As we find ourselves in the middle of the year, it is an appropriate juncture to reflect on how we feel, what is going on around us and how to move forward. Given the strangeness of the past 18 months, if you’re anything like me, you might be questioning some of the chaos both within and outside of yourself.
Over this period during which the COVID-19 pandemic has affected our lives so significantly in material terms such as how we interact, work and move, we have also experienced severe mental strain. We have had to reconstruct ourselves so that we can maintain some form of achievement and satisfaction, amidst sometimes drastic changes in our income, our living situations and our relationships.
All of this change and instability pushes us to work harder to maintain this standard of normality and as a result we are subject to very high levels of stress, which can feel overwhelming, suffocating and can at times dominate our state of being. We end up worrying all the time, working all the time to combat these fears and struggling to relax and even to sleep as we are in such a heightened state. We seek relief in various ways, some healthy and some, unfortunately compounding our stress, such as further overstimulation through social media, alcohol or substance abuse, excessive eating, TV or even sleep.
What I experienced recently and what I hope you can try is letting go of all of that bundled up stress and overstimulation by letting the bubble burst. This is not logical, because logically, if you just deal with everything you need to deal with, get everything on your to-do list done, tick all of the boxes, you should feel satisfied, relaxed and feel a sense of complete accomplishment. I would argue that what tends to happen, is that we accumulate tasks and goals to the point where we lose sight of the relativity of our actions. We focus on building and growing without realising that without a vision, tools to feel grounded throughout the journey and a set of rules, we won’t ever stop, we won’t ever feel satisfied and we will treat those around us, everything we have and even ourselves, as a means to an end – when in fact, there is no end.
If, instead, you acknowledge that the experience of life, of sensations, of the body, and even of our thoughts is more real and satisfying than any amount of accumulation or achievement, what might arise is a sense of possibility. The possibility that you can feel alive, in control, grounded and truly yourself, despite what might be happening around you. There truly are forces which change our environment and which we cannot control, but if you allow the bubble of pressure and stress to burst, and instead allow an expansive, light energy to emanate from within you, you might be able to see things more clearly and feel that sense of satisfaction that you’ve been unable to feel due to the overwhelming and endless sense of stress.
This might be sudden or it might be gradual, but some of the practical and more subtle methods you could try are:
- Pull away from over stimulation – social media I find is such a powerful source of stimulation and when you just stop mindlessly scrolling through, you immediately gain mental peace and clarity.
- Get a pen and write down the 5-10 things that are really stressing you out. This will already help. Once you have identified those issues, see if you cannot just let go of relentlessly worrying about those things, and realise how much mental and emotional energy you are dedicating to them. You could visualise the build up of energy in the form of a dark cloud. You might also be able to feel this energy as a heavy, hot and uncomfortable bundle. Taking a deep breath and then sighing it out, let that cloud disperse and mentally/physically watch/feel as a light energy effortlessly occupies that space where the dark cloud of stress was, and which is far more expansive and liberating than the heaviness of stress. This will bring relief mentally and will lead to less tension in your body.
- As part of the above exercise, you could bring some humour into the vision, and imagine something that you find hilarious or outrageous happening which helps the stress evaporate.
- Hopefully, once you have decreased your physical and emotional reactivity to those items, you might be able to relook at them more practically, and prioritise them. You might even be able to remove a few completely, and decide that right now you don’t necessarily need to focus on them. Then, with a sense of optimism and joy, perhaps you could look at that handful of to-do items and start addressing them with more patience and compassion.
Stress tends to make everything seem so difficult. It gives weight and energy to things which we might not even truly care about. I think social media is a very powerful tool in this sense, as it is designed to hold your attention, even when it is not adding value or has little relevance to your goals and your sense of satisfaction with life. As with all other forms of overstimulation, and arguably, addiction, we need to pull away, we need to have time every day to rest, to be still, to let go of the urge of engaging in those activities. When we have let go of some of the overstimulation activities, and perhaps some of the activities we have decided to look at later, we should have more time and space to relax. This new space might now be filled with clarity and possibility – the possibility that you can simultaneously feel grounded, focus on achieving your goals and feel grateful and compassionate for those around you, the beauty of your life and for yourself. Stress will always keep arising, but if we allow the expansiveness of possibility to counter this build up of energy, we can remain calm, optimistic and productive in a healthy way.