Ten simple methods to alleviate stress and anxiety.
My work has always attempted to unknot the impact of trauma. At one time or another, we all face challenges to our mental health, just as it is inevitable that we will face issues around physical health. It is a simple fact of existence that in our lives, we experience joy and suffering.
The fact that any form of stigma is attached to admitting you have suffered from mental illness is a testament to how broken society is at its foundation. Typically, the largest impact on our mental health comes from existing within systems that require us to abandon common sense, and focus on counter intuitive actions, that disrupt the truth we were each born to embody through our stories.
Nine times out of ten, the people I meet suffer due to the fact they have been convinced that they should ignore their intuition and base their existence on a life that has been predetermined for them by the systems we are all embedded within. It’s easy to feel that we do not have permission to create a life based in imagination, wonder and beauty. We are expected to sacrifice our time to stories that bear little relation to the love we hold in our hearts.
Slowly and incrementally, over time this takes its toll. Layers of stress and anxiety increase due to this fundamental disconnect. Sediments of pain and suffering dim the light of our spirit and grow, as we neglect our spirits to survive in societies that are driven by scarcity wounds.
Each time we make a decision counter to our truth, we add to our suffering.
One of the many nodes to my practice is considering how to connect with our story, within systems that do not have our best interests at heart.
What follows are the ten actions/rituals that I've personally found (and tested relentlessly) to be the quickest and most effective ways to alleviate stress and anxiety. It’s not an exhaustive list, but ten practical actions that I utilise over and over again and have found to have the biggest impact, that I recommend to others.
They overlap and connect in a web of utility, notice how they are all simple and connect to the realm of common sense. These are practical tools for living and surviving and learning as we attempt to chart a course to a life connected to truth.
There are many other methods and I would implore you to seek out that which is the most effective for you, as you will find that some methods work better than others.
One size simply does not fit all.
Get it out. Communicate the nature of the stress you are experiencing and release it safely back into the world. If someone has hurt you, tell them calmly and respectfully what you have experienced, so you don't carry the pain. The key is to release the emotions and energy contained within the experience of suffering so they cannot settle within your body. If you are not able to express directly to the individual or system how you felt, then confide in a friend, or tell a tree, river or a landscape that you love. Ensure it doesn’t add another layer of confusion above the essence of your truth, get it out of your body and free the mind from the fundamental process of needing to contemplate why you haven't communicated your feelings or acted on the experience. These acts of disruption break the signal of pain between us and our hearts and should be viewed as a tiny ceremony that aims to protect you. I wish I’d figured this out when I was a young man- I would have suffered a lot less.
Exercise. Exercise is a simple and beautiful way to alleviate stress and anxiety; I run each morning and I view this ritual as a form of medicine that alleviates worries and connects body, mind and spirit. It allows one to connect with one’s body at the start of the day. It keeps you fit and healthy, which in turn contributes to reducing the impacts that stress and anxiety might have on your body, spirit and mind. Exercise offers us access to the same meditative states that we experience during meditation. Our consciousness is able to expand and deepen when we exercise within the natural world. When we practise exercise and combine it with mantra, we can access a state of bliss through movement that is deeply regenerative.
- Read. For wisdom, pleasure and relief. Read for the answers you require. Reading can ease stress and offer relaxation. Reading can alleviate anxiety and form a barrier between us and that which causes discordance in our lives. Reading is an antidote to all forms of ignorance, and when we read, we're transported to other realms. Knowledge and wisdom is provided to us, as we hear stories that resonate with the journey we're undertaking. Reading and books have transported the human race across time and aided us in all manner of ways. If I'm feeling sad or anxious or stressed I find the nearest library or bookshop, I walk inside and I feel my spirit lift as I connect to the beauty and wonder contained within the books gifted to us all by the writers who are no longer with us and by the new, fantastic young writers who are adding to the sum experience of humankind with gifts of literature and storytelling. It's hard not to feel hopeful when you're surrounded by a vast and powerful plethora of human wisdom through books and reading.
Imagine. Art and creativity transmutes suffering into bright and helpful new forms that deliver wisdom and depth. Creativity acts as a catalyst, transmuting our raw experiences, into new stories and experiences that can benefit not only us, but the wider community. When we create art, it helps us to utilise stress and anxiety as a form of imaginative fuel, clearing it from our immediate state or experience. When used ceremonially or ritually, art can help us to begin to process trauma and suffering that is historic. This is why storytelling in its many forms is so important to humanity. Art and storytelling are tools for experiential learning. Creativity is our birthright.
Consciousness. Meditation in all its forms excavates stress and anxiety from our minds and bodies. A daily practice can hold suffering at bay and slowly remove the effects of past trauma and pain we've experienced in our lives. According to the earliest records, Meditation has been practised from around fifteen thousand BCE. There's a good reason for humanity’s exploration of different access points to gnosis. They connect us to the unified field of pure consciousness, a dimension that aids our healing and expands our consciousness.
Follow the truth and trust your intuition. If you can snatch back a moment and listen to your intuition, you might experience and perceive a form of witness to your existence and life. When we quiet our mind and listen to the ever present voice within, we cultivate an ever deepening conversation with our intuition. Your intuition is perhaps the greatest gift you possess. It is the north star, forever guiding and offering us each a map that when followed guides us deeper into our story. In this moment of connection, it enables us to learn what is the best next course of action. Perhaps your intuition is telling you to have a nap, drink some water, tell her you love her. To say NO. To quit a job that’s making you unwell, to be braver or to take extra care. To call your father, to share your story in a book, to leave the town you were born in and travel. Your intuition is a sacred tool of communion that cultivates a conversation with the sacred and divine nature of existence. When used correctly, it can aid you to find your way back to the path you should be taking. As you listen and cultivate faith in your own ability to make the right choices, you will find that stress and anxiety begin to recede. Your truth is with you always. You just need to listen.
Prayer and pilgrimage. Sit down in the sunlight and offer prayers to what you perceive as divinity. You don't need to belong to a formal religion or visit a church. In fact, I would argue that many systems of religious beliefs act as a barrier between our hearts and the true nature of how divinity makes itself known to us through our lives. The landscape that holds you within its bounds is good enough to deepen your connection through prayer, be that your home, or a favourite park. Religion has its place, but it is not the only method to connect to what we experience as God. You already have a framework to deliver your prayers through your story and the many places that are critical to you in your life. Make a pilgrimage to an old childhood playground or a place you experience wonder or love or joy, so that you may experience a journey that many humans have made since the dawn of time. Pilgrimage can be how we demark what is important in our story. Perhaps a visit to a family grave or the house or town you grew up in? The paths you walked with friends as a child. A pilgrimage is a prayer of movement and connectedness. A physical action that denotes your spiritual fidelity to the path and story you’re on. The weight of stress and anxiety begins to lift from our bodies and clear like a weather system from our lives when we connect to that which we perceive and experience as sacred or divine. The key to this action is that you need to learn what you perceive as the sacred or divine. How do these experiences unfold and manifest in your existence? A pilgrimage does not have to be contained within a secular story or religion. You can create your own journey to a site that is important to your story. And in doing so you may experience a lifting of the stress and strain you are under, as it is replaced by the meaning you excavate in the expression of your journey.
Say no. Walk away and remove the stress activator. Radical action is often looked down upon. We shouldn't make a fuss or stir up trouble. We must endure the situations or requests or behaviour that causes us stress and anxiety. I'm here to tell you it's important you know your limits and your worth. People and systems exist that feed on the goodwill and kindness of others. You must learn to say no. To situations and people who are damaging you and your health by making you feel endlessly anxious and providing terrible amounts of toxic stress. We don't walk away enough from relationships or jobs or situations that are damaging us. Sometimes the only way to take back your health and truth is by leaving something or someone that wasn’t meant for you behind. Others might attempt to make you feel bad for stating your boundaries. You need to walk away if you know in your heart that what you are experiencing is wrong and not meant for you. Extricate yourself from bad stories that are poisonous.
Ask for help. When we exist in a state of anxiety or stress we can become overwhelmed and engage in habitual behaviours that we sometimes convince ourselves are helpful, when in fact the opposite is occurring: we're actually harming ourselves. When we feel so lost and in pain and suffering that we can't take any action, it's important to ask for help and assistance. There is no shame in finding someone to help you, who can advise and support you. We lose so many wonderful people to ill health for the simple fact that society or family or friends sometimes judge us if we let out an honest cry for help and seek assistance. Perhaps you need to find a good therapist? Or someone who is an expert in a particular field that is linked to an area that you need guidance or treatment in? The help you need reflects on others’ ability to seek help for their own key issues, so be prepared that some people might try and stop you locating the help you need.
Express gratitude. Stress and anxiety act to block us from the truth of our story, they don't allow us to see the gifts we already possess. Write down five things you're grateful for. If you struggle to think of one thing, then get practical. You are grateful for the air in your lungs, for the love of your cat or the walks you take with your dog. You can be grateful for a specific skill or talent you have or a book that you love and cherish. Speak this list out loud. Allow yourself to feel the power of the gifts you hold in your heart and you will immediately begin to feel the darkness lift, the stress retreat and the anxiety retreat. Help someone feel better by sharing your gratitude for who they are and how they have impacted your life.
One truth remains, although these techniques are effective, they cannot and will not stop you experiencing suffering, stress or anxiety or the symptoms of depression and mental illness if you do not treat the root cause of discordance. You must find a way to connect to who you are and then live a life based on following a path that emboldens your truth. Even when we're empowered and connected, we still experience stress and suffering. This is part of the contract of existence. We are all put here to do something quite specific and if you are lost to that purpose, you have the prospect of long term ill health if you do not find a way back to your path. Many times I meet people who have had their creativity or beauty desecrated during childhood, perhaps a parent or teacher admonished them for an honest expression of their essence and the subsequent trauma and fear dealt from this experience has meant they have attempted to diminish the light they hold. We must all attempt to lift each other up and aid each other to find that light again.
Remember: The right form of stress allows us to cultivate strength and wisdom and resilience.
You are a miracle and your purpose is needed in the world. It is a part of the puzzle and others need you and the wonder you hold within your heart, to help them in turn to find the beauty and truth in their own existence. We are all embedded together within a field of wonder and beauty.
Please let me know your own strategies to alleviate suffering?
Bright Blessings to you and your story.