OPENING THE VAULT
As most of you regular readers know, I recently returned from a successful trip to Germany — successful in the fact that not only did I NOT die, I actually managed to enjoy myself. This disproves the old adage, demonstrating that and old dog can indeed learn new tricks. I discovered a lot of things about myself on the trip, and one of those discoveries was that I could actually relax. This is a new feeling for me, and it has taken all or most of my life to get to this point. But this journey was not without a lot of hard work. And now, as promised, I will share some of my tips (which you can easily adapt to yourself for equally-amazing results).
I decided to lump these two things together because of their similarities rather than differences. I will not be advocating any of the methods I present today, other than saying that “this is what I do — do whatever works best for you.”
We all have a pretty good idea of what prayer is all about. I believe that it is intensely personal. And no matter what your beliefs are, I think it is a good idea to organize your thoughts that way. It will show you what your fears are and what you wish to happen. You will visualize a positive outcome, and that is valuable.
Meditation is very similar to prayer. In fact, some might say it’s the same thing, since both are, for the most part, internal. I do meditate regularly, and find it very helpful toward getting me to relax. And when I encounter a stressful situation, I can block the negative input, “go within myself,” and emerge able to cope. It does work. On my recent trip, I loaded several “meditation tapes” onto my music device, just in case I needed them while I was away. It turns out I didn’t. I was able to “go within myself” all on my own.
This is different from prayer and meditation in that it is a powerful, immediate tool, and can be internal or external. Self-talk is more like “coaching yourself” through difficult moments with all sorts of “you can do it” type sentences. It is designed to boost your courage and confidence. Some may find this silly, but I don’t. The only drawback is that, if you like to self-talk out loud and have a very loud voice, people might think you’re a bit nuts. Then again, who isn’t a bit nuts?
Positive visualization is a method of dealing with stress or other important events ahead of when they happen. In this method, you try to imagine the event happening, and occurring in the way that you want. Athletes have been using this for many years. They visualize themselves winning. In a sense, all of these methods are connected and overlap. This is a good thing because it shows you there are many things to try if something doesn’t work for you, and that by using several methods, you become even stronger than you ever imagined you could be.
This method of dealing with stress, fear and anxiety might feel a lot like “complaining,” but it is actually different. By using your support system (family, friends, counselors, etc) you can rid yourself of fear by speaking about them out loud. If you are afraid of something, it doesn’t help to keep that fear bottled up inside you. Ignoring it won’t make it go away. By explaining to others what you go through, you will be shedding light on your fear. You will weaken it by accepting it. And you may even discover ways to cope with it by verbalizing about it. (Just don’t whine too much. People get tired of that).
There are other tools we can use that come from places not inside ourselves or others. One of these is medicine. I don’t plan on recommending anything, though. That decision should be between you and a professional. There are over-the-counter aids that some people claim help them with an uneasy stomach or the like. Ginger is said to be good for motion sickness (though I never had much luck with it) and peppermint can calm a restless stomach (works better for me). Also, if you tend to be the type of person who produces a lot of stomach acid due to anxiety, keeping your tummy half-full with bread or crackers can help by absorbing the acid. This also works for me.
By implementing these techniques, you will find yourself able to break old habits. Negative thoughts will start to disappear. The spiral of anxiety will slow down or start to go away. You will find yourself better able to “go with the flow” of life. This means abandoning things such as” I have to eat by a certain time or else I won’t be able to cope” or “what if I am late and miss the bus?” or “will I find any food I can eat?” It takes time. It takes practice. But it does work.
Several times on my trip I asked myself “what is going on?” I felt different somehow. The different was that I felt relaxed, and that was a new feeling for me. People noticed. People commented. And I loved it.
The bottom line is this: if I can do this, so can you!