Part two of a four part series
Confident people love their bodies and offer themselves basic tools for success.
When you feel worried and stressed out, let's face it; it is much harder to think reasonably. Remember the old “I wish I had a dollar for every time…” saying? Here's one of mine: I wish I had a dollar for every time someone was feeling freaked out with anxiety and looking for a magic bullet or heavy drug to help them calm while neglecting their best resource – to simply care for their body.
I believe people fall into this trap of neglect for a couple of reasons. I have done it myself. When we are in a state of hyperarousal caused by stress, the simple, basic steps to true relief feel trivial and insignificant. The protective parts of our personality look for the “big guns” to feel better. Also, when we are panicky or irritable and anxious, we may feel so angry with ourselves, including our bodies, that we imagine we are unworthy of good self care.
“Why would I even want to take better care of myself? It hasn’t worked so far.”
It is so easy to fall into this dangerous cycle that leads to more worry. Let’s break it down.
Thoughts: I am stressed and anxious. Help! How can I get away from this feeling?
Typical behavior: Stay super busy. Think about everything you have to do even if you don’t do it. Stay up late trying to either get things done or procrastinating. Skip meals because you’re too busy. Focus on everything that is bothering you.
Thoughts: I have way too much and I will never get done. I am tired and deserve a break.
Typical behavior: Reach for something that offers immediate “relief” like alcohol or drugs, video games, online shopping, binging Netflix, junk food or other distractor.
Thoughts: I feel shame. I hate my body, myself. I waste so much time. I feel even more stressed and anxious.
And the cycle continues.
Without clarity and leadership on the inside, everything on the outside of your life falls apart.
Do you have to be perfect? No! But when you are feeling worried and stressed, you need to secure your body’s foundation by looking at what gives the body its integrity and sense of safety. This is rooting to rise as I discussed in part one of this series. The body requires adequate sleep, good nutrition, movement and fresh air. In times of stress and anxiety when we lack self-confidence, addressing basic physical needs is more, not less, important.
Small improvements in personal care provided by you in a wise and loving manner are the first step to overcome anxious living.
When the body has healthy doses of these basics, it functions well and best of all, it trusts you. And when the body trusts you as a source of care, consciousness and wisdom, each day you will feel a little more confident.
I’ve created a blueprint for you to use when you feel stressed out, lost, worried or anxious. You’ll recognize some of these recommendations from kindergarten class, where we learn all of the important stuff! However, do not belittle or take these suggestions for granted. They are your first step toward living a more confident, satisfying life.
At the first signs of stress or panic, breathe and notice your body. This is not the same as gulping in air just to move on to the next thing. Send your awareness into your body with your breath. Close your eyes if it helps.
Begin by looking at the next 24 hours from your body’s perspective. As you create this new calendar, remove yourself from the expectations of the rest of the world. Just consider your body for now.
Rest and Repair.
- It is important that your stressed body is allowed to lie down in the dark for about eight hours (give or take an hour) to rest and repair. If you believe your body does not consistently need this time, this may be a fundamental source of anxiety you are missing. As one of my young clients loves to say, “You are not special.” You are human like everyone else. Avoid making excuses for why you cannot get this rest. Imagine a dead plant making excuses for why it never needs water.
- Once you have determined your sleep hours, mark them in your calendar or create phone or sticky note reminders. Dedicate this tie to your sleep. For example: I will be in bed between 10:00 pm and 6:00 am (or 1:00 am to 9:00 am, etc. depending upon your work schedule). Some times of day are frankly better for sleep, but if your work does not allow this, for now, concentrate on getting eight.
Feed your body well.
- Make sure that you are providing your body healthy food in moderate quantities adjusted for comfort over your waking hours. Remember, this process is for calming worry by establishing a trusting relationship between you and your biological body. This is not a time to start a new diet or fast. You don't want to add stress. Again, just like you did with sleep, schedule your foods to follow a three or four meal schedule adding in water and light snack breaks to keep your body comfortable (not overly hungry or full). Remove foods and drinks that contain a lot of chemicals your body doesn’t naturally recognize. Add foods that are simple, delicious and soothing. Avoid caffeine and sugar, but do not worry about being a purist now. The most important thing is to show your body that it can trust you to feed it in a healthy way.
- Notice what foods are easily available to you at home or work. Do you have some healthy vegetables, fruits, proteins and enough water? Are your snacks filling, natural and actually food rather than a mass of processed chemicals? Make a plan to get a few healthy options to eat for at least the next 24 hours. Consider what makes you feel healthy and tastes delicious. If you are lost about healthy options, there are plenty of online resources to help you. I like loveandlemons.com or forksoverknives.com. There are tons, though. Just get a rough idea to start and a few foods to begin.
Move your body.
- As you look at the next 24 hours, are you mostly mobile or sedentary? Relax, this is not a time to start running marathons. However, I’m suggesting that you simply notice how often your body gets to enjoy movement and if these movements are varied. You may have a very active schedule that keeps you running all day but never affords time to stretch or rest. You may be seated in a car or office all day and need to move more overall. Check in with your body. What would feel just a bit better?
- Look at the small physical shifts your body needs in the next 24 hours. These may include but are not limited to: taking short walk breaks to literally shake your legs; moving your spine with gentle side bends, twists, arches and forward folds; resting with your back on the floor and your legs up the wall, dancing to your favorite song. What is your body missing and what feels right when you pay attention? Add an attainable amount of these changes in small increments to your waking hours. Set an alarm and make them happen. Trust yourself, breathe and just move gently.
- We are humans living on the earth. When we forget this fact, we suffer. As you look at the next 24, notice when you will be outside and where you will be. Some days my “outside” time is only in the car. While the view may be lovely, it really doesn’t cut it for calming my stress. If this is true for you, look at how, if and when you are spending time outside.
- Perhaps you work outside all day, if so, notice if you are present to the air and any nature around you. If you live mostly indoors, set aside any small moments to be outside with awareness. Even if you feel silly, being outside is so good for your stressed nervous system. Notice that tree in your office lawn; touch it and see if there is anything living in or around it. Get your feet in the grass; feel the warmth or cool of the earth. Breathe the air and imagine being in the clouds. Walking to your car in the city? Find any evidence of life and take it in. There are a million ways to connect with nature. Nature reminds us that we are held and nourished. Nature offers perspective and beauty. Don’t short yourself of this essential secret.
No matter what creates stress in your daily living, these basics will help you.
Each day you can repeat your 24 hour plan. You can return to it when you lose your way. With time, these forgotten natural secrets will feel natural again. Your body will regain trust in you, and as your mind perceives this trust, you will feel more confident and capable in all you do.
For more help on your way to being a confident, joyful person, check out my book, Calm Your Worries: Unlock Your Secret Code to Lasting Stress Relief and Self-Confidence.