The other day, my beautiful cousin sent me a text message asking for my advice. First, I must say that I am always humbled when anyone asks me to share pearls of wisdom based on my experiences. After I thanked her for reaching out, and trusting me with this opportunity, I began to think about my own patterns of behavior related to stress. I think it is safe to say that most people can (if provided the time and space) identify personal triggers that take their attention away from a peaceful state of being. Of course, the more severe or intense the trigger, the more challenging it can be to re-center.
As I think about my own triggers, and the tools that I call on to transform stress, I realize that the process has taken me years to establish. Still, I understand I will spend my whole life refining these strategies, and that my process will continue to change. So, with this in mind, I thought it would be fun to share a list of 5 ideas that I hope will encourage and empower you to relieve stress, and restore your spirit!
- Wake up, give thanks. Every morning I take a moment to express my gratitude for waking up. Whether I rise at 6 am, or 10 am it does not matter, this is the first thing I always do. Typically, I give thanks for the little things like my ability to move, see, hear, and think. I also ask for guidance, and wisdom in decision-making (especially if I have a test that day!) Incorporating this morning ritual into my daily routine has allowed me to become a more humble, and gracious person.
- Consult with Nature. Getting outside can get you out of a funk. We are made of the same organic materials as our animal, botanical, and elemental kin. Going for a walk or hike always gets me right, and reminds me to remain as rooted as possible. Being outdoors is a helpful reminder that the walls are not caving in. There is space enough to breathe. Taking the time to remember this is the most challenging part. However, once we do, it is easy to recognize how supported and loved we are just by placing our feet on solid ground.
- Sound it out. I am a firm believer in the power of voice. Our voices are powerful, y’all! This have been proven to us through the work of our ancestors who utilized their voices to bring about social change. When I feel frustrated, it helps to speak out loud. Last Friday, I read an original poem at a #BlackPoetsSpeakOut event at a local bookstore. I also had the honor of bearing witness to other voices. You don’t have to be a poet, or be around other poets to speak your truth. Any place you feel safe is waiting to hold your words, your hum, your moan. You can laugh, or cry out loud, sing softly, or bellow low and deep. In whatever way you are moved, go with it. When you refuse to remain silent, the energy of your voice can be a catalyst for liberation.
- Remember, stress is relative. In the last two years of my graduate program, I have come to understand more about relativity than I ever thought possible. I’m certainly not an expert, and have so much more to learn, but that’s the fun part ;) In the field of Chinese medicine all phenomena operate on the basis of Yin and Yang. Some might say these are oppositional forces, and in some ways that it true. Yet the breadth of their scope encompasses more than opposition. Together they accomplish the micro and macro, while maintaining their own set of unique characteristics. The theory is applicable in all of life, including stress, because it is relative to what triggers it. My theory is that we can (over time) dissipate the stress response by knowing our triggers, and taking the necessary steps toward initiating a resolution that enforces our safety and security. Relativity allows us to transform and transport energy in this way, which is quite empowering.
- Breathe deep. Have you ever heard the expression “where the eyes go, the mind follows”? I would add that the breath also follows the mind. So, if the eyes and mind are unfocused, the breath will mirror what it sees. In a stressful situation, what happens in your body? Many of us are at the ready in flight or fight mode. If we are lucky, our bodies will naturally rebalance in rest or digest so that we can carry out our daily activities in relative peace. However, many of us remain in that vicious stress cycle when our endocrine system becomes hyper-vigilant. Thus, this is a common characteristic of a person who has a deficient adaptogenic physiological response. I am one of those people. It took me a few years, but I can tell you that this response is not set in stone. Through herbs, acupuncture, chiropractic, taiji, and exercise, I have been able to slowly transform the way my anatomy and physiology handles stress. For me, it started with showing up and being accountable to my health. From one breath to another, I refocused my attention towards mindfulness and self-care. Every day is a conscious practice in how to sustain a peaceful state of being.
Other stellar, and restorative ideas:
- Dig in. Literally, and figuratively. Get your hands in some soil! Till the energy of the moment and transform stress with resolute attention.
- Nourish your mind and body with nutient-dense foods, and soul-enriching activity that lifts your energy.
- Reach out to your community. Know that you are not alone, and that others are there to help you hold space to heal.
I hope these words resonate with you. Have a great Sunday! In Solidarity, Christian