Most of us want to feel more stable, balanced and secure in ourselves and yet spend a great deal of our time doing things that guarantee the opposite happens. We are regularly bombarded with stimuli, squeezed by schedules and pushed to our limits by the demands of our own expectations and others. The trouble is that being creatures of habit, we come to normalize this, and take everyday stress as a ‘given’ in life. There are some simple things we can do on a daily basis to help us create that much needed sense of balance and space – and it’s all about where we choose to place our attention.
The importance of attention:
The most important thing is to realize that you do have choices. Where you go in your head you go in your body – so it’s important to choose what you want to invest your attention and energy in. Each time you think about something in an overtly negative way – for instance catastrophizing about something, you are, effectively, building a disaster movie in which you star! As your body doesn’t know the difference between imagining something and it happening, it goes ahead and triggers the Fight or Flight response and produces stress hormones as if it were real. As a result, you’ll feel tense and tired from the experience. It’s easy to put the blame on ‘life’, when, in fact, you’ve caused yourself the discomfort and anxiety by ‘running’ that thinking stress pattern.
Start to do something different instead. When you notice an anxiety or stress-making thought starting to take shape in your mind, do the following:
– Step away from the thoughts, (and out of the trance you’ve created for yourself), by bringing your attention to the ground beneath your feet and the simple here and now around you.
– Breathe down to the ground.
– Feel the weight of your body being supported and become aware of the air on your face.
– Take a few moments to engage with the steadiness of the ground beneath you.
– Have a sense of your out-breath flowing down your body, releasing any stress into the ground
– Let the steadiness beneath you begin to steady your body, mind and feelings
– Breathe the steadiness of the ground up into your body
– Notice the difference in how you feel
Remember, most behavior and thought patterns are just habits you’ve learnt over time that sit at an unconscious level. Awareness gives you choices, and putting a little energy into breaking those old patterns and creating new, more useful ones will repay you handsomely. So beware of what you choose to engage your attention in – it’s shifting your shape constantly.