Today is National Stress Awareness Day in the UK and this got me thinking about the various causes and symptoms of stress and ways in which we can alleviate them.
A lot of stress is caused by the incessant nature of our over-stimulated, pressured lifestyles.
This quote contains a very timely message for our society:
“Beware the barrenness of a busy life” (Socrates)
Most of us in the West live non-stop, busy lives. We rush our breakfast in a hurry to go out in the morning to get to work; we rush through our work to meet tight deadlines; we rush our food; we rush home; we rush our interactions with others because we need to be somewhere else or meeting someone else. Then we get home and zone out in front of the TV or computer – our bodies might be still but our brains are still being stimulated.
Or we might be rushing about looking after our children, or rushing them to school and rushing home again to get home to do the housework we tell ourselves has to be done while rushing to fit in the all the life admin we seem to have to wade through.
Then in our precious leisure time we go shopping, out to busy bars or pack in so much physical activity that we rarely get time truly to relax.
We neglect ourselves, our bodies and our relationships with other people.
We’re living in such a constant state of over-stimulation, distraction and stress, if we’re not careful the only thing which will stop us rushing about is a bout of ill-health or a life-threatening condition.
What are we scared of?
All this rushing about and for what? What are we running away from?
A deep inner dissatisfaction – with ourselves, our lives, our society?
We measure our ‘success’ in terms of material goods amassed, numbers of friends and acquaintances, progression in our chosen career, the size of our house, the brands we choose to buy, the places we’ve travelled, the success of our relationships and so on.
We fill our lives full of activity to stop ourselves from facing uncomfortable truths.
… That we may not truly be happy or fulfilled, that we are not fulfilling our true potential and making the most of our natural gifts.
That we may be following a route through life that has been deemed the right one by our family, peers or society but one that is not bringing us true happiness and fulfilment.
That we are not allowing ourselves to be our authentic selves. We are not connecting with our heart and with love and compassion. We are living in fear.
Finding a way to heal
This is why I find yoga so deeply healing.
It allows us to stop being busy and connect with our body.
We give ourselves permission to lie still and just breathe.
Through our yoga practice we can break some of the ties that bind our thoughts and emotions; enabling us to see and name what is causing us stress.
We can then allow ourselves to identify what behaviours, thought patterns or relationships need to change and give ourselves permission to make those changes.
It doesn’t have to be this way
Stress is debilitating. Stress limits your thoughts. Stress affects your relationship with yourself and those around you. Stress can damage your experience of life.
Stress weighs us down with anxieties of our own making.
I know: I’ve been there.
And I know it’s possible to change the way we think and feel – there is a way out.
For me, yoga has been instrumental in enabling me gradually to change negative thought patterns and behaviours and to stand back and observe my thoughts rather than getting caught up and trapped by them.
If you feel stressed or anxious, move your body – go for a walk, do some yoga. Our emotions can get trapped in our bodies, so in moving your body you can shift and release this trapped energy.
Positive affirmations can help to refocus your thoughts.
Today I discovered this quote from Thich Nhat Hanh:
“I vow to let go of all worries and anxieties in order to be light and free”
Know that it is truly within your power to alter your own state of mind.
You can find a way out from stress. Peace is within you.
Let go a little and see what you discover.
More about National Stress Awareness Day
Stella Tomlinson teaches Dru yoga in Southampton, UK. Dru yoga is a flowing and therapeutic style of yoga, characterised by graceful movements, directed breathing, relaxation techniques and working with affirmations and visualisations. Connect with Stella via Facebook and Twitter.