Are you stressed about the school run in Stortford? That's natural – but it's also healthy and helpful, not harmful
In her Wild&Happy column in the Indie, Lian Brook-Tyler writes about how to find happiness within by connecting with the world around us.
Frustrated, overwhelmed, stressed. That was how I felt upon attempting to do the morning school run and discovering our road was closed. And this was on the last weekday it was meant to be open before it was due to be closed for yet another two whole weeks.
I live in Farnham and I’ve lost track of how many times this has happened since all the building work at the bottom of our road began a couple of years ago.
I suspect if you live locally you’ve experienced more than your fair share of road closures, roadworks and increased traffic too.
So why am I writing about infuriating road closures when this column is about being wild and happy?
Because this is a regular occurrence for most of us living in this modern world, therefore knowing how to go from feeling stressed to happy can give us the power to stop a challenging drive to work or school turning into a ‘bad morning’ and then, before you know it, becoming an ‘awful day’.
Let’s be honest, it takes only so many of those awful days to wind up feeling like we’re trapped in, at best, a lacklustre life, at the mercy of the world around us.
Or we can choose differently.
Here are two in-the-moment practical ways I help my clients (and me!) deal with those moments when you’re sitting on Rye Street, gripping your steering wheel, with steam coming out of your ears.
Awareness and acceptance
We don’t choose to feel stressed or have the power to immediately stop feeling that way, but most of us do have access to one helpful choice: to become aware of how we feel.
You’re probably thinking “Duh! When I feel stressed, I’m aware that I feel stressed!”
So let me ask you: when you feel stressed, are you aware of... How your body feels? Where you feel it in your body? How does your breathing feel? Fast, shallow, deep, slow?
What else do you notice about how you feel? Which part of you is aware of these feelings?
From there, once you’re really aware of how you feel, you can move into acceptance. For example, as you become aware that you’re feeling stressed, allow yourself to feel the fullness of that emotion, accepting it without judging it or making it wrong.
You’re human (just taking a wild guess here), so you will feel stressed now and then because it’s part of our incredible design to allow us to thrive as animals living on this planet.
It’s perfectly OK and it’s all welcome.
[Wild side note: once this two-phase practice becomes a habit, it has a compounding effect because there’s real power in knowing that as you’re becoming aware you’ll also be accepting what you become aware of. It magically creates the space for you to be aware of even more.]
It’s said we can never leave where we haven’t visited. If you haven’t fully accepted yourself feeling stressed, then in some way (however subtle or subconscious) you may well be stuck in a battle somewhere between there and how you want to feel.
Once you’re aware and accepting of your feelings then you’re ready to move on to...
Appreciation and expression
Indigenous humans, just like other mammals, move smoothly back and forth from stressed to relaxed, depending on the requirements of their environment and body’s rhythms.
For example, when we need to escape from a threat, our bodies react by going into the flight or fight response, or in other words: stress. Stress is not a negative thing, it’s a life-saving thing! And seeing it this way is in itself beneficial.
Research conducted on stress mindsets by Stanford psychology assistant professor Alia Crum showed that viewing stress as a helpful part of life, rather than as harmful, is associated with better health, emotional well-being and productivity at work.
The more we are able to appreciate stress as being healthy and helpful, the more healthy and helpful it actually becomes.
Which brings us to the last part...Expression
The stress is energy you can store, use or move, so why not use it in ways that can return you to a relaxed and happy state? Animals in the wild move that energy by literally shaking it off, Taylor Swift-style.
You might not be able to quite pull that off whilst idling in your Nissan Qashqai, but you can still express the energy in a simple and yet powerful practice that you can do without getting out of your car.
Once you’re parked and in a safe place to do so, take a moment to remind yourself how healthy and resourceful your body is, how it’s created the stress to help you stay alert and alive. And see how much sovereignty you have; after all, look at all the choices you’ve just made to become aware, accepting and appreciative.
Now to express all of that… you can say it out loud to yourself (for example: “I am healthy, resourceful and sovereign, I have power over my experience”), move it through your body through motions such as rolling your shoulders or giving your hands a shake, or simply thinking it whilst breathing it out into the world.
And if we ever find ourselves sitting next to each other, parked up in the Waitrose car park in Stortford – me, talking to myself; you, jazz hands – we can give each other a smile, knowing that we’re expressing our wild happiness.
* Lian Brook-Tyler lives in Farnham with husband Chris and their two children, who attend Windhill21 Primary School in Bishop's Stortford. For 15 years she worked in the corporate world, rising to be head of online at BT, before a life-changing loss led her onto an altogether different path... How the tragedy of my father's death led me to living the life that I love.
* Lian is the co-founder of an organisation called Waking The Wild. She hosts a weekly podcast which has an international listenership of thousands and she coaches and teaches leadership, partnership and embodiment to clients all over the world.