What a wild ride 2020 has been thus far. It’s easy to get caught up in all the craziness, and even worse, to lose yourself in it. But, I believe that being aware of yourself and your feelings is one of the most important things you can do to reduce stress levels and live a more purposeful life. Awareness means that no matter what life throws your way, you are better able to manage your reaction. You are better able to evaluate and process the emotions and feelings that come along with it. You are better able to think with the left — the more logical, analytical and rational — side of your brain.

That is what helps me reduce stress and what keeps me from getting all freaked out when life throws crap my way. It’s how I can check myself before I wreck myself.

So, how can you become more aware of yourself and also aware of the triggers that cause your stress level to rise off the charts, especially during crazy and uncertain times? Here are 5 ways to get you started.

  1. Acknowledge your feelings, but don’t react. Pause. Take 10 deep breaths. Most forms of meditation begin with focusing on, and appreciating the simplicity of inhaling and exhaling. Breathe in positive thoughts and exhale all the negative self-talk. It works. I promise. 
  2. Think about the event and what negative emotions and feelings were triggered in the first place, and why. Chances are it was because what was happening was not in alignment with your moral compass and your core values. So dig deep until you understand why those emotions and feelings were triggered.
  3. Learn to sift through all the information that comes your way — especially during uncertain, difficult and yes, even fearful times — so you can reel yourself back in, sort through the emotion, process it and make thoughtful decisions that are rational and reasonable based on your personal situation and what’s right for you.
  4. Go for a walk. Yes, it’s good for your physical health such as reducing heart rate and blood pressure, but research shows that getting outside in nature has many mental health benefits as well. Walking in nature has a calming effect which allows you to reflect and become more aware of your feelings and emotions without increasing anxiety.
  5. Accept yourself and your flaws. Face it. No one is perfect, so why should you strive to be? When you accept yourself and your flaws, you’ll stop comparing yourself to others, you’ll be more confident and you’ll start to feel good about yourself. All that helps manage anxiety and stress.

Once you take a few deep breaths, acknowledge the triggers, get some clarity and stop demanding perfection, you’ll be in a better frame of mind to make lemonade out of the lemons (or just plain crap) life is throwing at you. When you focus, you can approach any decision with a rational mind which helps to relieve stress and can stop a panic attack before it ever gets started. You’ll be more like the champion you were meant to be. 

This won’t happen overnight. It took many years and a lot of practice before I was able to take the first step, which is stop and acknowledge your feelings before you react. It’s a little like Mel Robbins’ 5-Second Rule where she counts backward from 5 to 1 before reacting. Her theory is that if you do not take action within 5 seconds, your brain will kill the instinct. At least it gives you enough time to kill the knee jerk reaction so you can think more logically. Makes sense to me, but it does take practice.Try it.

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