Now and Zen

by Don Laird, MS, NCC, LPC

Don LairdWellness molds our understanding of optimal health. It is a state of being that maximizes an individual’s potential over a lifespan. Moreover, it carries the energy to illuminate the physical, emotional, spiritual, and environmental components wired in each of us. In our quest for wellness, we begin to develop certain habits that, while they may seem simple enough on the surface, are often difficult to practice in our non-stop, high-stress daily lives. Stress, worry, and anxiety in relation to work, family, and a constantly changing world are now a part of our routine. In short, most people feel as though they have no sense of peace, calm, quiet, and serenity. Most believe that creating serenity takes more commitment than they have to give and that it will just happen one day. However, some simple adjustments just may help propel you in a healthier direction.

Change happens. Change is constant. Change can sometimes seem scary, but it doesn’t have to be. Habits are the most difficult (and often the last things we want) to change. Once we are able to modify poor habits with rewarding ones we begin to experience a healthier perspective with ourselves and others in the world. This is not a one-time change in your surroundings or work environment. You can’t predict the things that may happen to you, and you are certainly unable to control how other people act or think. The only thing you can control in your situation is how you respond. Response matters. You can respond to the same event with anger, apathy or worry or you can respond with peace, calmness and tranquility.

Ask yourself: How well do I prep for my day on an emotional and spiritual level? Am I sacrificing my mental health for a vague “someday?” It can be easy to prepare for the everyday tasks, but what happens when the bottom falls out on your best laid plans? The following may seem elementary, perhaps you’ve heard it all before, but have you made the effort lately?

Slow it down

Slow it down. Do you begin every morning as though there was only 30 minutes left before the earth explodes? Starting your day out in a stressful dash creates adrenaline and adrenaline has nowhere to go if you aren’t prepared to run a marathon. So try waking up a few minutes earlier than usual (Stop making that face and thinking “Yeah, no, that’s not happening”). Allow yourself 10-15 minutes of meditation before letting the noise in. Light exercise should be another piece of your morning practice. Find quiet and calm in the morning and make the most of it. If you start to feel anxious, take one task at a time.

Be Mindful. Lots of people talk about “mindfulness” these days, but what does it mean? Mindfulness involves paying attention “on purpose.” In order to be mindful, I have to be purposefully aware of myself, not just vaguely aware but staying in the moment. This is difficult to do because we are often attempting to train (and overloading) our minds to multi-task. With mindfulness we are concerned with attending to what’s going on right now. That doesn’t mean we can no longer think about the future or the past, but when we do so we do so mindfully, so that we’re aware that right now we’re thinking about the future or past.

Living with stressLiving with Stress. Stress can create unhealthy responses. Do any of the following apply to you when faced with stress: anger, feeling overwhelmed, “comfort” eating, drinking alcohol or taking drugs, surfing the net to shop impulsively, etc? Instead, create healthy alternatives to cope with stress. Healthy habits include:  exercise, meditation, yoga, taking a walk, drinking some water, and deep breathing. It only takes about 10 minutes to reap the benefits of meditation. Quiet reflection will promote stress relief, as well as increase your tolerance to excessive worry and tension.

Be perfect in your imperfection. Let go and just be. Your life will NEVER be perfect. Accept it. Learn to be perfect in your imperfections and limit your expectations of others. You have no control over their actions or thoughts, only your own.

Reduce the racket. Our lives are filled with auditory and visual clutter — social media, news, email, and texting. It’s disorder to our psyches and frankly, pointless. Limit these things and create some new space, some quiet breathing room.

Make “someday” start today. Pittsburgh Psychotherapy Associates is pleased to announce the addition of health and wellness courses to energize the body and nourish the mind. Serenity Sundays Wellness Program begins June 30, 2013 with four classes (including Transformational Reiki, Relaxation & Stress Reduction, Gentle Yoga, and Tai Chi) to help you relax, re-energize and find your center.

In good health,

One thought on “Now and Zen

  1. It’s always good to read your thoughts, Don.


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