"What do I do when I'm stressed out?"
"I'm trying to meditate at home, but it's not helping!"
"What can I do when I'm just out of sorts?"
People ask me questions like these nearly every day, here are some of the things I recommend (on top of your regular meditation practice, and if you don't have one, check out my resources page).
Try one or two and see how it goes! Don't expect any of these to get rid of your feelings (because that's not the goal!) or stop a full-blown freak out in its tracks, but you may find that they shift your stress level down a notch or two.
Is there something that works for you? Please share it in the comments!
Body Scan. Stop and notice, how you feel? Scan your body, noticing how you actually feel right now. Do this as tenderly and lovingly as possible. Use my body scan audio practice found here, second audio link from the top.
Hold your feelings. Imagine turning toward your emotion, name it, and hold it like a baby. Try putting a hand on your heart and another on your belly, comfort the feeling, talk to it lovingly.
ETS and/or Rescue Remedy: flower essence solution to help you come to center even during physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual stress and trauma. ETS is available at Perelandra-ltd.com, Rescue Remedy can be purchased online and also locally at Martindale’s, and Whole Foods.
Ujjayi breathing: This simple breathing practice calms to release tension and stress and increase awareness. Learn how to use the breath here.
Daybook: Get a book with daily readings or day-by-day calendar so you have a daily reminder. Some good ones include: Mark Nepo’s The Book of Awakening, Noah Rasheta’s The Five-Minute Mindfulness Journal, Ming-Dao Deng’s 365 Tao, and the Zen Page-A-Day calendar.
Svaroopa Magic Four: Embodiment is an essential part of inner work! Practice Svaroopa’s simple and deep magic four yoga postures to ground yourself in your body, release tension, and practice being present.
Go outside: Take a walk, rest your bare feet on the ground, work in the garden, sit and listen to the birds, look at a tree in your yard, watch some bugs doing their thing. Even in cold or rainy weather, it can be wonderful to take time outside, but when that feels hard you can even look out the window.
Take a grounding bath: Add a handful of sea salt or epsom salts to your bath and soak in them.
Practice Loving Kindness: Do a formal or informal loving kindness for yourself, someone you’re worried about, all living beings (more information in this article by Sharon Salzburg).
Practice gratitude: Notice 5 things you feel grateful for and write them down each day for a week. Or try writing 5 positive things you notice about yourself, your child, a colleague.
Learning that I am responsible for my own emotions is one of many gifts I've received from my sons.
On the day something new broke through, I was having a conflict with my son. Until then, although I understood that he had a right to his emotions and that I was responsible for my own feelings, my behavior was actually controlled by hidden beliefs. Beliefs like, 'He should be reasonable,' and 'I should be in control' lived inside of me unconsciously.
Deeper was an even more unconscious layer that denied my own feelings, an inner unquestioned understanding that 'It's not okay to be uncomfortable,' or frustrated or ashamed or confused. Feelings like that are bad, are scary. So someone who stirs up those feelings is a problem.
Can you see how these layers work together? My child gets angry with me because I set a perfectly rational limit. His anger triggers a deep sense of discomfort in me, but I can't deal with that feeling for reasons I don't understand. So the emotional energy gets bumped up to the next layer and I think (and maybe even say to my son), 'You shouldn't act/think/feel that way.'
I was correcting him for speaking to me rudely, and he was getting angrier. I saw the helplessness on his face, the fury combined with pain caused by my pressure, my expectation that he stuff down emotions he couldn't control. I think my heart opened to it all just a bit at that moment, just enough to make me close my mouth and sit down.
I realized that he was a kid trying to deal with feelings.
And I was expecting him to deal with them alone.
So I took hold of my own feelings, knowing I'd need to take care of them later, and I asked, "Will you tell me about it?"
He was, of course, shocked. He yelled at me, unleashing those emotions. I barely held on enough to listen because I was swamped by my own intense feelings. I was shaking, feeling so confused by love for his tender self that I had seen under the anger and the discomfort of holding my own anger, judgment, and sadness. But I did listen. The issue reverberated for days as we began to learn how to deal with our feelings together. I practiced mindfulness like my life depended on it. I used every emotional tool in my own toolkit to take care of my feelings. I made a core shift from believing he should be reasonable to actively loving and accepting him when he was unreasonable.
I got some important things that day.
Simply, that loving is more important than controlling.
That listening is powerful.
That connection heals.
And to trust my child's true nature.
Every day I am grateful for that breakthrough. Every day I keep learning to embody it.
My life and work are guided by the these core understandings: that all beings (including me!) are capable of transformation and joy, that healthy parenting matters profoundly, and that simple practices can support each of us.