Awareness: Goodbye Past and Future Worries
From the second you woke up you’ve been on the go. And you even managed to layer all kinds of worries on top of the basic busyness that is your life. You, my friend, might be stressed AF.
WE’VE ALL HAD MOMENTS like this—autopiloting our way from A to B while letting our mind wander in its own little world. Being on the go physically is one thing (rushing to get your kid to soccer practice, madly trying to avoid being late for lunch with a friend), but having a busy mind on top of that is another. In fact, sometimes your mind runs a hundred times faster than your body. You might not think much of it, but weighing down your already busy life with negative and unnecessary thoughts can increase your stress level. Except, it doesn’t have to be this way. Just imagine if, instead of allowing your stress to build to the point of your nearly having a meltdown, you could find a way to calm your mind.
So how do you stop your mind from racing? How do you actually stay here?
You start by shifting your focus. Instead of thinking through ten different things on your commute, why not try to observe the trees along the way or simply be grateful that you’re heading to a place that pays you for what you do? You could notice the sweet smell of your shampoo and how it reminds you of a scent you used to wear in high school. Sure, thoughts and worries might creep in between all of that, but they will come and go—they won’t take over and potentially stress you out. Each time you shift your focus to the world around you or things you’re grateful for, you move away from thoughts that might make you worried or anxious. You refuse to let them take over.
When you consciously swap the challenging thoughts for more positive ones, even neutral ones, you’ll notice a change. Your heart rate might drop. Your shoulders will relax away from your ears, your eyebrows will un-scrunch, and your body will feel calmer. This is where you can find moments of calm in the everyday.
Self-Love: What You Didn’t Learn in Middle School but Probably Should Have
When you don’t love yourself fully, your love for others can be compromised by your own emotions. You might love someone because you crave their love in return, or because you have certain expectations of their love. But when you love yourself unconditionally, there’s no need to expect anything back. It’s loving with a whole heart, super-freely. And quite honestly, it’s freakin’ liberating.
Loving yourself helps to keep you on firm ground. When you start to practise self-love, the chatty asshole in your head stops talking so much, and you begin to get to know yourself better. This can help you in a couple of ways: you can make more informed decisions about what you want and need, and you can avoid taking external feedback or comments too seriously. At the end of the day, you just start to enjoy yourself more. And that’s an awesome thing, because guess who you get to spend the rest of your life with? The amazing you.
It’s worth pointing out that the negative thoughts that pop into your head might not be your fault. Maybe you were told something over and over again as a child, by a parent or a mean teacher. You’re also bombarded with ads that have uber-gorgeous people who make you think everyone is smiling and super-happy all the time. And, of course, everyone’s living their best life on social media. Baby announcements, engagement photos, successful work updates—all of this can make you feel as if you’re not up to snuff.
The key is to look at the thought without judgment. It might be a really tough one, say, I don’t think I’m worthy of this relationship. Hold that thought, and then use your observing mind to figure out whether it’s a true statement or just something your nasty chatty mind has decided to let loose in your head
Once you do this, you’ll be in a better position to tackle that thought, because you’ve actually acknowledged it. So massive kudos to you if you go ahead and try it out, because that’s no easy feat. Seriously, this is one of the hardest steps!
Acceptance: You Can’t Control the Number of Instagram Likes You Get
SO MUCH OF THE SHIT that happens in life is out of your control. That hurricane we talked about earlier? A big chunk of that whirling mess is caused by what’s happening in the world around you, not by you yourself.
Let’s start small. Say you’re on your way to an important meeting, but the highway is closed because of a huge accident—not within your control. The stand-up comedian you’ve been pumped to see is in town while you’re away—not within your control. You plan a much-deserved vacation to Jamaica and it pours rain there every single day—not within your control. You can ladder up to big things, too: someone you love becomes ill—not within your control.
This is the game of life, and we’ve already noted that it’s effin’ hard sometimes. Understanding that a whole ton of stuff is out of your control is a stellar first step to living a more peaceful life.
So, what can you always control? Your reaction to what’s going on. One of our favourite quotes comes from composer Irving Berlin: “Life is 10 percent what you make it and 90 percent how you take it.” Another way to look at it is this: Life is like a really long stint at a blackjack table, with a dealer dishing out random cards. It’s up to you to figure out how to play them. When absolutely nothing adds up to twenty-one, it’s easy to blame the dealer or get into a funk. Remember, though, that the only person who can play out those cards is you. You get to choose your reaction to everything that is happening around you.
Perspective: You Are Made of Fucking Stardust
When we get caught up in the micro perspective—Ugh, I forgot my lunch at home. I have a huge project that’s due. My kid won’t eat broccoli without melted cheese. I haven’t gone to the gym enough this week. My sister-in-law is visiting, and I need to wash the sheets—we forget the macro. We forget what’s really important in life. We don’t mean to; it just happens. And it happens to everyone, all the time.
Of course, day-to-day stress is natural. We’re not saying that you can’t or shouldn’t stress, but ask yourself how often you’re stressing and what you’re stressing about. Stress is on the rise, and it can be super-unhealthy, both emotionally and physically.
So, what can you do about this? How can you avoid wearing yourself out with worry? That’s where perspective comes in. When your chatty mind issues you a one-way ticket to Stressland, lean into your observing mind to start thinking big-picture thoughts: I’m so grateful that I have running water. I’m glad I’m in good health. I love my friend Aria; she’s always there for me when I need her. Look at those trees that filter the air that I’m breathing.
If you’re going through something challenging in life, you might naturally and involuntarily be sitting in the macro; big life events tend to provide perspective. Or maybe you’re someone who always thinks big picture. In that case, kudos to you. For the rest of us, though, macro thinking takes effort. It often doesn’t come naturally because we’re caught up in work, a relationship, or concern over when the hell we’re going to do our taxes. But when we make an effort to take a big step back and be grateful for the macro, our perspective changes for the better.
Authenticity: There’s Only One Magical You
THERE IS NO ONE ELSE on this planet who is meant to do what you are here to do. There really is only one magical you. Your intellect, your personality, your favourite foods, temperament, passions, your very essence is yours alone—different from any of the other 7.6 billion humans on the planet. You might have parents, siblings, and friends who are similar to you, but no one is exactly the same. This is, of course, obvious, and yet it’s not something we consciously think about on a day-to-day basis. But there is great power in embracing everything that’s different about ourselves, right down to the way we sneeze or how we hold a pen.
The more you own who you are, the less you’ll be bothered by your shortcomings. And when you live your life as your most authentic self, owning even the not-so-perfect stuff—that’s freedom, amigos. You’ll feel more content, happy, and inwardly confident. You’ll also be depriving your chatty mind of some of the shitty content it loves to chew on, so it won’t be able to get the best of you quite as often. Being your authentic self is not always an easy path. In fact, sometimes the process of “owning it” is downright brutal. It might mean you have to pipe up about things that are important to you, potentially at the expense of offending other people or not fitting in. But once you’re focused on making that shift, the pieces of your life might just start to fall into place in a way that they haven’t before, and you could even end up inspiring others to do the same.
Forgiveness: It’s Time to Use the F-word
So many things can be brewing within us, and sometimes we don’t realize that forgiveness is the golden ticket out of the storm. It can start with forgiving that jackass who stole your parking spot during the holiday mall rush, or Aunt Kelly for making a snide comment about your fashion sense when you were fourteen, or mean Mrs. Smith who always put down your math skills, or a parent for mistreating you. Or how about those horrifying, unexpected cards you’re dealt: a loved one who was taken away or your own unexpected illness.
Forgiveness can be the uphill battle of all uphill battles, but also the most rewarding. When you forgive, you start to let shit go. The shackles of emotion that are holding you back no longer have the same strength. The anger, bitterness, sadness, and resentment, as well as the subtler emotions associated with the very thing that needs forgiving, can be thrown in the trash. Forgiveness doesn’t mean things won’t hurt anymore or that you’ll suddenly, magically, never remember Aunt Kelly’s comment or Mrs. Smith’s degrading remarks; it just means you’re able to let go a little. You’re able to sit in the eye of the hurricane instead of getting pulled in and triggered every time those memories seep back into your subconscious mind.
Forgiveness isn’t condoning what happened, or making excuses for the person who caused pain, or righting their wrong. This isn’t about them—it’s about you. It’s making a choice to release yourself from the stuff you’re holding on to. When you release, you feel so liberated, and so much lighter.