As I sit here contemplating the best ways to curb stress, I can’t help but think of our world: one that produces more questions and uncertainty than it does answers and solutions. If I’m being honest, even writing that stresses me out. So what are the solutions? I could easily list the stereotypical hacks for a swift hit of calm: practice yoga (but I’m too stressed to unroll my mat!), or even more accessible, stop what you’re doing and take a few deep breaths (helpful, but heart is still racing). There’s always the adaptogen, CBD, melatonin route (which costs money), or the reminder to keep electronics out of your bedroom at night and maybe ease up on obsessively following the news cycle.
A regular rotation of the above is sure to make a difference, but it’s time to go deeper than solutions we can Google. I’ve devoted my evenings to unplugging my phone and opening my book, and in times of overwhelm, I like to go back to the classic thinkers, such as Henry David Thoreau. He wrote, “It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.” While I believe he quite literally wanted people to not only “look” at nature, but to truly “see” her, I believe decoding this statement is the key to personal peace. The Transcendental movement focused on the concept of going beyond your base senses; beyond what the physical world tells us.
How does this apply to stress relief? It’s a reminder that what lies beneath the surface is far more precious than the blatant distractions flashing before us. This superficial reaction causes us to see roadblocks and dead ends, it’s the killer of hope.
For example, I’ve spent this year submitting a work project with a specific timeline. My specific timeline. I put in the hard work and was ready to reap the benefits, but the world had different plans for me. I was rejected, which immediately ushered me into the land of shriveled fruit: my project would never see the light of day, I was worthless, what’s the point of even trying. I was looking, or rather staring pointedly, at my failures. I quickly (after licking my wounds), took a step back so I could actually see the situation: a gift. An opportunity to regroup and improve, continuing my climb to the next peak instead of indulging in the wildly tempting offer to throw in the towel.
If we shift what we’re looking at, and truly allow ourselves to ‘see’, then solutions and potential await. It isn’t the easy option or the most accessible grab, but it’s a practice — just like backbends or arm balances — that improve with time and application.
The next time you unroll your mat, take a moment to stand and set intention. Bring your hands to your third eye and honor your innate ability to see past the fluctuations to what truly lies beyond: the endless ability to pivot. Set your intention to focus on what is working. This is the ultimate way to take in the world around us without letting it take us down.
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