We’ve all been there: that perilous moment when we haven’t an idea what the heck we’re doing, where we’re headed and what do from that point. Life hands us all terrible news from time to time, and we’re forced to deal with it somehow to survive. There are practices in many different places around the world that seek to teach effective means for handling stress. Here’s some techniques I’ve learned to use when the world seems to be against me:
1. Stop Forcing It.
This is something I had to learn the hard way. I used to one of those people who will take a similar puzzle piece and jam it into a spot if I couldn’t find the correct one after a while. In other words, I had no patience. I rushed into things that intuition knew was wrong. Mentally, I was forcing myself into life my spirit didn’t agree with. Physically, I forced myself into routines, poses and places that injured me…and to some extent did permanent damage. I forced relationships and roles upon myself that didn’t match with who I truly am. My soul knew it. The universe knew it.
And so I was met with resistance. I was walking headlong through a wind-tunnel, wearing myself down, and eventually got blown backwards.
There’s a martial arts technique from Okinawan called Goju-ryu that deals with opposing forces. Soft should be met with hard force and vice versa. Attack straight on but then control the opposition with gentle, circular motions. Breathing techniques in yoga teach us not to stiffen during challenging poses but to exhale, releasing down into the earth. Dance does the same. Connecting to the breath instead of holding it in let’s you move naturally and find the nuances of the music, rather than forcing muscles to get into the proper place.
Or in the words of my father: “You can polish a turd, but it’s still a turd.”
2. Go with the Flow.
This was some of the best advice I ever received. Don’t resist the current, travel with it. When my uncle was alive, he advised me that if I was ever caught in a riptide not to panic. Swim parallel to the pull and gradually move yourself closer to the shore. Though the situation would be desperate and frightening, acting irrationally would only suck you further into the riptide’s grasp.
Like Number 1, swimming against the current is tiring. No one can tread forever.
It’s a very Taoist belief to let things fall into place. Living in sync with the rhythm of the world doesn’t mean you don’t get to beat your own drum. It means letting the world in to inspire your personal harmony.
3. Accept That it is What it is.
One of the lessons I needed to truly digest was that things happen that you can’t change. What matters is how you deal with those situations that arise. In the words of a respected professor of mine, “Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.” Lightly put, if something terrible happened, you should take a step back and reevaluate what exactly happened to make you feel the way you do. Make mistakes a move on. Don’t let things you have no control over control you.
Easier said than done. Trust me, I know. However, once you can learn to say, “It is what it is,” suddenly there is less weight on your shoulders.
Getting a job is hard. Losing weight is hard. Making friends is hard. But it is what it is. You might have done terribly on that qualifying test or failed at a dance audition. It is what it is. If you think about the experience with optimism and realize there was something gained in spite of not attaining your goal, you still get something out of it.
Learn from your mistakes. Accept what happened and move on.
4. Get Creative.
So I said, “If you want something, reach for it,” right? This doesn’t mean slavering after something unobtainable and unnecessary like a new iPhone. And no, you sadly cannot become a unicorn or mermaid. What you can do, however, is aspire to achieve the highest form of your Self. You do that through means unique only to you—a unique soul with its own abilities. Use your creativity to dig deep. What you might not think as “creative,” might just be that spark that ignites your true purpose.
Creativity just isn’t about being able to create paintings or technological innovations. A personal trainer might make a creative program for someone who gets bored easily. A therapist uses creativity to aid clients in seeing their issues through a new lens. Teachers have to be creative to be entertaining and engaging. Administrations need to constantly use their creative juices to not only lead those beneath them but to advise, offer insight and drive the business towards a successful future.
Just because one outlet didn’t exactly lead anywhere doesn’t mean another won’t. Keep churning your ideas inside your mind. Eventually, you’ll discover multiple pathways. The journey will be incredible.
5. Reevaluate your goals.
As you begin to see things in a different light and realize that maybe you were forcing yourself to fit a mold your soul was not called to fill, you might need to reevaluate your goals. For example, before I decided to move back to Japan and attempt for a second time at building a life here, I thought that maybe I could be happy elsewhere in America. I told myself that I didn’t need to live in Japan, that I didn’t need to work in gym or even write to be happy. I tried convincing myself that if I aimed for living in THIS place, doing THIS job—which is terribly rigid and disordered thinking already—I’d be all right.
But for me, that was denying the desires I went to bed thinking about each night. I wasn’t me if I wasn’t doing what my heart desired. I wasn’t happy because I wasn’t living where my soul had blossomed previously.
Once I realized that, I reevaluated my goals and realized how far I strayed from my original intention. Upon returning to that road, a world of opportunity opened up.
6. Do something relaxing or exciting.
I add this to the list because sometimes we get ourselves so submersed in work and life events that we forget how important it is just to be. Whether you relax or gone on an adventure, make sure that it is truly a salubrious activity. You might just need an hour’s soak in the bathtub surrounded by bubbles and candlelight. Another person might go to the bar with friends, have a beer and play billiards. Whatever makes you laugh, whatever reduces stress and helps you sleep better at night, that is what needs to be done instead of fretting over how something could have gone better.
Things gone amuck all the time. That’s life. Knowing how to deal with those events is something we glean through experience. No one can tell you exactly how overcome challenges, because everyone handles struggles individually. However, we all breath, we all believe in something, and we all have aspirations and dreams. Don’t force what isn’t working for you. Follow intuition once in a while, stay true to yourself, and you will find a way.