Stress vs. Peace: Use Flexibility to Defeat Tension and Stay Calm

Do you remember Gumby? That little rubber man who bent in 100 different ways? You could twist him into all sorts of weird positions – and he never complained!

Does your life feel like that sometimes? Do you feel pulled, twisted, poked and bent by all sorts of situations over which you seem to have little or no control?

What happens in your life when unexpected emergencies arise … or when the day-to-day stressors threaten to overwhelm you? How can you cope with sleepless nights? How do you turn off the broken record of negative thoughts that run through your mind? How can you defeat the taut muscles, upset stomach or tension headaches that are your personal companions to stress?

Flexibility is the key. Your body needs to be flexible to stay healthy. So do other areas of your life. There are five key areas where you should create or increase flexibility (in addition to your physical body).

Expectations: It is easy to get caught in the ‘expectation trap’. Holiday hype, disappointment from people, rainy vacations and career crashes are just some of life’s challenges. Dad always told me “expectation is greater than realization”. It was his way of telling us to stay mellow. Keep your expectations realistic. Remind yourself of things that may interfere with your grand plans. Allow yourself to live IN the experience, not before it. Anticipation can be a blessing, but temper it with reality. Stay out of the expectation/realization mine field.

Another expectation mine-field is self-directed. “What if I’m not good enough?” Or, “I have to do this better than so-and-so.” Or, “Everything has to be perfect for …” The thing is – other people are feeling the same way about themselves as you are. They are not nearly as worried about what you are doing as you think they are! Give yourself some flexibility. Often ‘good enough’ really is good enough.

Opinions: Everyone has them, have you noticed? Have you also noticed how often a difference of opinion leads to harsh words, hurt feelings and stress? Learn to accept others’ ideas without becoming angry or upset. Be flexible enough to love and honor the person, regardless of their ‘personal opinions’. Practice expressing yourself in a non-aggressive way. Give others the same respect for their opinions that you want from them.

Schedule: Today’s world functions at warp-speed, it seems. We are all trying to do too much in too little time. As a result, we get stressed being late, not allowing enough time to finish a task, not having enough time for ourselves. Create margin in your life. Add at least 5 minutes to the time you think it will take to ‘get there’. Show up for appointments a few minutes early. Breathe deeply for a minute or two before a meeting. Schedule a minimum 15-minute break between appointments so that, if one runs late, you are not behind for the rest of the day. And be sure to schedule time for yourself – at least 30 minutes every day to do something that relaxes you and makes you smile.

Emotions: Here is another roller coaster, unless you take charge. Mood swings are exactly that –up and down, back and forth, until you finally decide to get off the ride. You have more control over your emotions than you might think. Talk to yourself. Out loud if necessary. Say, “I will not get upset. I will not be angry. I choose to stay calm.” Practice until you can keep yourself from riding the emotion coaster. Joy and peace are your goals and rewards.

Finances: Living paycheck to paycheck is like Russian roulette. You never know when the next crisis will hit. The car breaks down; a child gets sick; the washer quits. Being financially flexible means you have some extra put aside to meet life’s crises … or to take advantage of some unexpected opportunity.

Begin NOW to save a little bit every day, every week. Susie Orman urges us to “value money more than the thing money can buy”. That means asking yourself, “Do I truly NEED that thing I want, or would I rather have the money in my account … just in case.” Stop impulse shopping. Wait 24 hours to see if the desire is still as great. If you will begin the process of accumulation instead of consumption, you will find great comfort and satisfaction in watching your financial worth grow.

Make a conscious effort to increase your flexibility in each area. You will defeat stress, improve your focus, and find the calmness and peace you seek.

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