STRESS, SPIRIT & SELF CARE
Stress is a given in everyone’s life. There are benefits to stress as well as problems with an overload of stress. Recently, I found myself stressed out due to situations beyond my control. It was important that I use my skills to deal better. This type of stress is familiar to each of us at one time or another.
Solutions to stress overload or stress that seems never-ending include all of the usual and obvious ones. Some of these are:
Making time for fun!
The above options are wonderful ones. A hike in a field or on a mountain or around a lake can do wonders for one’s spirit. Riding a bike, roller blading, or participating in a group sport or activity can provide fun and freedom! Do it! Experience life in spite of the stress.
It is necessary at times to find ways to cope during the actual stressful situation(s). Maybe your work environment contains extreme pressures. Colleagues are showing the effects. Even if you are usually the calm, easy-going type, the tension from situations may build. You may find that suddenly you are experiencing anxiety, panic, and even temporary memory loss. (Many survivors of abuse understand this from personal experiences!)
One temporary solution that I found helpful recently and in the past are meditations of various types.
The loving-kindness meditation (metta) is one that has assisted me in times of stress. The metta prayer is Buddhist in nature. First a person calms oneself through sitting still and breathing. Different loving-kindness meditations have variations of words. The one I chose was:
“May I be happy.
May I be well.
May I be safe.
May I be peaceful and at ease.”
Then you replace “I” with someone you know, someone you care about, then someone you dislike, your enemy, and then maybe pray for the world.
That is a very simple explanation from one who is not a Buddhist!
Some people may think focusing on “I” first is selfish. I am reminded of the guidance on an airplane. In case of emergency, you are instructed to put the oxygen mask on yourself first. You are better able to serve others when you take care of yourself. Self care!
Sharon Salzburg article “Facet of Metta” explains this loving-kindness and how it relates to us and others.
“When we truly love ourselves, we want to take care of others, because that is what is most enriching, or nourishing, for us. When we have a genuine inner life, we are intimate with ourselves and intimate with others. The insight into our inner world allows us to connect to everything around us, so that we can see quite clearly the oneness of all that lives. We see that all beings want to be happy, and that this impulse unites us.”
“Authentic intimacy is not brought about by denying our own desire to be happy in unhappy deference to others, nor by denying others in narcissistic deference to ourselves. Metta means equality, oneness, wholeness. To truly walk the Middle Way of the Buddha, to avoid the extremes of addiction and self-hatred, we must walk in friendship with ourselves as well as with all beings.”
(To read the entire article by Sharon Salzburg, view: http://www.vipassana.com/meditation/facets_of_metta.php)
The metta practice may be said to yourself during breaks or lunches when you are experiencing a stressful situation. Even a few moments of quiet and metta can bring serenity within you. I have discovered that there are times I am able to say the metta practice or the recitation of other spiritual words during the midst of stress and turmoil. Not all activity during one’s day requires our full attention. Many Christians use a psalm or Bible verse to repeat in order to bring calmness of mind and clarity of purpose. Sufi aphorisms may also be helpful.
Another choice is to take a short walk during your lunch period. A favorite walking meditation of mine is reciting:
“Peace, peace, to the far and to the near,” says the LORD, “and I will heal them.” (Isaiah 57:19)
I always include myself as one of them to be healed! Walking meditations are quite helpful when you feel anxiety or panic. Your body appreciates the movement. Your mind quiets. Your body moves in a rhythmic manner. Peace, calmness, and serenity often follows.
During my travels on this journey, individuals of Christian faith have sometimes brought up questions and qualms about Eastern practices such as yoga and meditation. An informative article regarding this topic is found in the Dharma World Magazine. (See: http://www.rk-world.org/dharmaworld/dw_2015octdec_meditation-without-borders.aspx)
Leo D. Lefebure mentions the following in his article, “Meditation without Borders: Christians Who Engage in Meditation Practices from Other Religious Traditions”:
“The seeking of insight into one’s present situation and the extending of loving-kindness and compassion to oneself and to all creatures bear strong similarities to the values of the Christian tradition. In the early church, Evagrius Ponticus taught Christians to pray by emptying their minds of all thoughts and desires. He predicted that an emotional upheaval might well ensue, but he promised that meditators would come to a state of peace and tranquillity that cannot be obtained in any other way.”
On a personal, practical and spiritual level, I recommend you experiment. Find what practices or prayers resonate within you. Is it meditation, prayer, contemplation, nature, or all of the those that support you on your journey? What relieves your stress levels? What calms you? How do you find serenity? As a poster a friend gave me states:
“Serenity is not freedom from the storm, but peace amid the storm.”
If you are experiencing stress overload at this time, may you find your path to serenity. Take time for self care of your spirit as well as your physical and mental body.
Once you are able, also take time to access your life’s situation. Is there anything you can do to change what is causing you so much stress? If it is a job, do you want to change jobs? Is that a realistic possibility? If the stress is from other aspects of your life, how may you change those aspects? Do not let too much time pass. Your health on all levels is important. Life is short.
“In times of stress, the best thing we can do for each other is to listen with our ears and our hearts and to be assured that our questions are just as important as our answers.”
– Fred Rogers
I, as a life coach, am here. Please feel free to connect with me!