Is your to-do list a mile high? Having constant challenges with your boss or partner? Oftentimes, the stress we accumulate in our demanding lives seems unruly. But according to Dr. Susan B. Lord, MD, who leads the Kripalu Transforming Stress R&R retreat workshop, the ancient philosophy of yoga holds the key to creating more sustainable, stress-free life.
When things seem completely overwhelming, we often feel powerless and stuck. And when our ego is under stress, it can make us reactive and defensive; resistant to change. Yet as Susan points out, “20 percent of stress is what happens to us; 80 percent is how we deal with it.” So how can we go about transforming stress? Start with being mindful.
Many of us try to figure out life and its intricacies solely with our heads. This, as yoga teaches us, can only take us so far. Through mindfulness practices, which include yoga and meditation, we can step back and examine the bigger picture of our stress-filled situations. This allows us to create the space necessary to connect to all aspects of our being—head, heart, and spirit—during challenging times.
When we stop, notice, and assess our situation, question the validity of our storylines and nurture our deep intuition, we can then come up with skillful action plans to help us deal with our stress in skillful ways.
Susan offers the following six steps to help you transform stress:
Become aware of your stressors: Learning to recognize and name the things that trigger your stress can help you delve into their causes so you can learn how to deal with them more skillfully.
Express What’s Going On
Expressing what you’re feeling releases tension. Find creative outlets, such as writing or drawing, to move that stressful energy.
Be in the Present
Clinging to thoughts of the past and worrying about the future causes stress. Notice what’s going on right now, at this very moment, not what your mind is telling you.
List All Thoughts, Feelings, and Situations that Cause You Stress
Examine your stressors; write them down. Look at them through new perspectives once you’re done listing them. This might just help you to transform your outlook about being stuck in stressful patterns.
Do you tend to be reactive? Try a new way of dealing with a familiar stressor. For example, pause, breathe, and notice your thoughts and sensations before you enter into a challenging situation. “When we’re willing to change,” Susan says, “we are able to grow.”
Let Go of Judgment
Learn to release preconceived notions and tolerate opinions and behaviors different from your own. Stay open to possibilities. This is effective not just with other people, but also when we judge ourselves.
How have yoga and mindfulness helped you transform stress in your life?