The Power of Undoing

written by Erica Quam

We live in a society where we are constantly trying to have more, do more, & be more. I think it's about time for us all to just chill out.

All of the effort we put into perfecting and striving is driving us into the ground, burning us out - leaving us unmotivated and uninspired.

I hear more and more people who are pushing themselves to the brink - getting to the point of asking questions like: Why am I even doing this? How can I keep this up? Is it even worth it?

When you are constantly pouring yourself into your work - whether work is your job, or work is your family, or a combination of the two - you have to find ways to fill yourself back up once you've drained what you have to give. Most of the time, we think that this means DOING more or GOING somewhere. In reality, it means doing less and undoing all of the things that take us further away from our center in our daily lives.

STRESS

Stress is defined as any demand placed on the body. Stress can be good - and get us up and going each day. We need a little stress in our lives - to spice it up. The problem today is that we have LOTS of stress in our lives. We have an HUGE stream of demands placed on us - or that we place on ourselves. We are in CONSTANT motion to get things done...and get them done yesterday

Smart phones have made us overly accessible. We are available ALL the time. How fast we can respond to all of the emails, texts, tweets, and posts that ring in? It's a twisted game that NO one can win. NO one.

The brain does not know the difference between REAL stress (like running away from the saber-toothed tigers or the woolly mammoths...just like our ancestors) and PERCEIVED stress (like all of the worries, doubts, fears, should's & ought to's that run through our head).

The brain - sensing the demand - sends the signal to the adrenal gland to start pumping cortisol into the system: the eyes dilate, the muscles prepare, the heart rate increases, the breathing gets faster and more shallow - ready to fight or run away. When we're constantly in this stressed out state, we cause havoc on our bodies.

Think about all of the stress related diseases we're subjecting ourselves to: high blood pressure, neck strain, low back pain, insomnia, migraine headaches, constipation, irritable bowel syndrome...and an immune system that is constantly suppressed. 

No wonder we're burned out beyond belief. 

A lot of times we think making a change in our jobs is the solution. However, the grass isn't always greener. If we don't change our habits and we simply jump ship into another job, the demands are still there and the burnout still happens. The common factor...is us.

SO HOW, EXACTLY, DO WE UN-DO?

1. SAYING "NO" MORE

Not "no, because" or "no, and"...how about "no". Period.  (Here's a little known secret: no gets easier...with practice.)

Ditch the excuses, let go of the guilt, and just practice saying no. You don't always have to justify why you can't or don't want to do something. Keep it simple.

So many times we say yes when we really mean no. We agree when we want to disagree. We think the path of least resistance is to be like Nike...and "Just do it." When in reality we're simply widening the gap between what we want and what actually we do. This wears us down and makes us unhappy.

The next time someone asks you to do something that you don't FULLY want to do and isn't ESSENTIAL to your work - say no.

2. SCHEDULE FREE TIME

Not free time where you fit one more task in, or a buffer of time where one task overflows into the next. Schedule time where you can just BE.

Breathe. Relax. Let go.

This may be the most challenging task ever for you. Can you just sit and be???...not on your cell phone, not flipping through a magazine, not numbing out with another Netflix episode, not making another to do list...just sit.

This free attention time may help you tap into your creative side. It may allow you to figure out a problem or a challenge that's been going on - not because your TRYING...but because you are ALLOWING this time and this space.

You can start to practice this free attention in small doses: like at a stoplight, in line at the grocery store, in a waiting room for an appointment, or traveling in an airport.

Experience how good it feels just to be present in the moment.

3. HAVE A PRACTICE

Whether it's a more formal meditation practice or an informal relaxation technique - find a practice that resonates with you. It doesn't have to be all candles, gongs, & incense. It can be as simple as possible.

Find some way to drain stress and tension out of your body so that you can connect with yourself and your own true nature. You may find it's like coming back home - to yourself.

Take time to be in your body and feel what that feels like. Take time to quiet the mind and let the constant chatter be silenced. Take time to connect to your spirit and listen so you can hear what you truly need. 

I hope that what you come away with from reading this post is not a long list of things that you should do. I hope that it will help you un-do a little more so that you can tap back into your own true potential.

I'd love to hear what you think and if anything you read resonated with you. Please share your comments - or even your questions - below.

My favorite FREE resources for meditation, mindfulness, & relaxation: Mindfulness Magazine, Yoga Journal, Insight Timer, Happify, Headspace