by Eileen Campbell
All of us want to flourish – to live a life that makes us feel happy and fulfilled and be the best we can be.
Yet it’s hardly surprising that in today’s world many of us end up suffering from anxiety and stress. To start with, there’s the endless stream of news stories percolating through the media reminding us of how dysfunctional our society is, whether it’s the latest bombing or a mass shooting, an epic man-made environmental disaster, or yet another downturn in the economy – there’s always bad news of some sort (after all that’s what the media thrives on!), and it’s hard to avoid it.
Then there’s the sheer pace of life today. It’s hectic, and we struggle to keep up with a huge array of tasks and commitments. Our heads spin with information, and we’re on a tread-mill with our consumer lifestyle – both consequences of the material progress we’ve made in the last decades.
As women we’ve ended up juggling careers, home, children, and relationships, whether with our significant other, our parents or our friends and neighbours; we’re short on time and leisure; and definitely lacking in the sleep department. We keep on keeping on. We say we’re fine, whilst we frantically multi-task and try to cope. But heck, this isn’t flourishing!
Deep down we know this. In our heart of hearts we suspect there has to be a better way of living our lives. We also know that sooner or later chronic stress and anxiety are bad for us and can result in burnout. Serious mental and physical problems can ensue. One in four of us will experience depression of some kind at some point in our lifetime. Insomnia, adrenal depletion, heart disease, poor immune function and memory problems are all possible consequences too. The stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline increase our heart rate, blood pressure and blood sugar levels, which is all well and good if we happen come across a lion in the street, but as a constant reaction to everyday events and circumstances it’s disastrous for our health and well-being.
So how can we best deal with stress and take back control of our lives so that we can actually flourish? There are a number of things which help, but the most important one is to stop, slow down, and focus on ourselves. Self-care isn’t a luxury. It’s essential! As women we’re often programmed to care for others rather than ourselves, but the best way of caring for others is to make sure we look after ourselves first.
We have to be disciplined enough to create space for ourselves every single day, no matter how busy we think we are. Thirty minutes is sufficient, and we can choose to do something just for ourselves. We might want to go for a walk in the park and smell the roses, or enjoy a bicycle ride, or do some yoga, or tai chi. We may feel we want to simply relax and do absolutely nothing, but it’s usually helpful to have a focus to stop the mind chatter.
We might want to do something creative like drawing, sewing, reading a poem, writing in a journal, or playing a musical instrument. If we can take a little more time for ourselves, then having a massage is wonderfully therapeutic. One of the best things we can do, however, is to practise mindfulness or meditation, both proven to lower anxiety and stress.
It doesn’t matter too much what we choose, but we need to find that time on a regular basis to switch off from the constant activity and stimulation that we’re caught up in, and focus on ourselves. When we do take the time, something shifts.
What shifts is our perspective. We begin to rethink our priorities and make changes. Taking time for ourselves becomes our top priority. We may want to work with affirmations and cultivate more positive emotions. We may well find that we want to increase the amount of time we set aside each day. Our strength and confidence grows and we become more effective, feel more connected, and are more able to withstand life’s challenges. Flourishing will become second nature!
Eileen Campbell is a writer of inspirational books, including a successful series of anthologies described by the media as “treasures of timeless wisdom,” which sold collectively around 250,000 copies. She has studied with a variety of teachers from different traditions and brings a wealth of knowledge and life experience to her books. She is known for her pioneering and visionary career as a self-help and spirituality publishers, and has also written and presented for BBC Radio 2 and 4. She currently devotes her energies to yoga, writing, and gardening. She lives in England. Visit her at http://www.eileencampbellbooks.com.