Most of the time when I work with clients on eliminating stress, I point them in the direction of their thoughts. I help them to see that thoughts are only real and meaningful if you decide that they are. Today I want to point you in a different direction.
In my experience, there is simply no more effective way to quickly remove stress than to get your body in motion, preferably the kind that results in serious sweat. I write about this extensively in my forthcoming book, “How Much Freedom Can You Stand?,” in the chapter titled, “Take a Hike, Buddy!” When my laptop’s hard drive crashed without warning yesterday, I was reminded just how valuable vigorous exercise is in eliminating stress.
As much as I have benefitted from understanding the true nature of thought, there will still be moments when events happen that take you off course. That’s certainly what I experienced when my laptop was unable to boot up, and I realized that I had neglected to back up some important files. Scary, worrisome thoughts began to envelope my consciousness, and despite what I know, I continued to add more thoughts on top of these troublesome ones. The result was that I was stressed out.
The great thing about vigorous exercise is that your mind cannot contemplate and think about your thoughts. You are too busy working hard, and as you do, your body chemistry shifts. Endorphins are flowing, and what I’ve found time and time again is that the only thoughts that can get through are your inner wisdom speaking to you. I’ve gotten many creative ideas and solved many difficult problems while working out but not once have I ever stressed myself out further.
Does the exercise have to be rigorous? I have had similar experiences hiking in nature and competing in a sporting matches but with not quite the same frequency and reliability. When I shift my mind to an activity like birdwatching or photography while hiking, I am using my mind in a different way, and the spinning of thought stops. Similarly, if I am playing a competitive tennis match, my mind will often shift to focusing on the challenges of the competition, and that distance from my thought spinning allows me to find a new perspective. When you can incorporate the movement of your body and an activity that speaks to your heart, that is usually a winning combination.
The real key is to make logical thinking impossible. Walking 18 holes on a beautiful golf course can work if you lose yourself in the game and the surrounding beauty, but it also leaves you with lots of opportunity to think more about your perceived problems. However, NOTHING I’ve found is as RELIABLE as working up a GOOD SWEAT.
Knowing this, there really is no valid excuse to remain stressed out. Get to the gym, go running, do something where you work really hard for 30 minutes or more. No matter how busy you are, by making time to sweat away the stress, you will gain back much more time in renewed focus, enhanced productivity and creativity. And the best part is you will have reconnected to the best part of you.
So what did I do about the computer? The vigorous exercise gave me the perspective I needed. Rather than spin lots of possibly disastrous scenarios in my head or beat myself up for being so careless, I simply did what I could with the computer (I took it to the local Apple repair center), and let the rest go. After all, I have no control over whether the data can be retrieved but I do control my response.