Eight Steps for Busting Stress
For most of us, stress is a way of life. Any bad news sends adrenal and cortisol coursing through our veins. Our hearts race. Our blood pressure rises. Suddenly we’re speaking sharply to friends, loved ones, and even to ourselves.
It’s a constant cycle… but there’s a way out. No matter what challenges you are facing, the power to shift is embedded within you. Unlock it and you will set yourself free.
Before we get to the Eight Steps for Busting Stress, let me share my healing journey. I was a broadcast news correspondent, a career that gave me a profound sense of worth. Ultimately, I was reporting from the front lines of the Gulf War, Afghanistan, Africa, Latin America and beyond.
But for the last seven years of my career I had a deep secret. I cracked the lowest vertebra in my back when I fell from a ledge during a tropical storm. Petrified of losing my career, I masked the pain with medications and alcohol and pushed forward. In 1993, on assignment in Asia, the crack split open. I had emergency back surgery. It failed. I was declared permanently disabled and confined to life in a body brace.
The emotional pain cut the deepest. I had lost my identity. Life seemed worthless. For the next four years I drank and drugged more as I mastered the emotions of stress. Then my only child was born. Three months later I was diagnosed with Stage IV cancer and given only two years. I got darker. Drank and drugged more. I pushed everyone out of my world, except my boy. Then, as he turned two, he whispered three words that rocked my soul: “Get up, Daddy.”
It whirled through my mind as the year 2000 dawned. How could I get up? I was broken, dying. I finally checked into rehab in hopes of dying with some dignity. Crawling out of that experience, I was invited into an experimental mind/body pain clinic. The very first day I realized I had to completely remake myself. One month later, I began therapeutic yoga. My jaded, cynical ego scoffed at it. A deeper voice inside me screamed, “This is it!” A few weeks later the clinic closed for lack of funding. I went home and built a yoga room, practicing every day: reading ancient texts, exploring asana, pranayama, meditation, fasting, veganism and intense purifications.
This slowly changed my inner chemistry of stress into an alchemy of healing. After two years, the pain subsided. Cancer departed. Daddy got up. Through this journey, I realized that while suffering is inevitable, stressing out is a choice that becomes an addiction. I also learned that we all have an inner power to heal.
These simple eight steps can help you unlock your inner power and bust stress every day.
1. Softly Close Your Eyes
This simple act is a transition to internal awareness. Notice what it feels like inside of you.
2. Connect With Your Breath
Breathe more deeply and fully, visualizing every in-breath as an empowerment and affirmation, every out-breath as a healing release.
3. Feel Your Body
Experience your body as a sacred vessel always seeking to support you. Send your breath to all its outer edges, flood all its inner space.
4. Notice Mother Earth
Notice how Mother Earth fully supports you as you sit in this meditation. Feel her in every cell of your body.
5. Still Your Mind
Begin to silently chant, “I am calm and relaxed.” This is like a yoga pose for the mind. “I am calm and relaxed.”
6. Enter Your Heart
Visualize your awareness flowing to your heart center, as if there is a golden flame right behind your breastbone that illuminates you. Breath into that light, feeling more radiant in every breath.
7. Be Fully Present
Slip fully into the present moment: In your body, in your breath, in the palms of Mother Earth, in the light of your heart. “I am calm and relaxed.”
8. Remember Who You Are
Remember that you are the master of your destiny, that you have a choice in every situation. “I am calm and relaxed.”
In this state of awareness, ask yourself, “How can I accept whatever challenge I am facing and act skillfully rather than reacting stressfully?” Your deeper self-will inevitably give you an answer. Embrace it immediately, “I am calm and relaxed.”
Remind yourself that suffering is inevitable. Your response is a choice. Make the conscious choice. Notice how things work out now that you have chosen a better course of action.
Bhava Ram is the author of the memoir Warrior Pose: How Yoga Literally Saved My Life. He and his wife, Laura Plumb, are founders of the Deep Yoga School of Healing Arts, based in San Diego, where they train yoga teachers and Vedic therapists. Ram teaches, lectures and leads retreats worldwide. www.bhavaram.com. Read more about Bhava below in his author credit.