Transforming Fear to Joy

Are you feeling stretched to your maximum attending to the competing demands in your life?  With all that you have to do is it difficult to choose a right course of action?  Once you have chosen, are you able to see and take your next step?

If you frequently find yourself feeling frazzled and overwhelmed,
it’s time to take action to bring your nervous system back into
balance.                                                               — Helpguide.org


Feeling pulled between multiple agendas in a highly uncertain world increases the volume and complexity of our choices as well as the level of our stress.  We know that a moderate degree of stress is helpful to halt inertia and stimulate both motivation and action.  However, the high levels of stress I witness in both my individual coaching sessions as well as my clients’ workplaces is unhealthy and unproductive.

Unfortunately, toxic workplaces are still today’s norm rather than exception.  When such high levels of stress are sustained over long periods of time, our “fight-or-flight” switch is always turned on meaning the body’s defenses run in overdrive all the time.  This overload on our nervous system results in a host of symptoms.  Use the checklist below to rate your own signs of stress by placing an X in front of those symptoms currently present for you.

Given the fact that stressors — major life changes, financial problems, uncertainty, and relationship difficulties — are shared by everyone, most people check from 0 to 6 items.  If you find yourself checking 10 or more items, then very likely your stress level is too high and your physical and mental health are impaired.

The healthcare industry is well aware of the societal benefits of flourishing health (Keyes 2007) for individuals:

In its constitution, the World Health Organization (WHO) defines mental health as “a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his own community.”

In keeping with WHO’s picture of mental health, below are five activities to keep you healthy and happy.

In my own life, I find awareness meditation to be the single most effective tool for both reducing stress and embracing uncertainty.  The heart meditation below is helpful in stilling the ever-chattering ‘monkey’ mind, in quieting anxious energy in the body and in releasing the grip of past emotional events.  With the space created from meditation, I am able to calmly and clearly confront the uncertainties in my world.

Heart Meditation: 

Find a quiet place to practice.  Be sure your body is comfortable.  If sitting cross-legged is too restrictive (which is the case for most meditators), then sit in a chair or lie down.  All three rounds of this meditation are repeated silently over a period of 30 to 60 minutes.  If this is your first attempt at meditation, then I suggest you set your timer for 30 minutes.

Begin by watching your breath as it enters and exits the tips of your nostrils on the inhale and exhale.  As the breath’s rhythm settles, gently draw the inhaled breath into your heart space.  Silently repeat the following phrases in conjunction with your breath.

Upon completion of your meditation, notice the differences in your body, mind and emotional experience.  You may wish to journal about your present moment awareness.  I usually start with this trigger:  “I am aware of . . . .”  Write about how you feel inside — spiritually, physically, emotionally.  What experiences or insights emerged?  What did you learn about yourself?

Source:  Keyes, C. L.  2007.  Promoting and protecting mental health as flourishing: a complementary strategy for improving national mental health, The American Psychologist, Feb-Mar:62(2):95-108.

Picture of Author: Helen Maupin

Author: Helen Maupin

Helen is passionate about transforming fear into love — from her, for her, for all. She expresses her commitment to transformation through writing poetry, self-awareness and yoga books, co-designing organizations into adaptive enterprises and deepening her daily meditation and yoga practices.


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