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{Blog Post} Taking Care of Yourself During Stressful Times

One of our yoga teachers, Niki Scarpa Cohen, often ends her classes with the following quote from Thich Nhat Hanh (Zen Master and peace activist):

“Waking up this morning, I smile, twenty-four brand new hours are before me. I vow to live fully in each moment and to look at all beings with the eyes of compassion.”

As I’ve been contemplating what I could write to help put people’s minds at ease during these stressful times that we are living in, I realized that this verse exemplifies all that I was hoping to express.

Thich Nhat Hanh so eloquently states that each morning we get to choose our outlook for the day. That’s not to say that we don’t have challenges in our lives, as we certainly do, but that what we

focus on can certainly have an impact on how much stress we feel. In other words, if we allow ourselves to think of nothing but fear and worry, we will likely feel nothing but fear and worry.

On the contrary, if we allow ourselves to feel our emotions, but then let go of the control they have over us, we can surrender to our experience and in return (hopefully) feel more of a sense of peace. This is certainly easier said than done, so here are a few tips on how to shift your perspective so that you might be able to embody Thich Nhat Hanh’s advice:

  1. Look for the good. I now get to hear my daughter sing a song to herself in the bathroom every time she washes her hands (her wise teachers taught the kids this so they wash long enough). It lights me up and brings a smile to my face every time. Find those small moments throughout your day and cherish them.

  2. Do things that make you happy. If you love long walks outside or love to read celebrity magazines, then make the time to do that right now. Doing what you love helps to alleviate stress in our bodies and minds and makes us feel good.

  3. Support one another. Everyone experiences stressful times differently. Some people might not be worried or feeling affected at all right now, while others might feel like their lives are in total upheaval. Honor both and be there for each other in any way that you can - an uplifting note to a friend, family member, or colleague might be a day changer for someone in need.

  4. Set a time limit on your media intake, your frustration or worry, and anything else that might not be benefiting your mental health. It’s natural to want to know what is going on around you and to feel scared after reading or watching the news. Give yourself permission to take in the information you feel you need but limit it so that you don’t start to spiral down a black hole of rumination and negativity. Turn the TV off, close your computer, put down your phone, and revert back to #2.

We don’t need to ignore the reality that life is stressful right now and that people are suffering. However, we can limit how much energy we put into our own internal suffering through our thoughts and worries. We can be there for one another and see our neighbors in our communities and across the world through eyes of compassion. We can choose to take action to take care of ourselves and to limit our stress intake as we know it’s not helpful for us or for anyone else.

Please enjoy this free ten minute guided meditation to assist you with calming your mind during stressful times. Feel free to share it with your community and to anyone you think it might be helpful to. During challenging times it is even more important to spread love, peace, and kindness, to both ourselves and others.

The light in me honors the light in you. Namaste!

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