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Stress and anxiety seem to be running rampant in our culture right now. Every day when I turn on the news I tense up and wonder, what will be my “holy crap” moment today? (and will there be just one?) It is hard for me to believe that I am scared for the safety of my country, my health care, and my personal sovereignty in 2017, yet here we are.
Since the 2016 election, I have felt very out of control and like I am standing on shifting sand. That feeling of powerlessness can seem completely overwhelming. It got me thinking, I know I am not alone. So, what can any of us do to try to alleviate those feelings?
The Only Thing You Have Control Over in Life… is YOU!
When you think about things from an overview it is so easy to feel that there is nothing to be done about your stress level. But if you take just a moment and realize that the only thing you have control over in life is yourself, it can be a complete paradigm shift if you allow it. That fact might not seem helpful at first. In fact, it might seem frustrating to realize that everything can sometimes be beyond your control, but if you use having control over yourself in the right way, it can help relieve stress and tension surprisingly well.
Meditation as Stress Relief
I find meditation to be an extremely helpful form of stress relief. Meditation has a bad rap sometimes, and many people think they are “too busy” to meditate. Or that it takes extreme amounts of time, energy, and concentration to become good at it. It is true that meditation can be hard for some people, especially if you are looking to probe the depths of your mind or inner being with it. However, I find that used specifically for stress relief it doesn’t have to be a long drawn out complicated process. Taking one tiny moment for yourself, during a hectic day or after reading a particularly scary news headline, can be all that you need to face the rest of what is coming at you.
My Short Cut Meditation
A very simple method for stress relief I use all the time might not be what most people think of when they picture the term meditation. I think of it as short cut meditation. Some of the things coming out as breaking news can really send chills down my spine, and can even be panic attack inducing. What really works for me, even when I can’t get my mind to calm down enough to get into deep meditation, is just taking a moment to breathe.
I get to a quiet place, even if the only place available at the time is a bathroom stall, and I breathe. I close my eyes and just think about breathing in and breathing out. I visualize my lungs as a balloon, focusing on filling it up and then allowing the air to come back out in a controlled slow pattern. I try to just focus on the breath and nothing else, even when my mind is screaming at me, I try to let that go and just think about breathing in and breathing out. Counting the breaths can be helpful also. It engages a different part of your brain than the visualization, so both sides of your brain are working together. By the time I get to the number ten I am usually much calmer than I was before.
It isn’t deep mediation, it isn’t transcendental or life changing, it is just a release valve to allow you to get control of one piece of yourself even if it is just momentary. Feeling like you have control over anything in this crazy world, even if it is just a small piece of yourself for two minutes, can give a huge sense of relief, which can change your whole outlook for the day.
Give it a try and see if it works for you the way it does for me.