Life doesn't have to be a process of ongoing damage control. There are many things we can do to keep stress from eroding our health and happiness.
The fastest way to fix the problems in your life is to remove your stressors. It's also the hardest. You may need to ask yourself how bad things have to get before you'll put your health first. But don't worry; there are alternatives to firing your boss, leaving your home, redesigning your spouse, or trading in your body.
You've been hearing about these alternatives for years; now it's time to take them seriously:
- Get enough sleep.
- Eat healthful foods.
- Exercise regularly.
Beginner's Mind: Looking at Old Material with New Eyes
Consider approaching this information with what Buddhists call a "beginner's mind." A beginner's mind looks at old material with new eyes. It consciously sets aside the jaded, sophisticated, often cynical mindset that dampens enthusiasm and devalues the tried and true. A beginner's mind is open at the top. It still believes in miracles. It says, "Okay, maybe there's more to this. Maybe there's something I've missed."
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It may be hard to create a beginner's mind in relation to the purely physical issues of getting more sleep, eating healthful food, and exercising regularly. They're frequently mentioned in just about every magazine printed. We know they're important. So why don't we actually do them?
- We don't like old news. Our mothers told us to do these things when we were children. Most of us would prefer something more exotic or entertaining.
- We're impatient. We don't want to work with nature; we're used to jumping over it. Healthful sleeping, eating, and exercise practices work in harmony with nature. Their benefits take time to manifest.
- We think that "difficult" means "wrong". If a project requires too much effort, or if we meet with obstacles along the way, we think the project must not be right for us. We've forgotten that people almost always encounter resistance when they move in new directions. Almost everything easy was hard at one time.
- We're always waiting for the perfect time. The perfect time doesn't arrive on a white stallion; it is generated as we face up to our challenges. Waiting only begets more waiting. Action begets action.
- We're tired of self-improvement. We're overwhelmed by the extent of our imperfections and often give up before we start. Some of us have successfully changed a few habits; we want that to be enough.
Changing Your Lifestyle: It May Be Hard, But "You Can Do Hard"
Changing your lifestyle takes effort, but it isn't impossible. Lots of people have done it -- people with bigger problems and fewer resources than you.
There's an old saying: How you do one thing is how you do everything. I would add to that: If you change how you do one thing, you change how you do everything. Each change makes the next one easier. Noble projects have a positive ripple effect in your life and in the lives of those around you.
Sometimes my daughter looks up from doing her homework and complains, "Momma, it's so hard." I tell her, "You can do hard." My response comes from author Bo Lozoff, director and cofounder of the Human Kindness Foundation and its award-winning Prison Ashram Project. "Hard" isn't the enemy. It feels good to complete something hard. "Hard" doesn't have to stop her -- or you.
Reprinted with permission of the publisher,
New World Library. www.newworldlibrary.com©2004. All rights reserved.
This article was excerpted from:
Stress Reduction for Busy People: Finding Peace in an Anxious World
by Dawn Groves.
Dawn offers a realistic view of a busy world counterbalanced by goal-setting approaches to take control and to thrive. Describing our choices and priorities, she shows that by starting with a few simple changes, anyone can find a few minutes each day to take care of their bodies with exercise, sleep, and good food; their souls with meditation and prayer; and their minds with pursuits that challenge and please. Techniques such as "reframing" and "facts not stories" will help readers understand how to use thoughts to reinterpret events and issues for healthier emotions.
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About the Author
Dawn Groves is a minister, author, and educator who addresses the challenges of people attempting to combine professional achievement, spiritual growth, and a balanced lifestyle. She teaches workshops and classes for the government, private industry, community colleges, and spiritual centers throughout the United States and Canada. She is the author of Meditation for Busy People, Massage for Busy People, and Yoga for Busy People. For information about Dawn's lectures, workshops, classes, and tapes, please visit her website: www.dawngroves.com