How might you appreciate the journey, right now, today, in the midst of everything?
There is so much messiness and overwhelm going on right now - in the larger world, in our country, in our families. The Roe v. Wade alarm bells, the threat of WWIII, climate change... stress-producing, out of control, overwhelm.
Our brains are wired to notice everything that is not working as a safety mechanism for safety, which through an evolutionary lens is a good thing. It's smart to hear the lion creeping through the grass so that you can climb a tree before you become dinner. And it is helpful to hear the sound of crackling fire as it moves across the prairie. Occasional high level stress is an important safety mechanism for survival.
Human bodies, however, were not designed to be flooded with a stress response every minute of every day. And that is exactly what happens with our minute-to-minute access to threats through social media. Updates on the horrific war in Ukraine, carjackings in our local communities, rising Covid rates. Click, click, click.
Add to that the personal challenges of everyday life... concerts to conduct with stretch goal scores, medical specialties to lead with prickly medical chiefs who pick fights, classrooms to successfully lead to end-of-year even though you and your students are completely burnt out, helping your family recover from Covid - again.
And while all of that is true and real, here is the good news...
As humans, we have the ability to direct our focus and reframe what we see. This is not only helpful, it is a crucial skill that we can develop with practice. Why make the effort? Chronic ongoing stress causes inflammation which leads to disease. Calming activities which help us appreciate the journey lower chronic stress, lower the bodies inflammatory response, decreases disease.
Enjoying the journey is not a "nice to do", it is a "super important have to do."
Here are five ways to expand your experience so that you appreciate the journey, right now, today, in the midst of everything...
Stop what you're doing and bring your attention to your breath. Notice that you are breathing. In and out, in and out. The breath is sustaining your life every second of every day, throughout your entire life. Consider the miracle of your body. Allow the stress to drain out the bottom of your feet.
Contemplate something beautiful from nature. My neighbor delivers beautiful eggs to my doorstep - light green, light blue, tan, speckles... they are a joy to behold. When I look at them, I can feel my shoulders relax and I notice my appreciation for the lovely hens who created these gorgeous eggs. Find something beautiful to contemplate and notice how your body softens, releasing the stress.
Join a like-minded community. Instead of isolating, join an action-oriented community of people collectively focused on something important to you. Help immigrants learn a new language, march at your state capitol, work to change local recycling capacity, garden with your community. Move into action and notice how moving to external facing activity allows stress to transform into change-making energy.
Move from head to heart, heart to body, body to mind. Practice changing your point of view throughout the day - move from thinking to feeling, feeling to sensing, sensing to thinking. Head/heart/body. Consider giving yourself a break from problem solving by noticing the warmth of sun on your skin, or allow your daughter's delightful laugh to open your heart. Place just as much importance to those things as you do the problematic budget you are working on. Purposefully move from thinking to feeling to sensing throughout your day and allow the stress to take the backseat to other things that are also just as real.
Express gratitude. Tell someone what you appreciate about them. Write a thank you note. Send a text saying "you are fabulous and I'm so grateful you are in my life." Thank the housecleaner with something extra, tell your child how lucky you feel that they chose you. Say it out loud. Notice how gratitude is a natural antidote to chronic stress. Feel the stress drain from your heart.
And then exhale.
Actions, aligned with values, support optimal health.