This past year was difficult for many of us and I was no exception from that rule. I moved to a new country, twice. and I started a new career, all in the midst of an ongoing global pandemic. I struggles a lot with anxiety in these past months, which translated itself into jaw tension and pain so bad that I couldn't speak near the end of the day. As a yoga teacher, this constant anxiety and stress that I was unwillingly putting on my mental and physical state was not acceptable.
I'm sure that many people also struggle with this, in-fact a lot of my close friends have come to me with the same issue. We always reached the same conclusion - "If I could quit my job and live on an island in the south of Italy all of my stress would melt away." Well, being that this is physically impossible for so many of us, I cannot accept this as the only solution to finding inner peace. So, I did some investigating of my own.
I firmly believe that NOTHING in this world is more important than your health and happiness. The first thing a lot of us struggle with is the need to be in control. I am an oldest sister and a taurus, so I have this real bad. When too many things in my life feel out of my control, I tend to loose myself to anxiety and all consuming stress. That is why this pandemic period has been particularly hard for me, there are just too many factors that I cannot control. So, I will say that the first step towards finding peace is to accept the fact that you cannot control everything. This is perhaps the hardest thing you have to do, but its worth it.
And how does one let go of this dire need to control everything happening around you?
I hope that my journey can help others to find peace. From speaking to everyone close to me, this constant struggle to remain peaceful is not unique to me, so this has been a group effort. My friends and family have bestowed upon me their little tips and tricks to loosen our white-knuckled grip on life.
This is the classic cliche but I'm going to tell you anyway - exercise is so important for a healthy mind. We are not biologically programmed to spend our entire day inactive, it's going to cause problems no matter what. You don't need to be doing sweaty, stressful workouts either. Take it easy on yourself. Just make a conscious effort to incorporate movement into your daily life. I actually went backwards in this sense. As a former cross-country athlete, I had the idea ingrained in my mind that workouts had to leave me sweaty, panting and on the edge of fainting. I was doing intense cardio workouts almost everyday for the past 5 years. It wasn't until I moved to Amsterdam that I discovered my love of pilates and slow movement. It took some time to shake off this need for high-calorie burn (partially caused by my apple watch which i have now stopped wearing), but its been 5 months now of just doing pilates, yoga and walking. This stress I was putting on my body without realising it has subsided and has contributed to me finding a calmer outlook on life.
Now once you've figured out which type of movement does your body and mind some good, let's talk about journaling. This can actually be a part of your meditation practice if you have one. I like to follow a guided meditation, usually twice per week on instagram live (so that I have a time and place to be and don't procrastinate). After the guided meditation, with a clear mind I write in my journal anything that I feel I need to. This is usually affirmations and manifestations. It really helps to figure out what direction you want your life to take. You will be surprised how much this will change your mindset.
Ok now here is the difficult one, reduce your time on social media. A big stresser for me was tiktok. I was spending hours per day on tiktok and I am convinced that the speed of that type of media consumption is not natural for the human brain. I set a 1 hour limit for tiktok on my phone. After 1 hour, my phone will not let me on tiktok anymore until the next day. This has helped me channel my energy into more healthy and productive habits such as reading and spending time with loved ones.
That leads me to my next point - get social (in real life). Call your mom, make a new friend (if its hard to meet new people in your city due to lockdown get bumble friends and meet for a walk in the park), cook a dinner for your friends, join a club, etc. Because of the pandemic, my social life was obsolete, which lead me to adopt some unhealthy habits. Reconnecting with friends and family has helped me realise the true meaning of life, which is to love and be loved. If you can recognise this, the insignificant details that are stressing you out won't really get to you anymore.
My last piece of advice, find a new hobby. For me this was pottery and learning Italian. These two hobbies keep me busy in my free time and give me something to look forward too. Now, nights after a day of work aren't spend on a scrolling spree but with the music on while I drink a glass of wine and make ceramic art. I have an Italian group lesson every week which keeps me occupied, accountable, and social! When you fill your free time with things that challenge you, you will find yourself growing as the time passes. This does a lot of good for your confidence and peace of mind.
Above all, inner peace is not something stagnant, that can be "achieved." It's more of a state of being that we should all strive to maintain. Stress is incredible harmful to your health and we should all live to be happy, always. Remember that you weren't put on this earth to worry about the small stuff, let it go and focus on your own health and happiness above all (easier said than done). I hope sharing my experience can help you find more balance in your life. Comment below any tips that you have that I didn't mention! Let's create a happy, healthy and calm community.