Did you know that stress is public enemy #1? The culprit is unhealthy stress, and it seems to kill millions of people prematurely. America has successfully reversed life expectancy for several years in a row, and it’s time to join millions of people taking a strong stand against unhealthy stress.
This article reveals a few of the cold, hard facts about stress. You’ll also discover six healthy habits to help you transform your life. Remember, certain kinds of stress like goal setting, training, studying, and exercise are examples of healthy stress. We’re here to focus on ways to stay fit even if you’re under extreme stress right now.
Most of us know the stress of losing someone we love, dealing with a significant illness, losing a job or small business, moving homes, losing a home, getting a divorce, and even starting and managing a demanding career or business. Most people agree stress is at an all-time high. As a result, millions of people seek a better connection to nature and meaningful ways to live and work with purpose.
Why take a healthy stand against the stress we know is killing millions of us? Because I let the stress of being a business owner, father, husband, and legend in my mind crush me in my early forties. In my darkest hour, I had a moment of clarity, and it sounded something like, “Cliff, it’s time to change. It’s time to surrender and ask for help. You’re lost, broke, broken, and struggling to deal with your biggest fears and demons. There’s a better way. Start now. Follow people who have what you want; inner peace and clarity.”
Since then, I’ve learned to practice the healthy habits I share with you, and these habits changed my life, and I’ll never stop. I’m adamant about my stand against unhealthy stress because of my experience and the following facts:
- Stress causes over 60% of all major illnesses and diseases.
- 3 out of 4 doctor visits result from symptoms from stress.
- American organizations lose more than $300 billion due to stress.
Cultivate Your Awareness
The first of six healthy habits I’ll share with you is about helping you cultivate your awareness. Everyone has awareness. You’re aware you’re reading my article, as one example.
Once you know you have awareness, you can cultivate more of it by practicing. If you develop your awareness by practicing these and other healthy habits, including proper nutrition, hydration, and sleep, you’ll change for the better. Maybe one day you’ll be able to say, “I changed my life for the better.”
I recently came across an article in the Wall Street Journal that did a great job describing almost precisely the habits that made the most significant difference for me over the years. Remember, lighten up on yourself. Chances are you’re the worst critic you have. The self-critical voice within all of us is the very thing we seek to tame as we learn to be more mindfully aware of our awareness.
Steps to Take
Take baby steps with these habits. Remain willing even when self-doubt creeps in. And if you suffer criticism from others as you practice and change, pray for them, for they know not. Practice kindness, grace, compassion, forgiveness, and mercy. Watch what happens. Everything that happens in your life reflects what’s within your mind and body.
- Accept what is. Liberty is losing all attachments that become a drag. If you want to be free, let go of attachments. Accept what is even when you don’t like it. Wisdom is letting go of control which can be one of the most toxic delusions we suffer. Let go of control, seeking the approval of others, or worrying. Instead, shift your mind to a higher level. Most of us call this God. I’ve found great joy in The Serenity Prayer; “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.” Acceptance sets you free because you’re not attached to controlling people, places, or things.
- Slow down, breathe. There are lots of ways to slow down the pace of work and life. One of the easiest is to practice the breath of life. Most of us don’t think about our breathing because it just happens. When we become conscious of the breath of life, we automatically slow down, take in a full belly of fresh air, hold it mildly, and exhale through our nose, ideally. Nose breathing has massive health benefits based on my research and direct experience as a competitive athlete.
- Create a mindful mantra. There is significant power in the words we choose to think about and use. Choose wisely. A mantra is a conscious (aware) way of using a short phrase or keyword to take your busy mind off the busyness that consumes us. Create a simple, meaningful, mindful mantra for yourself and practice it all day long. It helps you get out of your way, if that makes sense.
- Distance yourself from your self-critical voice. For most of us, the left brain is the hemisphere from which the self-critical voice tells us we’re not good enough, rich enough, beautiful, or young enough. Enough already! We’re enough as soon as we see, feel, and trust that we are enough right here and now. The way to distance yourself from this destructive little voice is to observe it. Talk to it. Recognize it as a sudden pain in your body, welcome it, don’t resist it, and let it go. Thoughts are energy. You create these thoughts. Now you can tell the negative thoughts to move on.
- Reconnect with your core values. If you feel like your soul is dying when you go to work, maybe it’s time to do some work on yourself. If you work in a job that does not align with your core values, that’s typically the way to crush your soul.
In conclusion, being more mindful means knowing how your conscious and unconscious minds work in tandem. When stress goes from good to bad, meaning you experience the physical, emotional, and other symptoms of stress, you have a conscious decision to make. Hopefully, you now feel more aware of the risks that stress can carry and how to practice at least six healthy habits mindfully throughout every day for the rest of your life.
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