Life Maximizing Strategies
In this country, as a whole, we have a tremendous addiction problem. I’ve identified dozens of unique things or activities people have become addicted to, most recently texting, social networking, emailing, gaming, and other computer-based activities.
Why have we become a county addicted?
In my opinion, the reason is that we have not acquired healthy, productive coping strategies for dealing with painful, uncomfortable or stress-inducing emotions. These include hurt, fear, anxiety, anger and frustration. So, we are all looking for ways to get rid of them, and many people do this through avoidance, or self-medicating with activities or things.
If they work, they tend to become addictions.
When I was in high school, part of my wardrobe included a safety pin hooked onto the belt loop of my jeans. During class, I would use it to poke my fingers until they bled. I would have to say this was a strategy I used to deal with boredom, either to distract me or change what I was feeling due to the painful, uncomfortable or stress-inducing thoughts that would come with the boredom. Obviously, this was not a healthy or productive strategy. In college, I switched to doodling for the distraction and leg bouncing for energy release; not exactly productive but at least not self-injurious.
Most of us were not taught directly and/or didn’t have anyone to model healthy ways to deal with stress and pain. This is one area where children in special education have an advantage. They are taught how to recognize the signs of painful, uncomfortable or stress-inducing emotions before they erupt.
For example, anger causes flushing of the skin, increased heart rate, and a tensing of muscles; anxiety causes a shortness of breath; and sadness causes heaviness in the body.*
They also engage in role-playing activities that prepare them for difficult situations, and learn techniques for defusing stress.
All children should learn this, if not at school then at home. (Calling All Parents!)
The mental health industry and the insurance companies have failed us by decreasing the number of sessions of therapy allowed and replacing this with pharmaceutical drugs. In other words, they are replacing talking and working through pain with masking/suppressing the pain with a pill. Currently, they are actually trying to classify grief as a mental illness so they can treat it with drugs as well.
I write this article for anyone who reads it, and for those of you who are parents,
so you can recognize your responsibility to pass this information on to your children, either directly or by example, so they can avoid the pitfalls we have fallen into.
My parents modeled isolation/escape and alcohol use as methods of coping; neither of which was productive.
Most addictions are just ways to avoid, numb, escape from, or suppress our pain, to feel something else or anything at all (if one is numb) and a few serve as comforting. Some of our addictions are actually self-medicating in that they release chemicals in our brain that make us feel better, like serotonin and dopamine, but it still serves as a means of avoiding our true feelings. Avoidance doesn’t promote healing; therefore, the pain will always stay with you although it may be suppressed or repressed (subconscious and held in the cells of your body).
The word ’emotion’ means energy in motion. The energy has to move. If it doesn’t move out through healing, it remains within the body and alerts you to its presence with dis-comfort, dis-order and dis-ease. Emotional pain needs to be healed in the mind and in the heart, and healing can only come about by working through it.
Painful or uncomfortable emotions, including sadness, fear, frustration and anger, are all significant sources of stress and we all know how unhealthy and unproductive stress is for our bodies, immune systems, relationships, and reactions/behavior.
Sadness/grief needs to be worked through and the loss associated needs to be accepted.
Fears need to be overcome.
Frustration needs to be addressed and released.
And anger needs to be recognized as a secondary emotion covering one or more of the other three, and then dealing with the source..
Timing may not allow for appropriate action at the onset of a stressful or painful situation, and when that happens, stress reduction is required. To me, managing and coping mean getting by; bearable. I’d like to propose that we do more than ‘get by’ in stressful or painful moments and then spend hours pursuing activities to manage chronic stress. I’d like to propose that we can learn, not only to not feel stressed by these moments, but that we can maximize those moments for the good of all involved, even if it’s only you. Therefore, I’d like to replace the term coping strategies with life maximizing strategies (LMS). I believe we can all become stress-resistant.
As you evolve your perceptions and beliefs, you will perceive situations and experiences differently, and therefore, will have less need for life maximizing strategies (LMS), but until then, let’s talk strategies.
So, there are two types of LMS: what to do in the moment and what to do when there is time to work through it so you can heal it.
In the Moment: Maximizing the Moment with LMS
- The best strategy I ever adopted was the belief that everything happens for a reason (EHFAR). Holding this belief allows one to seek meaning in all experiences perceived as bad, a problem, an obstacle, and even a tragedy. It allows you to explore the things within yourself that this opportunity is inviting to grow. Or it may be that you are being called upon to deliver love and/or healing.
The Chinese character for chaos is a combination of the characters for danger and opportunity. Only you can choose which one will weigh more in challenging situations. (Believing EHFAR allowed me to handle the loss the best job of my life with only a few moments of sadness.)
- Feelings of frustration, stress, panic, anger, fear, anxiety, pressure, and being overwhelmed, override ones ability to think clearly and respond rationally and may disrupt your breathing. (This is important to know for yourself and when dealing with others.) Conscious breathing or focusing on your breath will stop you from thinking and give the adrenaline-surge time to diminish, if already in it, or stop it from building, if caught at the start.
May I suggest breathing in through your nose and out slowly through your mouth, this increases your ability to focus on it, as it is not your natural way of breathing.
Also, try breathing into your heart.
If counterproductive thoughts keep intruding, replace them by:
- Thinking the word ‘in’ when you inhale and ‘out’ when you exhale.
- Repeating a pre-chosen affirmation or mantra, such as “I am calm.” “I am in control of my reactions.” Or “Everything happens for a reason.”
Using affirmations and mantras can redirect the mind to a more productive and healthy place. Create and carry with you a list that applies to each painful, uncomfortable or stress- inducing emotion and potential situation.
4. If you have faith in a higher power, asking for release of the painful or uncomfortable emotions, clarity of thought and the ability to see the situation with love (or from a higher perspective ) is a valuable option.
5. Aromatherapy can help calm you in stressful moment. Carrying a vial of lavender oil and breathing deeply from it will diminish most painful, uncomfortable or stress-inducing emotions. And yes, part of the reason it works is the conscious breathing.
6. If you can visualize, surround yourself with white light and breathe it in.
When There is Time to Heal
1. Therapy, sharing with a trusted friend and journaling are the best methods for healing, through self-expression. Talking and writing your concerns and feelings free them; it keeps them from getting locked in your body, your heart and/or your mind. Asking questions while trying to work through them in writing can access your connection to your higher self/universal consciousness/inner guidance. (I have always gotten an answer!)
2. If you feel like crying, cry. If you don’t, you are suppressing, which will lead to repressing and this will harm your body. Remember unresolved emotions will lodge in the body and cause illness, dis-order and/or dis-ease.
I always see people on TV apologizing for crying. Why do we feel the need to apologize for having feelings? Perhaps it’s the long standing belief (and teaching) that showing emotions is a sign of weakness. I consider signs of self-expression, authenticity and self-preservation.
3. Write letters to the party or parties involved (you can send them or not); either way, this is another productive method of self-expression and moving the emotions out.
4. Recognize the real cause of your painful, uncomfortable or stress-inducing emotions. Are you aware of all your fears? Are you aware of what triggers your frustration and anger? Are you aware that there are many different losses that must be grieved? (There are too many to go into here. I will provide a list at a later date. Contact me if you have questions.)
5. Reflect or meditate on the lesson or message embedded in this experience. What was it shining a light on so you could practice, learn or awaken? When you have adopted the belief that everything happens for a reason, this strategy will become one you can and will use in the moment.
Learning and applying these strategies will improve your responses to difficult situations, and lead to self-trust, in that you will be confident in your ability to deal with anything that happens.
Don’t let stress and pain ruin your life and relationships, and cause you chronic physical, mental and emotional dis-stress you may spend hours a week trying to minimize.
Return love to your mind, heart, spirit and body by becoming stress-resistant, I have! (Mostly!)
May you perceive and receive all your blessings.
With Much Love,
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