Say Yes to Less Stress
•Worrying about what I have to do (and pressuring myself to do it perfectly)
•Obsessing about what I should be doing (and pressuring myself to figure it out)
•Fixating on what I cannot do right now (and pressuring myself to get around my limitations)
•Wishing I had more time for myself (and pressuring myself to somehow create it)
•Judging myself in comparison to others (and pressuring myself to be better than I am)
If you have done any of these things yourself, I am sure you know they can be exhausting. That is not to say we are the sole cause of our stress. Sometimes life
demands that we do more and deal with external challenges beyond our control — job loss, health issues, financial troubles, divorce…
It is true that there are lots of little things we can do to relieve some of the tension. But the first thing we need to do is relieve the pressure where it is generally
the most intense: within our own minds.
“Stress is not what happens to us. It’s our response to what happens, and response is something we can choose.”
My best advice is, get out of your head (and perhaps into your body or a state of flow). It is ironic but true that two pieces of seemingly contradictory advice can
be equally helpful and powerful, and such is the case when it comes to relieving stress. At least it has been for me.
On the one hand, it can benefit us to look closely at what is really going in our minds so we can understand it, challenge it if necessary, and calm the feelings
underneath our thoughts. On the other hand, sometimes we simply need to disengage from our mind’s stories — about our unfulfilling work, our mounting bills,
our insensitive relatives, and so on. To recognize we are getting caught up in a mental maze from which we may never escape unless we consciously choose to
get out — and then make that choice.
Our brain’s default mode network (DMN), which is designed to protect us, tends toward negativity, often focused on the past, the future, and the intentions behind
others’ behavior.’ Research has shown a link between a disproportionately active DMN and depression and anxiety — and has also shown that meditation can
help influence the default network. That is why it is so important that we learn to get out of our heads, either through traditional meditation or by getting into our
bodies or a state of flow (when you are so consumed in a task that you forget about everything else and lose track of time).
It is not just about temporarily quieting our thoughts. Mindfulness can actually change patterns of brain activity over time, enabling us to more frequently get out
of the default mode network — where we inevitably feel stressed! How do we get out of our heads and into our bodies or a state of flow?
Here are a few ways to practice mindfulness, (Note: my doctor suggested the first two):
“You don’t have to control your thoughts. You just have to stop letting them control you.”
— Dan Millman
Yoga — As you sync your breathing with your movements and focus your attention on the subtle muscle shifts required to get into and hold each pose, you will
find your mind naturally quieting. There are lots of different styles of yoga. You can find all kinds of yoga videos on YouTube, and odds are, when life gets closer to
normal again, you can find a free or donation-based class near you.
Meditation — There is no better way to reduce your stress than actively combating it through meditation. The heightened levels of inner peace will see stress fade
away from your body in a matter of minutes.
Be Creative — Any creative activity can get us into a state of flow if we enjoy it and lose ourselves in the task. Painting, playing an instrument, dancing, jewelry
making, even doodling — pick whatever calls to you so deeply you cannot help but concentrate on the present, losing your sense of self-consciousness because
the act itself is so fun and rewarding.
Laugh — Laughter truly is the best medicine for fighting stress. Unfortunately, the current social climate does not really make us feel like laughing. Nonetheless,
looking on the bright side of life is vital. In fact, watching comedy is probably one of the smartest ways to make it happen at this time. You can still find fun and
laughter in daily activities, at work or at home.
The beauty of most of these practices is that we can adapt them to our needs and available time. You can take an hour class or just practice for ten minutes. You
can work on a painting for two hours or sketch for a brief window before bed. I know, it is easier said than done? But I also know that when I do something that is
good for me, I feel it — and I want more of it. And my resistance to doing it naturally fades away, along with my stress.
So really, we just need to show up once — really show up. Be so present that we allow ourselves to fully live that moment so we can love that moment, and that
love will bring us back. Back to the practice, back to our bodies, back to ourselves. Our deepest selves, underneath the stress and pressure. The true self who
knows we do not need to be more, we do not have to do more, we just have to let ourselves enjoy more. Because within that enjoyment there is peace and
healing. And no matter what our negatively-biased brains tell us, we absolutely deserve it.
Hank Aaron Remembered as Advocate for Higher
Hitting Home Runs for Education
(Talladega, AL) While Henry “Hank” Aaron will be remembered for his
extraordinary baseball skills, Talladega College President Dr. Billy C.
Hawkins noted that Aaron’s contributions to higher education were equally
“Hank Aaron was not only a sports legend, but a devoted philanthropist and
an advocate for higher education. His generosity made it possible for
thousands of students to enroll in college and graduate. Here at Talladega
College, he and his wife, Billye, established a $500,000 endowed
scholarship that has had a tremendous impact,” said Dr. Hawkins.
“Hank was a personal friend of mine and he was very receptive when I
approached him about helping Talladega College students. I am so grateful
for the support that he and Mrs. Aaron have provided for our students and
for students throughout the nation.”
Pictured left to right in this 2013 photo are former Talladega College Board
Chairman Dr. Harry Coaxum, Talladega College President Dr. Billy C. Hawkins,
Billye Aaron and Henry “Hank” Aaaron. The Aarons, who established a
$500,000 endowed scholarship at Talladega College, were conferred with
honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degrees.
Hank and Billye Aaron were both conferred with honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degrees from Talladega College in 2013, when they presented the college
with a $104,000 check.
“I first met Hank when I served as president at Texas College, his wife’s alma mater. I was immediately inspired by their profound generosity and their impact
on the lives of students. While the world will definitely remember him for his amazing athletic skills, thousands of college students will remember Hank Aaron
for his remarkable generosity.”
“On behalf of the Talladega College family, I extend my sincere condolences to Mrs. Aaron and the entire Aaron family.”
Health is not just about what you’re eating. It’s also about what you’re thinking and saying.”
Since we have been on lockdown, I have not had much of an appetite and I have lost a little over 30
pounds, with the last 15 in the last three months. So, last week, I found myself getting a CT scan and
awaiting results. The results where fine, nothing abnormal was found. What a relief, however I found
the diagnosis to be surprising? Stress!
As much as I have written and talked about stress, here I am with a rather extreme case. I am not
going to stress further about this, except to say I often find advice to release stress and pressure to be
great on paper and to write about, but incredibly difficult to apply.
I suppose this is true of most good advice: It is far easier to make a list of great ideas than it is to
actually apply them. I have realized that my biggest problem — one that you can perhaps relate to as
well: While some of my circumstances can be challenging and limiting, most of the stress and pressure
I feel originates with some form of internal resistance. Resistance to what was, what is, what might be,
what I am doing, what I should be/could be doing, who I am… the list goes on.
A list might look like this:
•Rehashing the past (and pressuring myself to somehow fix my mistakes)
•Dwelling on worst-case scenarios (and pressuring myself to find ways to avoid them)
•Fighting my current reality (and pressuring myself to change it)