It was the third time in a single day that I had seen a blue heron fly over my head. To many of the Native Americans I work with, the blue heron represents a time to go inward. A time for a vision quest or a time to get near water and contemplate your life path. As I pulled my van into the school’s “pick-up-your-student-here” line, I realized why the Universe had given me “the bird” not once, but thrice. It was time for me to pull out of the day-to-day activities and do more thinking then doing.
This takes a bit of creativity when you’re a single-parent and working with multiple schools, scout troops, writing books, running a business and making sure that food is served with each meal. Here are a few tricks I’ve learned to calm myself down and put more effort into thinking rather than staying on the stress machine of doing, doing, doing without thought.
1. Meditate. If you don’t meditate it is time to start. If you don’t want to call the process I’m going to write about, “meditation,” then use the word, “introspection.” The simple act of sitting in a quiet space and allowing your thoughts to rest, your breathing to calm and giving your nervous system a break from sensory input is the best activity you can perform for your personal well-being. It is this simple. Take a seat in a comfortable chair. Place your hands palms up at the junction of your thighs and hips so that your arms are not a weight to your shoulders. Take a deep breath in through your nose and out through you mouth with a “huh-huh” sort of sound. Repeat this breathing pattern two more times. Close your eyes and gentle turn them upward where you are looking up, but not straining. Then, focus on your breathing. Let your body naturally slow you breathing. Don’t force your breath to slow down, but allow your body to dictate the pace. When your breath is calm, when you feel a sense of peace throughout your being. Follow step 2.
2. Focus on Feeling Good. Much of our lives involves schedules to keep, responsibilities to perform and obligations to meet. I have found when I start to feel stress it is because I begin to think that I won’t get to do what I want to do because I’m trapped doing things I don’t want to do. The funny part of this thinking is that I “signed up” to do all the activities I’m engaged in, but for some reason I’m feeling trapped. This is a signal to me that it is time to meditate and then focus on what would make me feel better in the moment. When I realign myself in this manner, I realize that the situation isn’t really the problem, the challenge is that I need to go do something for myself that has been absent from my schedule. After a bit of contemplation I’ll realize, I’ve gone too long without camping, or hiking or meeting up with friends for a leisurely meal. Once I’ve figured out the activity that is missing in my life that I need for my own personal harmony, I schedule it and my life continues on with the only change being, that I’m now happy because I will achieve what I want while working with those who are in my care.
3. Laugh. This is a trick I’ve used my whole life. When the stress really hits and you’re in situations where too many things have erupted that have completely messed up your day, project or life path; take a breath (take several depending upon the severity) and realize, you have no control. You have no control on the outer circumstances of what is happening to you. What you do have control over is your reaction to them. Decide to laugh at the crazy that is happening. Decide that it is time to stop “adult-ing” for the next 10 minutes and you’re going to laugh. You’re going to laugh at the ludicrious situation that you now find yourself in. No guilt. No self-abusive talk. No “shoulda, coulda, woulda” talk. Just laugh. Laugh at yourself, the situation and the sheer craziness of it all. Why? Because you have control over your reaction. Nothing is more important than your peace, your joy and your happiness. So take control of that one thing. Laugh.
When you start focusing on what makes you happy and what you enjoy about life, it is amazing how the stress drops off of your shoulders as you start deciding to do the very things that bring you a sense of peace and laughter into your experience. There is so much to do on this planet. Go out there and make “fun” a priority each day, then you can get back to “adult-ing” when you’re done dancing in the sprinklers with the neighborhood kids.