Today I’d like to share with you two practices to combat anxiety and stress. Do them on the spot if you find yourself stressed, but even more important, add them to your morning routine to prevent yourself from getting stressed in the first place.
Practice #1: Remember who you are
By “who you are,” I don’t mean cisgender or non-cisgender, HSP or non-HSP, Irish or South African, Buddhist or Baha’i. I mean your bigger Self. You can touch this Self in many ways, but the quickest way I know is to breathe into your heart.
This heart breath is very simple. Just follow these steps:
- Get quiet, and begin to slow down your breathing
- As you continue to breathe in and out in a relaxed way, direct your breath into your heart
- After a few rounds of breathing, add the briefest pause at the top of the inhalation, as if you had thrown a gauzy scarf in to the air and it hung there momentarily before beginning to fall
- In this brief pause at the top of the in-breath, sense the way your breath lightly touches something.
That “something” is your essence—your soul, your “true Self.” It is always there: you simply need to get quiet and open to it.
Connecting to your Self in this way cannot fail to bring you peace, because this Self is peace. It is the aspect of you that is a piece of the divine, or Mind, or the Infinite, or Love. (Please don’t let words get in the way here: you can call it whatever you like.)
This Self-connection is the foundation of the successful practice of Inner Bonding, and practicing Inner Bonding strengthens this Self-connection. It’s an infinite loop. If you forget yourself, your breath can take you back into the loop, back to the present-moment experience of your Self.
The more consistently you remember who you are, the more peaceful you will be, even when your circumstances are stressful. I have an unruly mind, so I support my remembering by meditating daily. Meditation is wonderful for many HSPs, and I highly recommend it. But even if you don’t have time to meditate, this experience is always accessible to you through the breath. Yesterday I had a 3:45 AM airport departure. I had only sixty seconds to sit on the edge of the bed and breathe into my heart before leaving. But that was enough to connect to my Self.
Practice #2: Be clear on your intent each day
Once you’ve remembered who you are, what next? How do you connect this to laundry, estimated taxes, exercise classes, homework—the “full catastrophe” of every day life?
You turn inwards and ask yourself, “What do I want to create today, using the gift of the energy I’ve been given today? What is this Self inspired to do?” Then write down what comes. And, if there are specific things you know you have to do, you can ask, “How do I want this to go? What is important to me about this action? What would make me feel right about it?”
This is easier to do with a mind focused by meditation, but your mind doesn’t have to be quiet. You just need enough presence and awareness to sense the quiet behind your thoughts Your breath will help you do this.
Why does this matter? Because I want to approach my day from my Self, not from my “small s” self. My Self is a direct expression of the divine, refracted through my unique personhood. It is the source of my wisest, most loving, most effective actions. And I have free will to listen to it. (Listening to my Self is Step 5 of Inner Bonding: “Dialogue with your higher self/spiritual guidance.”)
You’ll find the results are different from an ordinary to-do list. My “small s” self simply lists events: “Session with Charlotte at 5 PM.” My Self, by contrast, always has some bigger intent: “I want to support Charlotte with my presence… and remember it’s OK to be quiet and speak only when I’m truly moved to speak.” Or it might be more general: “I want to be a loving partner today.”
Later in the day, or the next morning, I review what I wrote down and think about how it went. I celebrate the ways in which I fulfilled my intent, and I take a look at the things I didn’t do or don’t feel good about, to see what I can learn.
Evaluating your actions in this way is Step 6 of Inner Bonding. The contrast is clear. When I act from my “small s” self, I feel vulnerable and uneasy, like a pilot flying without visual references or instruments. When I’m acting from my Self, I feel peaceful and I worry much less about outcomes.
Remembering who you are and being clear on your intent are key Loving Adult practices. If you do them daily, your actions will align more and more closely with your values. Your anxiety will drop and your sense of inner peace will steadily increase.
*Thank you Kaitlyn for this photograph! (firstname.lastname@example.org)