Many factors contribute to a feeling of exhaustion in our life. Our energy level can be largely influenced by elements such as the amount of sleep we get, the food we eat, and our sense of purpose. But it is really our mental stress level that determines how exhausted we are. Not only is stress draining by itself, but it is also what harms our sleep, our diet, and distracts us from our sense of purpose. The modern human is so mentally stressed between planning, worrying, and navigating life that we can easily end up stuck in the cycle of exhaustion.
We have to be very intentional with managing stress to step out of the exhaustion cycle. Try using the Recognize, Reduce and Release, Reconsider, and Raise Resiliency method.
Step 1: Recognize the triggers of stress in your life – try listing at least 10. Some examples may be obvious (e.g. pressure at work) and others may take some awareness to really be aware that they are stressors (e.g. scrolling Instagram)
Step 2: Reduce and Release – When you look at each trigger, see if there are any that you can let go of. What does not bring you energy and only takes energy? Maybe you can reduce the amount of time spent in stressful situations or maybe you can release a stressor altogether.
Step 3: Reconsider – There are stressors in your life that you cannot get rid of, but we can reconsider how we view those stressors. There is a lot of research that shows it is often our attitude towards stress, not how many stressful situations we face, that determines our well-being. We all have stressful financial obligations, for example, but maybe we can see buying a new house as a chance to learn, an opportunity to practice being outside of our comfort zone, or an act of generosity for your partner or kids. There is a concept called anxiety reappraisal, which is about changing our attitude towards an anxious feeling. To reappraise means to look at something old in a new way. For example, when we feel butterflies in our stomach, we can interpret that negatively as nervousness or positively as excitement. It is with this practice that we can change our outlook on the inevitable stress of being human.
Step 4: Raise Resiliency – To cultivate a more positive attitude towards stress and meet stress instead of running away from it, it takes awareness and strength. These are traits cultivated in yoga and meditation. Being aware of the feeling of the body, the state of the mind, and the flow of the breath helps you be aware of your reactions to stress so that you can choose wisely how to respond to stress when it arises. Then it takes strength to stay with the present moment of stress even when it is unpleasant. Doing this on the mat or cushion translates directly to the capacity to be in stressful situations without running away, instead leaning in and knowing you can be with the stress. When the fear of stress no longer controls you, the opportunities are endless.