After writing last week’s blog about managing stress, my friend Susie asked me how I limit stress. The short answer is that it is a work in progress. When I am looking for ways to create healthier patterns in my life, I approach change through prayer then listen for answers in meditation.
I have worked on changing my relationship to stress for several years. While I feel much more able to manage and limit stress in my life now, it is an area where I continue to learn and grow. By no means do I think of myself as an expert in stress management. I can still get overwhelmed just like you. However, I am more than happy to share my process in hopes that it may help my friend and anyone else who stumbles across this blog.
There are four questions I ask and curiously explore when I feel the pressure of stress rising in my life. These questions spark my desire to observe, pray, meditate and listen for guidance:
1. What are my true sources of stress?
Some days it would be easy to say that I am stressed because the dogs are barking too much, traffic is terrible, I didn’t sleep well, the day didn’t go as planned… What I have learned over time is that these are the symptoms of my stress. The true source of stress is much deeper. My sources of stress tend to fall into four categories – work, family, relationships, and personal care. Spending time in reflection in these areas allows me to discover the source.
2. Which sources of stress are having the greatest impact on my health and well being?
Not all sources of stress impact the way I feel permanently. Sometimes I have a week where stress has temporarily crept into my life. Once it runs its course, I am back to feeling a healthy balance of energy.
Then there are times when stress creeps in and takes up a more permanent residence. I notice that I am more irritable, not sleeping well, making little time for self care, and feeling overwhelmed. This is when I know it is time to make a change.
For example, I recently realized that one of the biggest stresses in my work life was working away from home. On the one hand, I love teaching, and I love my clients. I also loved the studio where I taught. It gave me an opportunity to be around exceptional teachers. On the other hand, spending time in traffic and being away from home for long periods of time was wearing on my mental health. In meditation, I saw over and over again that I needed to make a change.
3. Is it possible to eliminate some of my sources of stress?
It became clear to me that I love my work. I wanted to continue teaching the clients that had grown so dear to me over the years. Leaving the studio would mean losing some of them.I had a tough choice to make. Which source of stress would be more harmful in the long run? Through meditation, I could see that it would add more stress to continue to commute and be away from home. I also saw that by closing that door, there would be an opportunity to teach in new ways and reach more people over time. In my heart, I believed that the relationships that were meant to last would last outside of the studio.
4. Where can I create boundaries to minimize stress?
Once I made peace with my choice to work from home, it was important to create boundaries. I didn’t want working from home to become another source of stress. The boundaries I created hold me accountable. When stress creeps in, I can refer to these boundaries to bring myself back into balance.
To keep a healthy balance in my life, I will
- work and teach from home.
- write and create content that nourishes my creativity.
- teach no more than 12 classes or private sessions each week so that I can keep my energy fresh and be fully present for the people I’m teaching.
- do at least one thing each day to restore my energy.
- keep space in my calendar so that I don’t feel over scheduled.
- partner and collaborate with people who inspire me and lift me up.
So, Susie, my answer is not specific. Limiting stress is an organic process. There is not a special formula for success. In fact, it requires trial and tribulation. Be willing to observe, explore and listen to your heart as you begin to play with limiting stress in your life. Approach your process with curiosity and be malleable. I’d love for you share your explorations with me as you begin to play.