This is a guest post by Dr. Shawn Haywood
“I am so stressed out (sigh of exhaustion…or perhaps even a bit of defeat).”
Has this thought or similar crossed your mind recently? YES you say?
Well, you’re not alone. People today are way too frequently, profoundly and overwhelmingly stressed, exhausted and kinda cranky...if we’re being honest with ourselves. People feel like sinking ships, like they just can’t seem to keep up, to get it all done or to even dream of having time to rest, relax and take the time for self care practices.
We’ve traded play, creativity, adventure, connection and meaning for stress, frustration, chronic busyness and irritation! Then we wonder why it seems so difficult to stay afloat. Man cannot live on stress alone! Or, not for long anyway. And why the heck would we want to?!
I believe that people genuinelywant to feel lighter. To have moretime to play, create, connect and adventure. To be free of weighted obligations and seemingly endless to-dos. Let’s face it: much of today’s society now lives on stress, fear and anxietyas if these things comprised the finest six-course meal at an elegant four-star restaurant…thus, the daily return. I watch people, even entire business organizations, melting down, bit by bit.
What’s driving the stress and stress-related habits, like chronic busyness, worry, irritation, blame, resentment and anxiety?
Often, it’s a rotten inner voice that has somehow taken over the driver’s seat of our life. It whispers, and sometimes shouts, “You’re not enough; you’re lazy; do more; be more; make more money; get more chicks; you’ll never get married; your husband is probably going to leave you for a younger, hotter woman soon, you’re too fat; you’ll never have a great body again; you’re an idiot; what’s wrong with you; try again, that wasn’t perfect; you’re a loser; you didn’t get enough done today; you’ll never be happy or successful; face it you’re worthless; why are you always so mean and critical; they probably don’t like you anyway; you’ll always be this tired; what, you’re sick again…”
On and on the rotten inner critic taunts. It leads us on with shame and guilt and the hope of easier times. It leads us to believe that trying harder, and that doing more, bigger and better, is somehow the gateway to freedom, to liberation.
But if that were true, it would have already happened. You are trying very hard, and you are doing more, bigger and better. Yet, are you feeling calm? Content? Fulfilled? Are you relaxing, resting or reading on a daily basis? Are you taking time for self-care each day? Are you playing, creating and adventuring on a very regular basis as a result of TRYING HARD?
Despite your inner longings for easier times, slower-paced living, deeper meaning and more fulfilling connections, you seem to wage on, perhaps just existing in some ways within the limits of your own internal battles.
If trying hard is not the solution, then what is? I suggest: Making Friends With Stress! Stress is just a socially accepted word for fear anyway! If you have the right tools and systems in place, you can literally make friends with the chaos in life.
Here are a few ideas to get you moving.
1. Choose yourself first.
This notion can feel foreign or even selfish to some people. But, I absolutely guarantee that when you are feeling emotionally well, eating mostly healthy foods, doing some kind of regular movement, taking time to go on adventures or play around like a goof ball, sleeping eight hours per day and expressing your version of creativity EVERY week, you will be so much better for your family, friends, work, work mates, pets and society as a whole.
Is this true? Duh! Of course it is. We neglect all of these basic self-care needs for days, weeks or months and then wonder why a marriage is falling apart, or why we drink, eat or spend more in order to escape or numb out, or why health is going to shit or why we feel emotionally bombed and on edge…
People tell me all of the time, “Shawn, I don’t have time for all of that self-care stuff.” And I respond, “Then you are not serious about being happy and fulfilled.”
Self honor is the core if happiness. On a very deep level, if one does not take loving care of oneself, there is a serious core belief (conscious or unconscious) that says, “I am not worth caring for, nor deserving of happiness or deep peace and fulfillment.”
Happiness is the result of accumulated practices and habits that serve in loving ways.
2. Say NO.
This seems like an oxymoron, yet I work with clients every single day on this boundary (and many others). We have become a society of people too afraid to say no. Afraid to disappoint, to lose approval, to be viewed in a negative light or to avoid conflict at all costs.
3. Make value-rooted decisions.
Life becomes so much easier when you have crystal clear values that function as your one and only decision-making guide. For example, my top value is self-care. If I am not exercising, eating healthy, meditating, starting each day with a spiritual book and journaling, then I can become emotionally compromised-and it sneaks up on me in a jiffy! These habits keep me feeling sound as a pound, and they are COMPLETELY heart-centered and joyful excellence habits.
With this value in mind, I can easily say no to anything that could interfere with the time I have allotted for these practices. Why do I say no? Because the risk is too high. And when I do let other things/people intrude on this precious time...it has a direct link and negative impact on my second highest value…my relationship with my husband, which is of the utmost importance. Nothing comes before Chris, (pending a family or client emergency or death). Next is my clients. I love them and want to meet their needs as best I can; after all, serving them is a huge part of why I believe I was placed on this planet. Thus, it is easy to say no to things/people/circumstances that could get in the way of serving them.
I am certainly not perfect, and things do fall through the cracks. At times, and in spite of fantastic business systems, I forget things, like responding to an important email or text, which totally bums me out. I have a terrible habit of leaving emails in my draft folder, thinking that I have sent them, even being sure that I sent them! But, “stuff” happens to all of us. Things happen that could be considered stressful in my life, but usually I can remain detached and maintain self compassion and appreciate my humanness.
Overall, honoring myself, saying no and using the value-driven decision-making platform keeps my life flowing with very little stress, worry, upset or heartache. I encourage you to try these on for size. Practice just one at a time if that serves you. Make friends with stress. Add more systems to your life as safety nets. And, of course, have humor and self compassion, and learn to appreciate that “life” happens, and humanness is beautiful!