We all live in an age of stress and anxiety. There are many things that contribute to this problem, such as rampant perfectionism, how we use technology, and unrealistic expectations. The good news is there are also a number of things that can be used to turn down the volume of our stress and anxiety.
Let’s start with our thoughts. Often, a harsh inner critic and a constant striving for perfection and achievement will contribute to feeling stressed and anxious. The message is that it won’t be good enough, but we still need to keep trying. Sometimes the stress from being in this no-win situation builds up to the point when we become depressed and our health starts to suffer. So, stress isn’t insignificant. When we are striving all the time, we also tend to neglect our relationships so they suffer and become sources of more stress and negative feelings. What can we do when we find ourselves in this situation?
One immediate practice you can start today is mindfulness. You don’t need to be mindful all day long, but choose a time in your day to practice mindfulness. Attach it to another activity. For example, you could decide to be mindful as you get ready for bed, or as you drink your coffee. Practicing mindfulness for 5 minutes will really help bring down your stress level. Here’s how to practice mindfulness: In the above examples, you would just train your mind to be completely present in the moment. So, as you are getting ready for bed, instead of planning for the next day, or going over what went wrong that day, you would allow your mind to notice what is happening right then in the present moment. You would notice how the warm (or cool) water feels as you wash your face. You would notice how the lotion you put on feels on your skin. If your thoughts wander, (I’m almost out of lotion, or my skin is so dry), just gently bring your mind back to the present moment and notice what is going on right then. When you drink your coffee, instead of drinking it in gulps as you run around trying to get something done, sit down for five minutes and just be present to drinking your coffee. Notice the smell, the color, the warmth of it as it goes down your throat. Notice the feel of the cup or mug you are using. At the end of the five minutes, go on with your day. You will notice though, that your mind will start being mindful on its own at other times.
Another thing to do if you are suffering from stress and anxiety is to consider that it is most likely coming from perfectionism. Perfectionism takes many forms. If you feel unsatisfied, and things aren’t “good enough”, that may be perfectionism. If this is the case, decide to let something be imperfect and allow yourself to be ok with that and to do something else. For example, if you can’t stand for your hair to be frizzy, try going to the grocery store without taking the time to fix it, and allow yourself to feel uncomfortable about it. This may seem counterintuitive to bringing down your stress level, because when you do this, you will feel more stress. However, you are slowly breaking the bonds of perfectionism by embracing and consciously choosing imperfection. This lets your inner critic know there’s a new sheriff in town, and you will now be learning to love yourself no matter what. You are teaching yourself that you are good enough as you are. This new thought will do so much to lower your stress and anxiety and also strengthen your close relationships. And just so you know, you ARE good enough as you are. We are all works in progress—yes, even that person. Expose yourself to consciously chosen imperfection and you will become less and less sensitive to stress and anxiety and more and more comfortable in your own skin.
You can also make an appointment with me, as I help many people conquer debilitating anxiety and experience the freedom they were meant to have.