It’s no secret that we’re living in a hyper-stressed and overly anxious society. More things than ever are competing for our time, energy and attention.
It goes beyond just time management and day-to-day happiness though. We’re understanding more and more the connections between stress and chronic ailments, most of which we refer to as “lifestyle diseases.”
While we as individuals vary greatly, and therefore, so may our impetus and relationship with stress, it really comes down to one basic tenet. The focus and energy of our outer world has gained control over our inner world. We’ve become overloaded because of how we’re perceiving what is or what may happen.
It doesn’t have to be this way though. Armed with a few simple practices designed to shift that awareness inward again, we can get a real grasp on what only moments ago may have felt out of control.
The Ten Count
The ten count is a method I use on a daily basis. It’s easy to implement and requires literally nothing except your awareness.
First, make a conscious effort to slightly slow your breathing. Doing this signals to the autonomic nervous system that it’s okay to chill out, to rest and repose.
Simply inhale, then exhale, silently counting your “1” as the breath leaves the body. Repeat this process until you count to 10, then start over.
Simple enough, right? Where the slight level of mastery comes in is the space between the breaths. Between each exhale and the next subsequent inhale, try to quiet the mind and not focus on any particular thought entering your awareness. Sit in that silence.
Maintaining your focus on the “nothingness” between each inhalation and staying present enough to catch yourself at 10, then start back at 1, is where the key lies. Don’t get frustrated when you find yourself on autopilot counting “13, 14, 15.” Just take a deep breath and start back at 1.
After a few repetitions you might be pleasantly surprised to realize how mellow and centered you feel. Repeat this process throughout the day as often as needed, especially before entering into situations that heighten your anxiety.
Music has a profound effect on the human mind and body. This is something our ancient forebearers knew and likely utilized regularly. In fact, we’re increasingly learning how many structures from Stonehenge to the Great Pyramids were used to emit and resonate very specific frequencies for many different purposes.
It is a universal language, a way to communicate and interact through direct energy, rather than through mind-based language and interpretation.
So, what’s the point? Just like it’s said that “you are what you eat”, I would also argue that “you are what you listen to.” We’re extremely sensitive to what we feed our ears and we quite literally resonate with the music we choose to spend our time listening to.
Gone are the days when listening to your favorite music brought a sense of occasion. In a single generation we’ve gone from the mechanical charm of a vinyl record to the digital, wireless, always-accessible way in which we experience music today. This increased accessibility means we spend more time than ever listening, and more time than ever being influenced.
Given this fact, I would recommend becoming much more conscious of the music choices you make. If you’re feeding yourself lyrical content about violence, oppression, heartbreak or deceit first thing in the morning, what kind of energetic effect do you think that will have in setting you up for the day?
Instrumental music is great because it allows you to experience the vibe of the music without the mental fixation on any lyrics or message. Find what resonates with you in each part of the day and what makes you actually feel good while listening to it.
With endless musical options available at the tap of a button now, we have the freedom to experience any audio environment we choose. If you’re not sure where to start, I would recommend one of the many premade playlists on whatever music service you’re using. There are an endless array of playlists for chill music, study music and yoga/meditation.
When you become more aware and purposeful in what you choose to listen to, you’ll be amazed at how it affects your mood and perception even long after you’ve taken the earphones out.
Back to Presence
The third tip is perhaps the most simple, yet the most difficult, because we’ve been so conditioned out of this natural state in recent years. It requires you to do literally nothing, which is exactly the point.
We’re now in a state of constant distraction with the little glowing screens in our hands that are incessantly taking our attention away from ourselves and putting it elsewhere. If you’re at all observant you’ll notice that the vast majority of people literally cannot “be with themselves” for
even one minute. If you have to stand in line for even 30 seconds, out comes the phone. It’s become a hardwired reflex.
This habit of giving our attention away to something else has undoubtedly created massive waves of increased anxiety, much of which has been documented. So, what can we do to curb this behavior?
Once again, it comes back to basic self-awareness. Wherever you are, simply sit in that place and focus your attention on your surroundings. Focus on the smallest details from the sounds to the scents that you pick up. Try to see how many different things you can identify in that environment and enjoy your heightened sense of observation.
You’ll very quickly begin to realize by watching everyone else just how distracted and frantic we’ve really become. It’s like a game that we’re all part of but don’t know we’re playing until we step to the sidelines.
Begin to form a new habit of doing this whenever possible. Not only is there a sense of satisfaction knowing you’re the one person in the room who doesn’t have their phone out, but you’ll quickly begin developing that self-awareness which has laid dormant and is crucial for stepping outside that realm of anxiety and mental overload.
Piecing It Together
By now, you’ve surely realized the theme. So much of our increased stress and anxiety can be diminished by taking our awareness which is “out there” and placing it back inside ourselves.
I realize it is not always that easy, and there are certainly clinical forms of anxiety that may require deeper intervention. However, I do know that these tips will have an effect for everyone who practices them regularly.
When the world feels so out of control, it becomes more important than ever to regain our self-awareness and regulate the one thing we can control: Our state of inner peace and happiness.