When I emerged from my self-imposed cave, everything looked shiny and new. I couldn’t wait to dive head first into all the stuff I was avoiding before I entered the cave. My excitement was tempered by the thought of returning to the pace and lifestyle that both burned me out, and landed me in a larger pants size. Instead, I decided to cool my jets for a minute and think my approach through. I decided that the logical next step was to bring the cave to me this time, and incorporate all that I had learned from checking out.
Steal some of these ideas for incorporating a retreat into your life. Be sure to check in at the end of each day, week, and month with yourself. Take note if you realize that you aren’t calmer, happier, and more energized than before.
1. Don’t Even Jump, Let Alone Ask, “How High?”
Eliminating most outside stimuli made me notice how much of my time is spent reacting to outside stimuli. I was a slave to it. Do you jump when you get a text? Respond immediately to a FB post? Do you answer, “Yes” to each and every request made for your time or energy? If so, you may want to keep a little bit of energy for yourself. Stop and think before you respond to anything. If it can wait, you may not have to respond at all. Before you know it, you will have saved yourself substantial time and energy that can be utilized elsewhere.
2. Draw the Line and then Don’t Cross it.
As I’ve mentioned in my previous post, I realized that I am not my business. This is a revelation that needs to be incorporated into daily life. You are not your business, career, or job. You are separate from it, even though you bring much of who you are to it.
This is good news.
I was having lunch with a colleague and she began to tell me about a big problem she was wrestling with. Since I’m not my business, and I wasn’t “on the clock”, I could just be myself. How lovely it was to just sit and be understanding. I was able to hold the space for her to fix this problem herself versus jumping in with my assessment and solution. Although it may have been welcomed, it wasn’t ASKED for. If she wanted my input, she can ask directly and make an appointment. What a huge relief! When I’m working, I’m working and when I’m not, I’m just myself. I don’t have to be “on” all the time, and neither do you.
What Are Some Strategies for Coping with Stress
3. Enjoy the Joy.
Make a list of the things you like to do. The things that serve no purpose in your life but to give you joy. I reconnected with some of the things I like to do, such as create something. I made the sculpture I referenced in my last post, went for lots of walks, and enjoyed music while in the cave. Make doing one of the things you love to do a part of your day, your week, or your month. No multitasking either – meaning really tuning into the music and not just having it as a distraction while you are doing dishes or fixing the car. If you’ve forgotten what you love to do for fun, ask your parents, your siblings, or your childhood friends.
4. Stop Trying to Multi-task.
You can’t do more than one thing at one time anyway, so focus only on the one thing you are doing. We think we can violate the laws of nature by doing several things at one time for the sake of efficiency. They’ve done studies and there is no such thing as doing more than one thing at a time. What is actually happening is that you are focusing back and forth from one thing to the next. If you are good at it, and have a swift mind, it seems like you are doing more than one thing at a time. Like the sand in the hourglass, only one grain can go through the most narrow part. Life is happening in the now and if you aren’t present, you’re going to miss a lot of good stuff. When you ask yourself, “What are some strategies for coping with stress?” this one should come to mind immediately.
5. Master your Mind.
When you take time off and tune out the outside noise, you begin to notice your own thoughts. Does your mind like to find things you did wrong in your past and bring them back up? Does your mind come up with all sorts of excuses for why you can’t do this or that? Do you talk in a negative way to yourself?
One student said to me the other day, “I’m moving on to what I want and I’m not ready!” I asked her, “Is that really true?” She thought for a moment and then admitted that she was indeed, ready. I said, “Then stop proclaiming that you aren’t ready.” She was putting mental energy into something that she really didn’t want which is to be “not ready.” She chose a different sentence for when this thought showed up, “It’s here and I’m so ready for this!” Don’t be bullied by your own thoughts.
6. Notice Nature.
Doesn’t it feel good to get outside digging in the garden, planting flowers, mowing the lawn, washing the car, or taking a hike? Nature is restorative. It’s good for your soul to spend time outside. Even if you’re just walking across your parking lot to work, stop and look up at the sky. It’s wonderful thing, that sky. Eat your lunch outside beside a tree. Notice how it’s both strong and delicate. Appreciate the fact that it came from a tiny little seed. Notice how the sun hits the leaves and how the shadows fall. Observation is a good skill to develop. When you observe, you appreciate more and judge less. What are some strategies for coping with stress is a sentence that nature never asks itself as it is always responding appropriately.
7. Defeat an Inner Demon.
Speaking of noticing, have you noticed anything about yourself that doesn’t serve you? Anything that brings you down and gets in the way of realizing your dreams? I noticed that I eat in front of the television. “How could you NOT know you do that?” I was asked by someone (who should have been minding his own business). It’s not that I didn’t know I was doing it, I just didn’t know it was a problem. I’ve probably been doing it for quite a while, but I began to notice it, and it’s like a double whammy for numbing out – the eating without focusing on the food made me eat more, and the mindless TV watching was keeping me from feeling my feelings! We have a rule in our house: no eating your feelings. I found a way around that one by being numbed out when I eat. Well, no more! It’s now a rule – no eating while watching TV. It’s liberating. What activity are you engaged in that doesn’t serve you? Consider conquering this behavior. You can do it.
8. Carve Out Time and Guard it with Your Life.
Even the tech people of Silicon Valley do a sabbatical from the computer where they totally unplug from the Internet from Friday night until Monday morning. If they can unplug for that long, you can go a few hours without Facebook. Every week without fail, carve out a time where there is no work, no media, no worrying…just being and/or having fun. It can be 48 hours or one hour every week. I suggest an entire 24 hours, as it takes some time to settle down inside. This is time for fun and it’s non-negotiable. Oh, someone wants you to help them with something during your day of sabbatical? Say, “No.” Schedule it for another time. You have to be serious with this fun time. Guard this time and hold the space for the sacred act of ‘not doing’.
9. Quiet the mind.
Your mind can be doing other things aside from trying to figure out what are some strategies for coping with stress. Medition Your may not be your thing. If it is your thing, or has been, bring it back to your daily life. Some people meditate both morning and evening. Some meditate for an hour at a time sitting in the lotus position. It’s OK if you have never meditated before. You can start right where you are. Take 10 minutes just to observe your own breathing while sitting quietly. This might be all you need to find that energetic calm state that meditation can bring. Meditating helps you realize that you are not your body nor your mind. It also helps you to observe your thoughts, and you will be less likely to be carried away with worrying.
10. Start to Finish.
There is nothing quite like the simple joy of a task completed. Finish one simple task each day or night. This could be cleaning the kitchen sink, organizing something like your pen drawer, or packing tomorrow’s lunch. Give yourself bonus points if you stay focused on this task to practice being in the now. There are few things that we can start and end in a short time frame, as most of life is a process. When you have more time, you can paint that wall, fix the dishwasher, or straighten out the closet. It just feels good to have that satisfaction of a task completed well.
Bring any restorative practice to your daily life. Choose any one of these or one of your own. You are wonderful and have tremendous value. The world needs you. Take care of yourself – mind, body, and soul so that you can be your best and do your best.
What are some strategies for coping with stress that you use each day?
What’s your favorite way to enjoy yourself, take a little break from life and rejuvenate? I’d love to hear about it.