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How to Keep It Simple & Overcome Stress

When things start to feel complicated I do this to feel better...

How to Keep It Simple & Overcome Stress

I was sitting at the lake this morning and checking in with all of my senses. I heard the wind in the palm fronds, the various bird and insect calls, and the airplane in the distance. I also felt the wind on my face and arms and saw the shimmer on the water from the sun. Then, I decided to feel my legs touching the bench and my feet solid on the ground. When I stood up from that sensation buffet a word popped into my mind, SIMPLICITY.

I mention this experience this morning because what I know for sure is that when something is simple it is much easier to execute. You might be thinking, "No, duh!" However, I want you to consider that this concept is intellectually something you understand, but maybe not how you practice in your daily life? See, we put together what I call formulas of experiences. Example: moving = stress and/or anxiety, taxes = stress and/or anxiety, confrontation = stress and/or anxiety, public speaking = full meltdown, and on, and on.

The reason that these situations are anxiety provoking is not the situations themselves. Let's take moving as an example, moving is literally putting items in boxes, putting the boxes in your car or a truck, and driving said vehicle to another location and putting the boxes there. Or, for some of you, hiring a mover and you don't do any of the above actions and it's still stressful and anxiety provoking!

So, what's going on here? We equated the situation with a negative emotional experience and we put them into broad, general categories. If we had broken moving down into the actionable steps that it takes to move and continued to view it through these actionable steps, it would be difficult to get overwhelmed by them. For example: collect boxes, purchase tape and packing materials, put together boxes, box up one small area at a time, stack in a corner out of the way when finished, etc.

When we focus only on each actionable step then we can re-train our brain to do the step without adding the negative emotion (using exercise below), and we have more things to cross off the list, thus showing ourselves progress quicker.

The reason I described what I did at the lake this morning is because of an exercise that I teach in my practice to both adults and kiddos called 5-4-3-2-1. It is used to help people experiencing stress and anxiety to tune into their senses, thus the present moment, and calm themselves. It is an amazing coping strategy. It goes like this:

5 Name five things you can see
4 things you can hear (near and far)
3 things you can feel
2 things you can smell
1 thing you can taste (this one can be a little challenging)

This is what I mean by simplicity, you can do this exercise in a matter of a few minutes and de-escalate a negative experience. Now, this is a quick fix to get out of a situation that is highly reactive, however, it is not how you overcome stress and anxiety, that takes a bit more attention. If you want to stop experiencing stress and anxiety regularly you must go to the source, your insides (not your guts, yuck!). Don't get squirrely on me now, it's not heavy or hard to do this, it just requires a plan (you know, steps to get there) and some desire to feel better! Click here if you want to receive the free plan ( In any case, the 5-4-3-2-1 strategy is a winner and I hope that it helps! Would you let me know if it does by responding to this email?
Erin "breaking it down to small steps" Mac

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