Managing stress is the hardest to implement for 95% of people trying to regain health. If a person cannot manage their over-scheduled, hyper-stressed life, then I rarely am successful at helping her. Why? Because over-scheduled people do not make room for food preparation, sleep, exercise, and certainly not for stress management (ironic, I know). They just don’t have time. I have been there, and trust me, I empathize. If I gave you a snapshot of “A Day in the Life of Ashley,” you would wonder (maybe even judge) how I am able to manage my stress with any level of success. Just know that I definitely walk this talk every day, and it is not always easy. It definitely was never easy at first when I was re-writing life’s expectations. It is important to stop the ever-present theme of wishing for a better way. I know that it’s hard. It’s important to stop wishing and act within realistic expectations. How a person experiences stress is subjective and depends fully on perspective. We do not need internal strength before perspective. We gain internal strength from perspective. So let’s find some perspective, shall we?
What is perspective and how do I get some?
Perspective. That’s a word that I understood early in life, but that does not mean I was always mature enough to apply it properly. It does require a certain level of maturity in order to practice perspective. That is why the “don’t you know how many children around the world are starving” technique does not work well with children. They lack the level of maturity to understand this, and it is up to us to shape their world and keep it balanced. It is up to us to give them perspective with real life experiences, not just lectures. The funny and ironic thing about perspective is that sometimes it reveals itself in an unpredictable way. Even so, perspective can be obtained more predictably by:
- Adopting a mindfulness practice in your own life – Mindfulness is the practice of being aware of what’s happening or what you’re experiencing in the present moment. It’s being here and now without judgment. When you really consider it deeply, the only moment you can truly live in is the present moment. This type of practice frees yourself from what enslaves the heart and mind – namely greed, hatred, and unawareness (the roots of all suffering, anxiety, and discontentment). Consider beginning a mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) practice at home or finding a program near you. I incorporate MBSR in my practice and am happy to write up a program for you.
- Pondering how much worse someone else’s situation may be than your current life situation – It’s sad, but true. Someone ALWAYS has a worse picture painted in their life when compared to yours. I rank this close to the top because it’s rarely that bad comparatively speaking. You know this. You probably state that to your own family members, especially children, on a daily basis. Even so, this is hard to grasp because we forget to remind ourselves. We spend all of our time reminding others! Normally we are reminded of this element of perspective from an accountability partner (through a heated discussion perhaps), and the message is ill-received.
- Remembering moments of peace & tranquility – Embrace the lovely memories from the past, and let go of the bad. Find peace and the lessons learned from the bad ones and move on. All you need to carry you through life are the moments of peace, happiness, and love assuming you learn and grow from all of the others at those decisive moments.
- Getting away – Take micro-vacations weekly and large vacations yearly. Once a week, unplug and play for an entire day. Do not cross a single item off your task list on that day unless it just accidentally happened during your time of pleasure and play. You will long for that same feeling on the days full of reality-stricken work, and you will develop perspective and a path towards achieving that same feeling all day, every day. Take a yearly vacation to develop bigger plans and dreams.
- Projecting out in time – Take a snapshot of your current hardship and project it out 5 and 10 years from now. Will it matter as much? If it will, what are you going to do about it to mend the situation and move on? If it won’t, just let it go. This is where we derive the age-old phrase, “pick your battles.”
- Surrounding yourself with balanced people – Who are your people? Who’s your tribe? Do they make you stronger or enable your weaknesses? Do they hold you accountable in a positive manner versus a demeaning manner? Surrounding yourself with your tribe most-certainly helps develop a positive perspective on life. Find your people and remove the rest. There’s no time for toxic people, and many times those people inflate situations and cause you to lose your sense of perspective. Love those toxic people even as you send them away. That love may bring them back to you with a healthy relationship dynamic instead.
- Being outside immersed in nature – Go outside at least once a day for 30 minutes at a minimum. You think I am kidding. Every day. The weather does not need to keep you from this! We have the luxury of standing under a porch if it’s raining, wearing a coat and hat if it’s cold, and jumping into a pool if it’s hot. You are a human designed to be outside daily. Why? Well one reason is to be reminded of the perfection around you in nature. This in turn reminds you that something much bigger than you exists, and that is worth pursuing through happiness and reflection. Stare at a sunflower for 5 minutes and tell me that does not give you perspective.
- Stepping back and looking through a bigger lens – Go bird’s eye and figure out if your behavior is ridiculous or warranted. I am always surprised at how much the answer to that question for myself is always “ridiculous.” I then laugh it off and am forced to move on from the situation. Laughter. The bigger lens technique almost always brings a smile to my face. Never stop finding humor in everything.
- Tuning in to your inner voice – Are you always around people or plugged into your smart device? I assure you being alone and facing yourself is not always easy, but in the correct scenario, it’s powerful. If you cannot stand even a moment alone with yourself, your perspective and what you know about yourself may need some adjusting.
- Finding love, and I mean real love – the unconditional kind – I really want to list this first, but I have some of my own fears yet to be conquered. I fear I will come across too romantic and inflated. The truth? I am inflated with romance and unconditional love, and I don’t just mean with my spouse and children. When we commit to all relationships free of conditional-use permits, we find deep peace that everything will be OK no matter what. Now that’s perspective.
And if you really need to decompress, my farm is always welcome to you. Hug a chicken, grab a jar of bucha, and let’s enjoy connection.
~ Farmer Ashley