Kelly Spencer - Happy Healthy YOU
(A wellness column by Kelly Spencer: writer, life coach, yoga & meditation teacher, holistic healer and a mindful life enthusiast!)
We hear many people talking about stress or being “stressed out” or even burned out, but what does it really mean?
As holistic beings, when we ponder stress we must consider how we are feeling in our body, our mind and our hearts. By taking personal inventory of ourselves we scan all the different areas of our beings and bring awareness to what is, as is. The more aware we can become of what is going on in our holistic being, the more equipped we are to bring action to remedy the stress.
The first step is mindful awareness and last week it was time for me to authentically walk the talk.
I am grateful to do many jobs that I love at a business that is doing well. In my business, and beyond it, I wear many hats. I am a teacher, a life coach, a business owner, a wife, a mother, a daughter, a friend and a member of society, to condense the list to just a few. We all wear many hats and therefore stress can come from many different directions.
When I came into work mid-last-week, I was sharing with my friend and college how sad I was feeling. As the words were leaving my mouth, the tears flowed with even pace.
“I feel like it’s a bunch of things,” I shared. After encouragement to go home, I had to realize that I struggle with giving myself permission to do so. But I left work and headed to the beach.
The beach has always been my go-to place to get grounded and balanced. Being surrounded by the four elements of earth, air, fire and water brings me an indescribable alignment. The beach was perfectly quiet on this weekday afternoon. I sat and centered myself and started to take personal inventory of my body, mind and heart and inquiring within myself. Why was I feeling heavy in the heart and stressed out?
As I scanned my body, I found that my low back was tight, my shoulders rigid and that my jaw hurt a little from clenching my teeth. I did some yoga to release and calm my body. Next I tapped into my mind. As I break down the reasons for my mental stress and heavy heart I realize I hadn’t taken a vacation in a very long time. I talked about it, but business was busy and I was working 9-12 hour days. It felt good so I didn’t validate it as stress.
As I started to separate the reasons why my heart was weighted, I discovered that I had not acknowledged several areas that were creating mental and emotional stress for me. Disheartening communication (or lack of) with an old and dear friend, a visit to the hospital that had me clearing old grief for the loss of my father as Father’s Day approached, the violent attack in Orlando and the general divisiveness in our neighboring country, and the heart-breaking suicides that are so close to home.
Being an empath, I am strongly affected by other people's energies, and intuitively feel and perceive others. As I watched Anderson Cooper on CNN read the names of the people that were taken by a senseless act, I could not shake the grief of the parents and friends and their heartache. Nor could I release the pain and fear that teachers, social workers, friends and families must being feeling with the suicides in the Woodstock area.
I identified all the areas of stress I was taking on (and not acknowledging) then sifted through each one again with acceptance. Meditating, I allowed slow and deep breaths to come in and out like a slow and steady wave while allowing myself to give assertion, recognition and validation to each. During my meditation, I prayed to my higher power and the God of my understanding. “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference."
After acknowledging and validating each of the areas of my life creating stress, I made a plan of action for each area of concern and a general overall action for myself. Understanding the areas that were out of control, I released them. I turned off the news. I expressed my feelings from my heart to my friend. I cried and healed some grief that snuck its way to the surface. And I prayed for the families affected by tragedy. In my journal, I penned all things that I am grateful for. I made a clear plan for myself which included taking the rest of the week off and taking an unplanned vacation. I had to release my “control” tendencies at my business and allow others to step up, which they did with ease and grace. I filled the week with yoga, meditation, several different local beaches, country drives, gardening, spending quality time with good friends and loving family and slowed the heck down to do all things that nurtured my body, mind and heart.
De-stress short list
1. Check in with yourself daily and throughout the day. Don’t let it go too long. Regularly ask yourself, “What does this moment ask of me?”
2. Scan your physical body. Where are you holding stress physically? Release it by doing yoga, gentle stretches, Epsom salt bath, massage, etc.
3. Scan your mental body. What thoughts are you replaying that are taking up space in your mind? Write a list on a piece of paper. Dealing with stress as separate entities can be more manageable then tackling them all at once.
4. Scan your emotional body. How do each make you feel? What can you do about it, if anything? What is in your control and what is not?
5. Get grounded. When we are stressed we can feel insecure, ungrounded and more worrisome. Spend time in nature sitting or walking, play with animals, listen to birds, and put your feet in beach sand or spend time in gardens. Do things that allow you to connect to Earth and feel your foundation.
6. Get balanced. Remember stress can be good stress as well as challenging, but we still need to balance life. (“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” – the Shining.) Water has a calming and balancing affect. Sit near water, swim, put your feet in pond or even listen to a water CD.
7. Commit to taking care of yourself. Plan time off, do things that nurture your body, mind and spirit and schedule those activities into your life. Fill your own cup first and let the overflow extend to others, it’s essential.
Extended unattended stress can show illness and disease, and in many ways it is self-induced. The outside world can invite us to become stressed, frustrated, worrisome and so on, but ultimately we must accept that invitation. So break up with stress, let it go! Your whole being will be happier and healthier by doing so.
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