Kelly Spencer - Happy Healthy YOU
(A wellness column by Kelly Spencer: writer, life coach, yoga & meditation teacher, holistic healer and a mindful life enthusiast!)
About fifteen years ago, I was stressed, depressed, anxious and generally unhealthy while going through an extremely challenging period in my life. I didn’t really know how I felt in any given moment and processed the intensely difficult time I was experiencing very poorly.
I was sinking.
After witnessing myself live this way for almost a year, my mother bought me yoga classes for Christmas. I remember going to the first class so nervously and quite honestly did not know what to expect. It turns out yoga is not just a class.
After the two-month membership gifted to me, I bought another session. I soon realized that yoga was a powerful mindfulness practice that assisted me to process how I felt in my body, mind and heart while teaching me to pay attention to my breath, my thoughts, any sensations and judgments.
I know it sounds very dramatic, but I quite seriously feel like yoga saved me (and still does). I soon began to release fears and judgements while paying more attention to what’s needed in this moment, to better take care of myself. Yoga and meditation, along with incredibly supportive friends and family, gave me the tools to cope.
Soon I was swimming.
We all process stress differently. For some people the smallest deviation from the plan, creates tension. Others can take on stress and more stress until the accumulation leaves them suddenly overwhelmed and unable to cope.
When our plate is piled too high and we get overwhelmed and overstress, dealing with every day life or perhaps something situational such as loss or trauma or separation from job, person or situation, is the way we choose to cope enhancing our life or avoiding reality? Do you look for the quick bandage that ultimately leads to more despair or pain, or do you mindfully create self-care opportunities to stay afloat through honest self-inquiry?
I decided to reach out and inquire. I asked several men and woman: “When you feel like water level is rising and you are about to go down…what do you do, to make yourself survive the moment and rise up? When you feel like you are sinking, how do you cope?”
The answers were varied but insightful and useful. So, I give big gratitude to those that replied, and I hope this compilation of answers can assist you in some way, when you feel the water levels rising.
1. Get it out. Allow yourself to feel your feelings. A good cry might help. Share your situation with another human being because when we are upset, we can have a difficult time being objective and/or being rational. Another person can offer us outside observation. Also journaling or writing things down can allow us to see things in a different light or perspective.
2. Meditation or Prayer. The Serenity prayer assists us to acknowledge what is in or out our control. If it turns out the thing that's stressing you is beyond your control, then the sooner you come to terms with that, the better. One you accept what is and renunciate (let go), you can try your best to face head on with an action plan that supports you. Sometimes meditating can assist us to not act impulsively and allowing ourselves to get realigned to our centre. When we can sit in silence and take a step back from the situation, the answers often appear from within.
3. Trust: Trust in either a higher power, God or life, that things will get better. Think back to another difficult situation that you successfully moved through. Tomorrow is a new day, everything is temporary. Nothing lasts forever.
4. Get creative. Being actively creative in a project or task that makes your heart feel good. It creates positive thoughts followed by positive action and accomplishment. Or if you are not creatively inclined, then do something creatively/artistically/spiritually inspiring, like going to an art gallery, watching a documentary, listening to music or reading a book.
5. Laugh: Humour, making fun of yourself or making light of the situation is helpful. Sometimes I just don’t know what else to do. Laugh at yourself because let’s be serious, a good chunk of our troubles are self- induced. Watch a funny movie or go to a comedy club or spend time with people that make you laugh.
6. Music: Sad, happy, motivational, angry, love; whatever music you need to listen to, to drown the voices and thoughts in your head temporarily. Turn it up and sing as loud as you can too. There is something about finding that song that just speaks to you and your situation and just letting all the emotions out singing or crying along.
7. Move your body: Feeling physically strong through exercise or yoga can assist too. Moving the body can assist to release tension. Not only does it help us to feel stronger it releases hormones that assist us to feel better emotionally.
8. Make List: I personally love this one. When I have an overwhelming full plate in life or I am trying to process many things at once, I like to categorize them. Maybe you just write what the first or next step is? By breaking them down and creating lists of how you feel and/or what you need, it gets more manageable rather than trying to do all at once.
9. Breathe: Slow, steady mindful breaths in and out allows the body and mind to connect and align. After a few minutes of controlled breathing we begin to lower blood pressure, regulate heart rate, increase oxygen levels and smooth the nervous system. This can be done during prayer, meditation, yoga or exercise. Breathe... then, breathe again and again.
10. Gratitude. Be grateful for allowing yourself to opportunity to feel all that you are experiencing. Feel appreciation for all that is working in your life and those that you are inspired by and those you inspire.
11. Self-Talk: Pay attention to the thoughts you say about yourself to others but perhaps more importantly to yourself. Create a positive mantra or intention for yourself to guide you. Remind yourself that you have value and you are enough. Tell yourself that you love yourself and accept all that you are. Let your thoughts be good, compassionate and loving to yourself. My favorite is... “you got this!”
12. Sleep: Getting a good night’s rest, helps us to cope and function more effectively and more calmly. Plus, before bed, we can release the day we experienced knowing that tomorrow we can start with a clean slate and/or perspective.
13. Seek information: If you are still needing more after reflections of the above, seek answers. Read, search online, inquire. You might discover you are not alone and there are others dealing with the same situation. As well you may gain new coping strategies.
14. Nature or Outdoors: Connecting with nature and the elements helps us to feel more grounded and rooted in the present moment. Step into nature with your new perspectives and knowledge from above steps.
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