Walk The Stress Out
I like walking for one simple reason; it allows me to do other activities on the way and by the way. On the way, because no matter how prominent you are, there are places even the king has to get to by foot. By the way, because while walking you can be talking, planning or relieving stress.
You can do business, close sales or give instructions over the phone while heading to your next meeting. You can think about strategy, next move or the way you are going to motivate your team while striding down the corridor. Like it or not, all of the above is constantly depleting your mental resources. Moreover, all of the little matters are accumulating and one of the first symptoms is you start feeling uneasy.
If accumulation continues then from uneasiness, you move into anxiety then stress and even depression. You want to act when the first symptoms hit you.
Don't Argue With Reality
Most of all, you need to acknowledge that you feel uneasy and then accept it; there is no point arguing with reality. Secondly, remain observant as that will help you to create the distance to the feeling. To do that stop telling yourself “I am stressed”. Instead, you say “I have noticed uneasiness in my stomach and chest.” In that way, the feeling remains something you observe so it won’t take control over you. Though, you can take control over what you going to do about it.
Walking can surely wear you out but no one ever got stressed just by walking. And you can turn this simple activity to your advantage by changing your focus or driving your attention away from thinking.
The first walk I practice is the walk of gratitude. Usually, on the way to the office or to my client I consciously focus on everything I’m grateful for. I think about my children and their smiley little faces. I think about my lovely partner, the mischievous look she gave me this morning before I left the house. And I'm grateful for the simple fact of being alive. The gratitude fills my heart with joy. By the way, it's scientifically proven that you can’t be grateful and stressed at the same time!
The second walk I practice is the attentive walking: instead of thinking, just pay attention to your feet.
The Attentive Walking
- Find yourself a stretch of smooth path. Stand still, drop your arms loose, and close your eyes to eliminate redundant signals. Move all of your attention to the feet: your feet is all that matters now. Can you feel your toes, your heels, the softness of your socks and the inside of your shoes?
- Slowly move your weight to one foot and after a few seconds, shift your weight to another. Are you firmly rooted to the ground or rather feeling weightless? Describe your current experience to the best of your ability.
- Now, very slowly—inch by inch—lift your heel and, a second later, your toes. Congratulations, your foot has taken off the ground!
- Move it gently forward and keep all your attention on it while it’s on the move.
- Land it slowly, start with your heel and—inch by inch—finish with your toes. Once it’s firm and stable on the ground move your attention to your second foot and repeat the process starting from point 3.
This practice comes from The Power of Meditation: A 28-Day Programme for Real Happiness. If you liked it, you'll find a few more useful techniques in there.
No Discipline Necessary
All you need is 10-20 minutes of attentive walking to relieve the stress, gain composure, and re-energize yourself. Remember not to force yourself; practice when you feel like it, when you need it or when you suddenly remind yourself about it. Furthermore, it's ok if your mind will wander somewhere among the troubles instead of being focused on your feet. It’s normal and if you continue the practice your levels of concentration will increase with time and your level of stress will drop. That will let you accomplish more.
Pay attention to whatever you do. And if for some you can't concentrate, start walking attentively.