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January 8, 2015
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How To Reduce Stress, See The World And Save Time

Driving in the car with my husband, Marty, has always been a point of contention between us.

Simply put, I never feel comfortable.

He’s quite an aggressive driver. He merges far too close to other cars and just loves being a bumper away from the car in front.

To add insult to injury? My depth perception is shot. I had cataract surgery not long ago and my natural lens was replaced. So, I find myself white-knuckled and reaching for any handle I can get hold of.

Marty is a sales rep. He spends a lot of time in the car on his own – about 40,000 miles a year – so seeing me wincing next to him drives him crazy. Mostly because he has a perfect track record and has never had an accident.

But, even knowing that, I’m always sat shotgun with jolted nerves and a fear that the worst is going to happen.

So, when we drove to dinner the other night, we weren’t much more than a mile in before everything started to tense up. I did my usual trick of grabbing the handle and fixating on the road for the impending accident.

Out of the corner of my eye though, I saw the most beautiful sight. The sun was setting. The sky was filled with the most beautiful colours: deep pinks, yellows and oranges – all perfectly reflecting off the clouds.

Then, something hit me – just keep looking at that beautiful sky.

Don’t look back to the road. Don’t pay attention to anything that’s going on in front of you. Just relax, watch the sky and forget about it.

I normally couldn’t do this. I’d say things like, ‘Hey, do you see that runner?!’ or ‘Slow down, Marty!’ over and over again. This time something inside me told me that I needed to do it. So, I did.

It felt peaceful, scary and exhilarating all at the same time. But I put all my faith in Marty to get us to the restaurant in one piece, which he did, and always has done.

The Fear Is Always Worse Than The Reality

How often have you found yourself in a similar situation…

  •    Worrying about something that never actually happens?
  •    Scared by something, despite all of the facts?
  •    Telling yourself a story of something terrible, even though a part of you knows it won’t happen?

Even though I’d been in the car with Marty hundreds of times before – and never once died – It still scared me. And you’ve probably had something truly similar, right?

The fear of a situation is always worse the reality.

When you’re scared you think about what could go wrong over and over again. Then your imagination kicks in.

Picture this; it’s the day before you’re about to start a new job. You know nobody in the new office and you’re not sure what it’s going to be like. So, you begin to

think about the scary parts:

What are the people going to be like?

What should I wear?

Is the job going to be hard?

After you’ve thought about them a couple of times, they eventually become:

What if they don’t like me?

What if I look stupid?

What If I’m not good at the job?

In your minds eye it begins to become this horrible, stressful place where nobody likes you, you’re not fashionable enough and everyone frowns at your lack of skills.

When, in reality, it’s just going to be your average first day at the office.

You’ve probably done this lots of times in your life. Heck, you might even be doing it about a situation right now. But, here’s the thing…

There’s a big beautiful world around you. And when you focus on things like this: the scary, stressful or overwhelming parts of your day, you miss it.

Learn To Enjoy The Ride

Most of the stressful and scary parts of your life are out of your control. Just like being the passengers in a car. You can shout and scream all you want, but nothing you do is going to make you the driver.

When you realize this it becomes a lot easier to just let go and enjoy the ride.

And when you enjoy the ride, you can embrace all of the beauty in the world around you: that beautiful sky, a mother teaching her child to ride a bike and the birds singing in the trees.

After all, isn’t that what life is really all about?

Time Is Precious – So Use It Wisely

Time is your most valuable currency. And you spend it every second you’re alive.

If you waste it, no money in the world can get that time back. Not even Warren Buffett or Bill Gates could possibly buy a single second.

I mean, how many times have you come out from a bad movie and said, “Well, there’s two hours of my life I won’t be getting back!” – probably more than you care to admit.

The same goes for when you’re sat there, stressing out about those little tiresome parts of life: paying bills, getting your kids to basketball and just how bad tomorrow’s work day is going to be.

Instead wouldn’t it be better for you to spend that time enjoying the beauty in life?

Five minutes admiring a beautiful sunset is going to do a lot more for you than 30 minutes of worrying about your electricity bills.

So, let’s take some time now to look at how you can make this change in your life. How you can stop focusing on the stressful and scary parts of your life, and how you can begin to admire the world around you.

Trust, Faith And Being In The Moment

For the next few minutes I want you to take a look at yourself and some of your past. Which means you’re probably going to need a pen and paper (or at least an online program like Evernote).

Need to get one? Okay, go on. I’ll wait…

…Back? Brilliant. Let’s get going then.

Trust And Faith

Firstly, we’re going to work on having trust and faith in the moment.

Write down three or four different situations where you thought the outcome was going to be bad, but it was actually good.

 

These are times where you wasted a lot of time focusing on the negative, when there was really a positive to be found.

For example, you’re called to your manager’s office at work. You went in thinking you were going to get yelled at. But you were actually given a pay rise.

 

Or that you went for a job interview. You thought you absolutely bombed. You replay the conversation over and over in your head for days. Thinking of every possible dumb thing that you said. And then, you get a phone call offering you the job.

I want you to really get to the bottom of the situation and reinforce all the good that came from it, so analyse the situation deeply:

  •      How did it feel?
  •      What did you learn?
  •      What was important about the situation?
  •      What did you take away from it?
  •      What did it teach you about yourself?

Do this for all of the situations you’ve chosen, and then move onto the next section.

Being In The Moment

Now you’re going to set yourself some tasks for being in the moment. You might have heard this called Mindfulness in other places too.

Basically, you’re going to choose a part of your everyday life and focus on it until it’s over. I’ll show you how in a second, but let’s choose a task first. Try choosing from one of these (or pick one of your own):

  •      Washing your hair
  •      Eating a meal
  •      Drinking a coffee
  •      Walking the dog

Let’s look at washing your hair as an example.

Usually when I’m washing my hair, it’s in the shower before I get the kids to school. This means my head is usually cluttered thinking, “Did they do their homework?”, “What should I make for breakfast” or “Shoot, I overslept, crapcrapcrap”.

It’s probably much the same for you too. My point is, when you’re doing any number of these things your mind is elsewhere.

It’s time to bring it back to the moment.

When you’re washing your hair, focus on everything that happens when you wash your hair: Fingers running along your scalp, soap suds on your face, the relaxing feel of hot water running down your neck.

Think of nothing else but what it is you’re doing. Be fully in the moment. If your mind begins to wander – much like meditation – always bring it back to the feel of what you’re doing.

Now, It’s Your Turn.

I want to hear from you about what you’ve done. What moments in your life did you choose? Which daily task were you mindful in?

 

Let me know in the comments section, I’d love to hear all about it.