Are you "Available"?
If there is one thing that I have noticed over the past few years, it’s that people are stressed out of their minds and “unavailable” to others. I notice this myself from time to time. It’s hard to be fully conscious and present when our thoughts are held captive by worry, fear, and doubt. You are not available to others when your mind is “stuck” in your own thoughts. The average person has 60,000 thoughts per day. That’s a lot of thinking! The more frightening thing is that research shows that for the average person, 80% of those thoughts are negative. I believe our personality reflects our “personal reality”. In other words, our "energy" and the attitude that we carry through life mirrors how and what we think each day.
When we are cognitively loaded down, we are not mentally available to others. I know that when I have a lot of worrisome thoughts on my mind, I have a much harder time listening and paying attention to others. I don’t know if this has ever happened to you, but I’ve been in a conversation with someone who is talking to me, but I couldn’t process a word they said. I was looking at them but my mind was so preoccupied that I didn’t listen to a thing they said. When I was young, my dad uses to yell at me when I was daydreaming, “Boy, be where you’re at!”. He could look at me and know when I was physically there, but mentally I was out to lunch. As an adult, I think I still need that reminder.
I see so many patients each day who are completely stressed out. Their “mental load” is like an elephant sitting on top of their chest. It suffocates them and they don’t know what to do. One of the questions I ask new patients is “How would you rate the quantity of your stress and your ability to manage it on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being that you have very little stress, and you manage it well?”. I rarely have people answer 8,9, or 10 and often have people respond 1,2, or 3. We must understand how to break this destructive cycle and take back control of our minds and our lives along with it.
The things that I recommend for stress management and stopping the insanity of incessant worry are the same things I've used to deal with my own stress.
1. Meditation and Prayer. Meditation is a way of paying attention to your thoughts, so you realize how much you are “over-thinking”. Once you pay attention, you can re-focus your mind away from over-thinking towards things like your breathing or something else relaxing like a beach sunrise or a mountain stream. Prayer is asking God for help and there is no better person to talk to or listen to than God.
2. Exercise. Exercise is so powerful in producing brain rewarding and relaxing neurochemicals. I would probably be in a straitjacket by now if it wasn’t for exercise. Exercise allows us to release the "fight or flight" chemistry we've accumulated while we are under stress.
3. The Hour of POWER. My first hour of the morning from 5 am-6 am is usually the most relaxing and rewarding hour of my day. I enjoy a strong cup of black coffee. I meditate while listening to beautiful music. I read inspiring stories and books, and finally, I think about what I love and what I am grateful for. I’ve learned that doing this each morning is like hitting “control-alt-delete” in my mind each day. I reset my mental thought computer and lighten my conscious load. I can't recommend this strongly enough.
Don’t let your mind be like a hotel with a “no vacancy” sign. A full mind cannot receive new ideas and/or serve others in their time of need.