keep your hips away slightly from the wall.
And if you don't have the opportunity to lie down, then do something more vigorous with your body - like a few star jumps or running up some stairs. This can reset your stress response and keep it calm for hours. Perfect for when you know stressful times are gonna hit soon.
Maybe you've already tried some of these? Or maybe you know a variation?
Do please share in the comments so we can all benefit ...
Image by MabelAmber-1377835, still incognito - Pixabay
It takes patience to learn to listen to our wiser, true self.
To tune out the chatter in our heads.
But in my experience, once we've learned how to make that connection, we never lose it.
I get the strongest sense of my "self" in my gut - right in the solar plexus. I noticed in a yoga session that I could sense the whole of my body and my connection to everything from this place. Quite the awakening for this sensible scientist who can numb herself by living totally in her head!
And mindfulness helps me be even more aware of the messages my mind and body are sending and receiving.
All I need to do is stop and listen.
My work with NLP and hypnosis together with meditation has made me so mindful of that voice of "self" from my deeper, subconscious self. It started as a whisper, but comes through much more clearly nowadays.
And it's not so much a voice, really.
More of a knowing.
Very different from Ron, my husband. His subconscious shows him words on a screen in his mind. We all have our own way of tuning in.
I don't stress about a dedicated morning meditation practice. Kinda misses the point if I do! Sometimes I'm tired or I just can't be arsed ... so just a few deep breaths and a quick tune into my body will do.
I know it's good to do a 20 minute meditation at least twice a week (they say 12 minutes is the minimum for building your stress control muscle), but I also know even 5 minutes of focus has an effect. Anything's better than nothing ... but sometimes I do nothing! And that's OK too.
I find even a weekly meditation class is enough for most people to get incredible benefits - especially that moment of pause that starts to magically appear before you automatically react. Then you can decide if you need to step in and take the wheel or relax and just enjoy being on autopilot. To choose how you behave. How you feel. Self mastery in the making. And all for just a few minutes a week ...
As long as you do something regularly, it seems there's always some benefit.
And due to my practice over the years, I'm very mindful of what my head, heart and gut are saying to me throughout the day. And I'm tuned in to how relaxed I am in my body - especially my neck (where so much tension can lie for me).
And I've noticed that sometimes it's not in my gut, but a sudden, slight tension in my left calf muscle that tells me something wrong.
I look for that feeling every time I weigh up decisions or want to know what I really feel about something. I just think of the option or outcome and if my calf tenses up then it's a no! Cool huh?
It's simple, but it takes practice to tune in. To just stop for a moment. To listen and to learn.
And to earn that extra time before I react. That choice. Priceless.
You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you're proud of. If you find that you're not, I hope you have the courage to start all over again.
So they've done some research and shown that stressing over any stress you're feeling is gonna make you ill.
And so it's not so much the stress that is damaging you, but the worrying ABOUT the stress that'll get you in the end.
So if they hadn't done the research in the first place to show that stress makes you ill, then we wouldn't be worrying about it and we'd be fine!
But then you can't take knowledge back, can you?
And we'd rather know and make our own choices, wouldn't we? Or would we?
Is ignorance really bliss?
And if we stress about the people we care about and their stress, does that count as just stress or is it stressing about stress? Hmmmmmm!
Anyway here's a link to Dr Weil's post on the subject.
And I'm trying not to stress about the stress that I'm feeling at the moment due to the photo not loading at the top of this post.
And please, whatever you do, don't you stress about my stress.....
I went to the UK for a few days to attend my beautiful niece's wedding to her lovely man and I stayed up really late every night, ate pies (I so miss English pies!) and drank more than I should.
And now I'm home, it's caught up with me and I feel totally, utterly drained.
Then today I got this timely newsletter from Dr Ben Kim which included the following wise words:
" When looking to address any health problem, think first about the most simple, fundamental changes you can make to give your body a chance to heal itself. Specifically, think about getting more physical and emotional rest, working toward being physically fit and flexible, nourishing your body with nutrient-rich foods, avoiding foods and beverages that provide little nutrient-value, and spending your time with people who don't consistently bring you down."
It's great advice - I'm not ill, but I may get ill if I don't take some time to rest, instead of trying to squeeze every last drop out of life all the the time.
So I'm taking his advice and I'm off to bed. Early!
A story from my stressful years:
I started these two lists;
"Things I can control" and "Things I can't control"
And as I listed all the things I could control, such as; how I spend my time, how I spend my money, my behaviour, my physical actions, who I spend my time with, where I spend my time, the things I surround myself with, my words, my mind (sometimes), my diet and exercise, etc.,
I realised that these things are all just "WHAT I DO".
And the list of things I couldn't control like; the weather, what all other people and animals do, deterioration of possessions, disease, economicsm politics etc.
They all seem to boil down to: "EVERYTHING ELSE" that isn't "WHAT I DO".
And then I realised that I spent pretty much all of my time trying to make my life "now" and "in the future" as perfect as possible, but that meant trying to control EVERYTHING. And that's just stupid. Because I can't control EVERYTHING.
I can only hope to control "WHAT I DO"!
So it sounds simple and it's such a simple idea that I wonder why I'd never thought of it before. Maybe everyone else in the world knew this already. It only took me 40 odd years to get to the stage to ask the question and only a couple minutes of scribbling to come up with the answer.
But there you go.
So it was easy from then on. I only needed to focus on controlling "what I do" and let everything else do whatever it wanted. I couldn't do anything about those other things, so there was no point giving them any real concern. I maybe could try to influence things that I felt strongly about, but that's all I hoped to do.
It gave me loads more time to give that focus where it was going to be useful. And there was a new peace that's came with this new knowledge. A burden that lifted.
I felt like I'd been given a fresh start.
And so back to now, I'm hoping for some sunshine this week-end, but I'm not making my enjoyment of the days contingent on it........we'll go for a cycle anyway and if we get wet, we'll get wet.
And have fun anyway.
Here's another great post on Mark Sisson's blog where he lists the 7 characteristics we can cultivate which are associated most with living a long and contented, healthy life.
I don't necessarily agree all the time with his dietary advice, but he has some great insights on the human psyche and he seems to be one interesting and clued-up, wise person.
I especially liked the information on the sayings of Epictetus (another article here) and many of the ways to let go of controlling everything in our lives really rang true for me.
And it's helped me be more content with things as they are.
When I don't allow myself to get upset about things I can't control, there's much more sunshine about.
The trick for me was working out what those things I couldn't control were. And now I have, I'm much more at peace with the world.
Something else to add to my list entitled "things I wish I'd been taught at school instead of Latin and Shakespeare"......!
I mentioned before a friend who went on a Buddhist retreat and learned the best way to start the day was to simply smile upon waking.
She'd just lie there and grin to herself for a few moments before getting up. She said it was something she would continue doing forever - it really set her up for the day.
She even had a sign by her bed to remind her to smile every morning!
And now some researchers at the University of Kansas have shown why it works. They've found that even if we only pretend to smile, we de-stress and feel happier. Yep, they shoved chopsticks in the mouths of volunteers to mimic the smiling action of their facial muscles and even though they didn't know they were supposed to be smiling, it still worked!
Apparently, the act of our faces being in a smiling expression, tells our brain that we are not in any danger. So we relax and our blood-pressure lowers and our heart rate slows and we feel better........
You don't have to mean it. Try it. Just fake a smile and maybe you'll find, in a few seconds, that it works for you too. Or for a good laugh, try the chopsticks. Go on. Give it a go right now. Go on! Just for me....
You can see a summary of the research here
And next time you find yourself feeling stressed or upset, why not try smiling and see what happens?
It's been proven that optimists live longer and enjoy that longer life to its fullest. And the good news is that we all start out life as optimists.
So why do so many of us see that glass as half-empty or maybe focus on the bad in good things rather than seeing the good in bad things?
Psychologists have proven that we often learn pessimism from our primary caregiver, most usually our mother. And if kids lose their natural optimism, they will then be at a much higher risk of developing depression in the future because of it.
I've always thought of myself as a realist, but the truth is my parents were not great optimists and then a career in science and project management taught me to always look for problems and to plan for failure.
Before my NLP training, I always used to struggle being optimistic about "bad" things (and even many of the "good" things) life threw my way.
So how can we help ourselves (and our kids) hold onto the optimism we're born with?
The book "Learned Optimism" by Martin Seligman tells us to always explain "bad" events with an upbeat, optimistic tone.
- As if the cause was temporary, one-off.
"Never mind, it was really hard to do and next time you'll do better."
- As if it's specific to just one small part of our world.
"I burned the toast, but there's enough bread to make some more."
- As if it's not someone's fault, but external factors caused it.
"I didn't get the promotion, because the boss was in a bad mood that day."
- And we don't use words like "Always" and "Never" or make it personal - we criticize the behaviour, not the person/ourself.
"It's so unlike me, I must've been really tired that day" rather than "I always screw up, I'm such a loser."
Or "It was just a simple mistake" rather than "You never get it right, do you?"
And then to give optimism a boost, we do the opposite to explain the reasons why "good" things happen. We say they are permanent, all encompassing and about the person/ourself.
"Of course you passed. you're were always so clever at biology" instead of, "You were lucky the questions were on the things you studied."
Or "The day was a great success. We organise these things so well, don't we?" rather than, "These things never usually go so well, we were so lucky with the weather."
I know it's not always a good thing to be blindly optimistic, like taking crazy risks with money or our health.
And some people seem to be just plain happy with being grumpy or harshly realistic about life.
But, if the world has bashed us around a bit and we wish we could be more optimistic, the good news is optimism can be re-learned.
I always use Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) for changing negative beliefs and thinking habits.
There's also Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) - for a great self-help book on how to use it, I recommend this one by Stephen Briers.
For a lighter read, here's an article on being more optimistic.
And finally, for some great, powerful things to say to our kids, check out this wonderful post by Dr Kim.
Because If Eeyore can do it, anyone can!
“It's snowing still," said Eeyore gloomily.
"So it is."
"Yes," said Eeyore. "However," he said, brightening up a little, "we haven't had an earthquake lately.”
"... Outstanding in the field of self understanding, freedom and expression ..."
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