Let’s start to unveil some of the underlying root causes of your stress. First, let’s start with a stress assessment list. I’ll go through a list of feelings, and actions you may be experiencing for you to get a gauge of how stressed out you are. I suggest writing down this list and marking which ones apply to your life. It’s important to be honest with yourself here. If not, these things will just get worse. When you are honest with yourself, the truth will be revealed so you may learn and grow into the best version of yourself.
- I get less pleasure from activities I normally enjoy.
- I feel tired and low on energy most days.
- I have difficulty getting to sleep or am sleeping too much and don’t want to leave the bed.
- I feel less confident in handling my personal life.
- Sometimes I get overwhelmed and feel unable to control things in my life.
- I worry over things that I cannot control.
- My memory is not as good and my concentration is foggy.
- I have a shorter fuse, am more impatient, and am easily annoyed or frustrated.
- Sometimes my agitation leads to me acting out, verbally or physically.
- I experience fear, paranoia, pessimism, or dejection to a greater degree.
- I blame my partner for our problems, bicker more, and focus on our flaws.
- I’ve become less social and wish to not be bothered by people.
- I eat more as a coping mechanism, or I lose my appetite frequently.
- I use alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, or other substances to relieve stress.
- I am losing interest in sex.
- I get sick more often and worry about my health.
- I get tension headaches, tight muscles, or gastrointestinal problems.
As you go through your day to day, notice where and when some of these things are taking place. The more aware we become of these symptoms, the easier it will be to hit that pause button, take a moment to notice our thoughts, feelings, and actions, and then choose how we want to proceed. After practicing the tools and meditations in this course for about one month, I want you to go through the list again so you can see the progress you have made.
Exercise (part 1): Take a moment to write down some of your known stressors and fears (ten or so). Make a note next to the ones that you hold on to and have no control over. Then make a note next to the ones that you do have control over. Some might fall into both categories, for example, someone driving behind you with their brights on is out of your control, but how you react to it is in your control.
Below this list, answer this: Who would I be without these fears?
I want you to visualize this version of yourself. Step into them and breathe in with their lungs. Notice your surroundings. Where are you? Who else is there, if anyone? How are they holding themself? What does it feel like? What does this version of you believe to be true about themself? Do the emotions of your past belong in your future? When you are done, step out and come back into your body.
This exceptional version of yourself that you see is real, and most likely you have already experienced moments like this in your life. Where you place your attention is where your energy goes. Seeing, feeling, experiencing your future self can help your mind to bring it to your present self. This must be practiced regularly to make it a reality. Know that you can step into this version of yourself at any time.
Exercise (part 2): Looking at your list of known stressors and fears, Consider letting go of the parts that you can’t control. The ones that you can control, realize the main factor in how you respond is your attitude. Remember, if you can change your mind you can change your experience of life.
In his book, The Power of Now, Eckhart Tolle says that we have three options when presented with a stressful or intolerable situation:
- We can decide to change the situation, working to shift matters in a constructive direction. This could include looking at what might need to change in us, which includes our attitude.
- We can decide to walk away from the situation. Ideally, there should be a feeling of peace within us when we consider this choice. The challenge becomes finding the faith and courage to follow through with it.
- We can accept the situation exactly as it is without anyone or anything needing to change. This is surrendering and accepting in the best way.
Go through your list and think about these three options. Which option works best for each of your stressors or fears?
In the next lesson, we’ll go over the attributes of a peaceful attitude, and practice how to become more aware of them in our day to day life.