As amazing as having a peaceful life sounds in theory, it isn’t always possible. A stressful job, dysfunctional relationships, challenging kids, even just people around us who don’t prioritise their own stress management, can undermine the calm we try and bring into our lives. In my life, it’s often just a case of forgetting to maintain my ‘peace practice’.
Before I started doing loads of things to reduce my cortisol levels, the smallest things could really upset me. I could become quite angry. Before having kids, I had never really experienced ‘angry’. I had experienced relationship dramas and huge amounts of stress, but nothing had ever pushed me in my relationships like little people can. I’d been an intensive care nurse for years. The work was stressful, but I always felt as though I was in control. I was accustomed to being in control of everything in life. I was also accustomed to sleeping for long periods every night, and being able to release my stress through exercise, hobbies and a pretty full on social life whenever I felt like it.
I use the example of family life, but obviously letting your stress levels get out of control is not limited to those who reproduce. It seems to be about forgetting. You forget who you really are, and who you really want to be. The post-children scenario is just an obvious example. I think people who become completely absorbed in anything can forget who they are. Whether it’s a stressful job, obsessive behaviour, a consuming relationship or external pressures like financial problems, just to name a few. People can forget what SORT of person they really want to be. It’s as if stress blinds you, and traps you, making it hard for you to see the way out. You just get buried under it.
So you have to check in with yourself and remember. Remember your practice. Work out what you need to do, on a daily basis, to be at peace. Whether it’s meditation, walking, talking, running, sitting alone…whatever it is. You have to make it a rock solid every day ABSOLUTE practice. It sounds so simple, and yet learning how to make it a permanent habit seems to be a difficult thing.
Nowadays when I feel myself less able to handle stressful situations, I stop and usually notice that my practice has slipped down the priority list of life, and I need to push it right back up to the top. I don’t think there are too many things in life that are more important than peace of mind. There is also nothing more satisfying than being able to stay calm, and really feel that calm deep inside, in the face of overwhelming stress. For me it’s a work in progress.