Stress Solutions

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The Zen of Balance

The Zen of Balance of which I write relates to our ever-present list of things we have to DO versus making some time to just BE. To illustrate the importance of balancing the Do’s and the Be’s in life, meet Stacy (a fictional character). Stacy is the kind of person who does not have a good sense of how stressed she is, and she did not do much to change her busy schedule even when she was warned about needing more time for relaxation. Her attitudes about work and career keep her feeling overwhelmed and responsible on the one hand and conflicted on the other hand because she frequently reads about how long-term stress can affect your health. This is a mental tug-a-war that many career-focused people have a hard time resolving.

Stacy is a good example of how we can get worn down by our attempts to live up to all of our responsibilities to family, work or education, and friends (and still enjoy a social life). Like so many of today’s bright young people, she wants to balance her personal life and her career. Her story, however, indicates that she may not be managing as well as she thinks.

As a lawyer, Stacy has always prided herself on being logical rather than emotional. She uses her cell phone and computer to manage her exercise routine, keep up with her business responsibilities, and watch her diet to manage her weight. Recently, Stacy added a yoga exercise class as a way of relaxing. Adding more to her daily to-do list, though, stretched her even more each day. Thank goodness, Stacy thought, for the modern electronic world at our fingertips. Stacy’s plan was to stay in touch with the office even when she went to yoga class, by using her cell phone. She set her email on her phone to notify her of important “can’t wait” messages. She completely missed the concerned looks that the yoga teacher gave her whenever her phone would ring, and she would excuse herself to go outside the classroom to take the call. Despite her best intentions to relax, Stacy cut her relaxation exercises short to attend to business. Even more problematic was that Stacy could not bring herself to take mental breaks from thinking about what she needed to do next and about business details and issues.

We all generate lists of what we want to get done today or this week. And, don’t we all run out of day (time) before we run out of the things on our todo list? Time is a funny thing; if you want time to do a thing, you have to MAKE that time. The point is that one thing that few of us make time for is time to spend each day just Being.

Just Being means a making a short period of time, maybe as little as 5 or 10 minutes, in which you find a quiet, peaceful environment, assume a gentle and safe position (so that you will not be concerned or thinking about your body), and clear your mind of all thoughts. Try to push away thoughts of what you will do when finished or next. Focus on listening, being aware of the environment around you. Or, focus on listening to your breathing. Try to make time every day to spend a few minutes just being.

In a lot of ways, Being can lead to enlightenment. Buddha is thought to have said: “Before enlightenment: chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment; chop wood, carry water.” Maybe spending a few minutes in a state of Being will make chopping wood and carrying water a bit more palliative.

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