“Stress is caused by being ‘here’ but wanting to be ‘there’.”– Eckhart Tolle
“Anxiety is caused by a lack of control, organisation, preparation, and action.” – David Kekich
Goals are vital part of life, both personal and professional. Goals are different for different people and so is stress in achieving them. To a mountaineer, stress is the challenge of pushing physical resources to the limit of striving to achieve a demanding goal. To a student, it is the challenge to perform well in examination and to executives it is to withstand the competition and ambition of climbing up the ladder. To others it may be addressing different situations from managing work, to family and children.
Because everyone is driven by their goals, stress becomes a major and inevitable problem for many. Being exposed to stress over longer periods of time and without the necessary coping mechanisms can result in burnout and a state of physical, mental and emotional exhaustion. This further leads to feeling tired all the time, failure to meet the deadlines, inability to stick to your goals and experiences of phantom aches and pains. Your personal productivity can be affected if this stress is poorly managed.
Stress & goal-striving
Stress is the inability to cope with a real or imagined threat to your mental, physical and emotional well-being which results in a series of psychological responses and manifests into health issues. Stress occurs when one is driven by compulsion to achieve what you are expected to or want to achieve. In striving for your goals you compete with yourself or with others to compensate for what you believe is lacking. At some point, we become caricatures of who we think we should be as our lifestyles become more external and we are driven by others rather than by our judgement of what we truly need.
Stress and work pressure becomes inevitable and solution lies in active management of stress.
Stress-management & Being “in the zone”
It is important to realise that everything is not just about goal-striving. Doing your tasks in a good state of mind and with good health is more important. This can be achieved by being “ in the zone” with your tasks. In many aspects, managing your tasks to attain your goals is more concerned with fundamental issues of doing meaningful work, mindful living and psychological well-being. Being “in the zone” with your goals helps you organise, do outcome thinking, provides clarity, and thereby reduces stress.
Being “ in the zone”
If you are ‘in the zone’ with your goal, you get intrinsically motivated and perform your tasks without being stressed about an external reward. Those who all in zone experience less stress as they are clear about what to pay attention to and have a complete picture of their commitments.
Checking whether you are being ‘in the zone’ is a simple and systematic process and the process involves comprehended check of your present direction with reference to what you truly want. Willingness to introspect lets you rediscover yourself. This can help you in making choices which are in alignment with your goals. This can help you distinguish between those things that dissipate your energies and those that add up to help you build the life you want.
Take little time to ask yourself following:
What to achieve?
Majority of times, stress is caused by the following situations:
• You know what you want, and you don’t know how to get it; and/or
• You don’t know what you want.
Most of the times, we create and identify with things that aren’t yet real on all the levels we experience; and when we do, we recognise how to restructure our current efforts to that particular outcome. Once you know what to achieve, you begin to be ‘in the zone’ and will more or less do your task automatically. If you trust that something you will more or less do automatically will provide direction and reduces stress. Having clear goals help you make better decisions about what to pay attention to.
What’s your next line of action?
Plan your work. Creating a cause-&-effect link in your mind about your next action will result in clarity, productivity and empowerment. You can really define the right action when you know the outcome you are after. When you organise and make plans ahead of time and decide what actions will be carried out in which context, you will be able to bring your attention to the appropriate things at the right time. Identifying those things that need focused attention and planning your next action keeps your mind relaxed and in the zone.
Are you in flow ?
Flow is the state of optimal performance and engaging your attention in what you are doing. Focused attention intrinsically motivates you. It is necessary that your skills match the challenge at hand. If the challenge exceeds your requisite skill level, you will experience anxiety and if your skills exceed the challenge, you likely feel bored and your flow gets affected. Flow is the complete concentration on the given task. When you have clear goals in sight with the right skill set and concentration, your action merges with your awareness and will allow you to engage more fully in the task at hand and ensures forward engagement in your plan.
How to be “ in the zone”
• Focus on what is important. Break down your complex goals into smaller and manageable ones. Once you achieve the little, you can set your eyes on the whole. Always commit to realistic goals.
• Do not expect fast results and easy outcomes. This makes you stressed and irritable. Take a break if you feel like you are on the verge of losing your calm.
• Discipline yourself not to put off until tomorrow what you can do today. Accumulation of undone jobs take up room in the mind and limits your clarity and focus.
• Don’t compare. Remember to calibrate your goals based on your own skill set, intellect and aptitude.
• Do not look for external validation as it can cause discontentment. Your performance depends on your skill set and efficiency.
• Be organised and review your direction of what you are doing and check whether what you are achieving is what you truly want.
• Monitor your mental and emotional state through self-observation and meditation.
Little time spent on getting to know your authentic self and bringing yourself ‘in the zone’ with what you want to achieve helps you lessen your emotional baggage of fears, anxieties and limitations. Make a list of possible sources of stress and attend to the issues that are a source of stress at the current time and work towards managing it.
“Doing something that is productive is a great way to alleviate emotional stress. Get your mind doing something that is productive.”
– Ziggy Marley
It is in meditative awareness that we go beyond perception and experience inner state of well-being. Here is how to make meditation a way of life.
Each one of us wants to achieve our cherished goals or those which we think are within our reach. We are constantly running after them and other things which we think will make us happier. We end up stressful and discontent with our present state of existence and want to get rid of anything that limits us. Inspite of our ceaseless efforts, the peace,happiness and contentment constantly eludes most of us.
Well-being is accessible to each one of us and our thoughts and emotions are messengers of our inner state of well-being and the key to understand them is by gaining awareness.
Meditation readies us to deal with your thoughts. It helps you gain awareness, teaches you to observe, identify and respond to these underlying emotions and thoughts in a constructive way, rather than recoil or react impulsively.
Making meditation a way of life allows you to see each thought as a messenger with information on how to respond in a way that helps you feel in harmony with yourself and world around you. Your negative notions start to fade, instead of chasing you and wearing you down.
Essence of Meditation
Meditation is a simple practice that requires commitment to stay fully aware of the present moment. Welcoming each moment keeps you connected with yourself and others. In fact, the essence of mindfulness of meditation is paying attention. In every day life we rarely pay full attention to anything, whereas if we set aside a time for meditation, you commit yourself in paying full attention.
By paying attention to the present moment, you can understand the mechanics of the mind. The present moment is sometimes unacceptable and unpleasant. Because of this many of us experience a kind of resistance during the meditation process. This resistance is born out of our inability to accept the moment as it is. A state of well-being cannot be achieved by suppressing all thoughts and emotions. It can be achieved by becoming mindful of everything that arises in your awareness and by observing and accepting thoughts, emotions and physical sensations as they arise without judgment or expectation. This process helps you to step out of your resistance patterns.
Staying connected to your experiences helps you to acknowledge your unchanging inner self which can be tapped into anywhere and anytime.
Here are some insights that you can include in your meditation practices. Each of these insights can be practiced individually or you can apply them all together, sequentially into your meditation practice.
Set firm intentions
Meditating with right intentions develops focus, determination, patience, and perseverance. Intentions are agreements you make with yourself and then express through your actions in your daily activities. if you don’t set firm intentions, you will eventually find yourself wandering and might lose sight of the reason you are meditating.
Intentions set can be small or large. Aim is to discover your genuine intentions and affirm those with certainty in your meditation practice. Express each intention in small phrases in present tense as if it is true. This enables your subconscious mind to register them as actualities. Resolutely follow and affirm your intentions for they enable you to overcome all trials and suffering.
Tap into the feeling of being
Everyday distractions keeps you away from experiencing the joy of simply being. Practice meditation not to become whole, but to connect to your existing wholeness. Realise that wholeness is your birth right and you are more than a limited individual.
Just being is a familiar feeling that you have always known, although you may have ignored it until now. Notice how, when you are simply being, you are perfect just as you are. Affirm your intention to experience the feeling of being. With a regular practice, you can learn to connect to your existing wholeness amidst your daily life. During the practice, simply experience the presence and aliveness of being. Staying focused on the sensation of being slows your thinking and eventually turns off negative thoughts.
Connect to something bigger
Meditation helps us to get in touch with universal life force that connects us all. During the practice learn to align with this force. This connection with bigger force results in a state of well-being. With an expansive mind, you are not narrowly focused on how things should be and on other small desires, but will be able to see those as part of bigger picture.
Connecting to and experiencing the universal life force enhances concentration and your present opens up to infinite possibilities. This enables you to interact and respond rather than contract and react. The expansiveness of mind gives a meaning and purpose to your life.
Practice mindful breathing
Taking hold of your breath builds concentration. Meditating on your breathing is a natural and extremely effective tool to prevent dispersion and enables you to release obsessive thinking. Observing and following breath exhalations and inhalations enhances your ability to sense and respond to the information your body is sending.
Awareness of your breathing patterns allows you to make changes where required to maintain equilibrium. You can continue to do so while walking, sitting or when you are outdoors. You can also practice to count your number of inhalations and exhalations to develop focused attention and concentration. When you recognise you are distracted, gently bring back your attention back to your breath. Breath-counting helps you to maintain a single- pointed focus.
Meditating on your feelings and thoughts makes you stay calm, grounded, and healthy. There can be many disharmonious, negative, and disturbing thoughts that arise during the process. Meditate focusing on them. When such strong feelings arise, refusing to accept and labelling them as enemies will only make them come back more strongly as if they are here to convey important information.
You need to welcome and experience emotions both negative and positive. Know that they are not your enemies but are just seeking your attention. Learn to observe and respond instead of reacting. By focusing on every thought and its opposite, anxiety, fear, and self- judgements no longer control your life. You can no longer remain a hostage to your negative emotions.
Welcome feelings of joy
Joy is an essential emotion which is already within us, waiting to be experienced no matter what the outside circumstances may be. But many of us believe that it only comes by material possessions or achieving a particular outcome. We keep searching for it outside in objects, relationships, and other experiences. When you deny the feelings of joy which is a natural phenomenon, you lose life’s meaning and its purpose.
During meditation, welcoming the feelings of joy also brings with them its opposite. Experiencing both joy and its opposite makes you realise how stressful the opposite is and how it affects your body and mind. When it feels right, release the stressful thought and let joy radiate through you. This can unearth unchanging feelings of joy irrespective of the circumstances thereby reducing the perceptions of pain, anxiety, and depression.
Contemplate on interdependence
Meditating on the interdependent nature the universe makes you realise that everything is a part of an interconnected wholeness. We normally see reality in compartments and make boundaries around ourselves. Because of this we are unable to see the interdependent nature of the world we live in. We are connected and not separate in our suffering and in our desire to be happy.
When you live the sufferings and joy of others, you start to realise the impermanence of the universe and can strengthen the positive emotions of gratitude and compassion. Experience yourself as a unique expression of life, interconnected with the Universe.
Finally, Regular practice of meditation helps you to attain an ideal state of mind. A well disciplined and controlled mind is necessary for various aspects of well-being. Nourish your intention of making meditation a daily practice.
Nourish your intention to make the practice of meditation your own. Be patient with yourself and perseverant and you will be able to notice small changes right away.