stress relief

Discipline your mind

  • The same force that created the Universe also created you!

  • You have access to the wisdom of the sages just by looking within yourself.

  • Life unfolds with magic and miracles everyday!

  • Once you are in your power and aligned with your Self everything else naturally falls into place.

Have you heard these types of phrases before? I know that I have. Many times! And while they all do ring true for me, maintaining that resonance takes discipline. 

Discipline is defined in the Dictionary as involving "punishment," so it's no wonder it may not have occurred to you that positive affirmations like the ones above might require it. However, "discipline" comes from the same root word as "disciple," meaning to lovingly follow. Reframing the word allows us to see that our feelings and emotions can lovingly follow disciplined thought patterns. We can actually learn to set limits for ourselves around negativity so that we build mind muscles that make certain thoughts arise more quickly and easily.

In order to do this, we need a plan. Just like we have family rhythms in place and times when we say "yes" to our children (so that when we say know it has more impact), we need to have thought pattern rhythms so that we become conscious and kind in the words we say to ourselves. I've been working on this kind of mind muscle building for a number of years now and while I do have strong structures and habits in place around the thoughts I tell myself, I still have times- often right before my period and it was at it's worst during my first year postpartum- when I have a lapse and my thoughts drift into the realm of dark and dreary. What do I do when those negative thoughts start to creep in?

Here are five tips to feeling good that you can use right now:

  1. My daily rhythm. Do I need to make a change because my husband is working a lot right now which means that more family responsibilities fall on my lap, or has my family life shifted due to my daughter being on a break from school and I'm expecting too much from myself when I have two children at home? Then I adjust the rhythm.

  2. My inner rhythms. Am I feeling out of sync because of the season that I am in (I find it super powerful to track my moon cycle for this reason)? Then I allow an adjustment to take place.

  3. Distract myself. For example, I just had a conversation with my sister in which she expressed how she doesn't like the way I am parenting my daughter. I feel deeply offended and can't stop thinking about it. Rather that go down that deep dark hole, I remind myself that her opinions are her own and that I have no control over what she thinks of me. I only have control over what I think of me so I distract myself from thinking about my sister by reminding myself of how intentionally I am parenting my kids and that, while I'm not perfect, I'm a pretty darn good mom.

  4. Change my physiology. I ask myself what my face would look like if I felt truly joyful right now. What would my voice sound like? How would I be breathing? Then I do those things. This is an amazingly effective and quick tool!

  5. Let go of resistance! If my mind keeps returning to the negative thought I stop the resistance. I speak to myself the way I speak my my kids when they are doing something repeatedly that I don't like. "I hear how upset you are by Jane's comment. That really hurt your feelings and you can't let it go. You are starting to get mad because you you feel like she doesn't understand where you are coming from. You want to call her back and give her a piece of your mind. I get that AND I know that you really love Jane. You don't really want to hurt her, but it feels that way right now because you are so angry. Let's put the phone down and blow off some steam (or try the above tools) before we talk to her again."

That's it! My secret to building positive mind muscles. I encourage you to keep an open heart and to try these tools whenever you find yourself feeling "off." And remember, your feelings are the disciples of your thoughts. Let your thoughts be loving leaders by having a plan on how to handle them when they are not behaving themselves. Having a plan will help you feel calmer, clearer, and more confident, I promise!

Reducing stress

Emotion is like a river. When it's allowed to flow, it stays clean and clear; but when it's dammed up, it grows dank and dark. In my experience, there are two ways to let feelings flow without the consequences that come from communicating directly: expressing them within our own mind, expressing them symbolically, and in a listening partnership. 

The safest place I feel expressing emotion is to myself. First, I name the feeling. (OK, I'm getting really irritated here with Grace's whining, I'm thinking it's hopeless, I wish she would just be quiet, and a part of me wants to slap her, I feel bad about that, I'm getting into that whole thing about how I'm a bad mom, it makes me feel really anxious.) In other words rather than BEING my experience, I HAVE it. When I detach from it, it's immediately less stressful. 

Paradoxically, feeling my emotions fully helps me to let them go. (This is my anger and frustration. I acknowledge that this has been a very long day and I have been caring for two children. I feel overwhelmed and Grace is behaving in a way that makes it hard for me to make dinner. I'm frustrated right now, but I know it won't last forever.) In essence, I let myself feel bad for a moment in order to feel good for a long time.

Sometimes I suffer because I am suffering- I get frustrated with my experience or I feel guilty about it. (I just want to feel happy towards Grace, not irritated. I'm upset about being so upset!) Instead, I try to remind myself to have compassion for my feelings. They occur for real reasons and are triggered by hard situations. I imagine being as kind to my inner self as I would to someone else who's upset. There is nothing shameful about the feelings themselves.

Another way I like to let my emotions flow is by expressing them symbolically. I have a huge box of journals beginning from the age of about 7 in my house so the most obvious way for me to let my feelings out is to write them down without editing on censoring myself. Sometimes I like to write letters to people (that I don't send!) or to myself or to parts of myself in which I focus on different feelings such as hurt or anger or, in the case of this letter, love.

And of course, another way of expressing my feelings is to someone else, a listening partner. I pick a person with whom I feel safe and tell him or her that I need sometime to vent and that I don't need them to respond, just listen. I'm not looking for advice, but need them to hear me out so I can move on; nor do I want them to fan the flames of my feelings since my purpose is to release. As I speak I try to get the sense that the emotions are leaving me, that my listening partner is drawing them out of me. You can learn more about listening partnerships

How do you let your feelings go? Please share in the comments below.