leadership incorporated blog

December 22, 2009

My holiday gift to you: stress relief!

Last night, I had a call from a client who is overwhelmed by how much work she has on her plate.

Early in the day, I spoke with another client who is overwhelmed by how little work he has right now.

I’m coaching people who are stepping into new positions and having more asked of them than ever before. I’m also working with people who are exiting long held positions and who don’t know what is going to be asked of them next.

No matter who I talk to, it seems everyone is overwhelmed.

I’m hearing from people who are suffering deeply from the pressure to give the same if not more this holiday season, even though the money is not there.

Others are feeling the pressure to look for work right now, even though few people on the corporate side are available to have that conversation over the holidays.

And it seems everyone is stressed about money.So I thought the perfect holiday gift for all of my friends, family, clients and colleagues is a tool I created several years ago, which has helped me and my clients through stressful times.

I call this tool “Come to Your Senses.”

When we are in a state of stress, we often can not see reality clearly.

We tell ourselves stories of impending disaster. We repeat stories of past mishaps.

This keeps us from seeing all of our options.

This causes us to make choices that are driven by fear.

The expression “come to your senses,” which we usually take metaphorically as meaning to become more rational, has a great lesson for us when taken literally.

When we literally come back to our senses we can find strength and calm and exactly what we need to persevere and be at our best.

Please accept the following “recipe” for coming to your senses with my best wishes:

Sharon Rich’s Come to Your Senses Exercise

Follow these simple steps whenever you feel stressed.

Find a private place. A few minutes alone in your car can be just as effective as a sunwarmed spot in an empty yoga studio. You can do this in 5 minutes or less.

Sit still and let your attention drop down out of the constant stream of thoughts flowing through your mind.

Gently bring your full and complete attention into your sense of vision. See what is right in front of you at this moment. Notice something that you were not seeing just a moment ago. See what you always see in a new way, with new eyes, as if for the first time. Resist the urge to tell yourself a story about what you are seeing. Just see whatever is in front of you as fully as possible.

When you are ready, lightly move your full and complete attention to your hearing. Put all of your attention on the audible information coming to you. Hear the sounds in your environment that you normally filter out. Allow yourself to become aware of the wealth of information that you tune out most of your life. Let yourself appreciate the beauty of these sounds. See if you can detect the bed of silence that these sounds emerge from.

Softly shift your full and complete attention to your sense of smell. Breathe deeply and see what you notice. What smells are present that you weren’t aware of just a moment ago? Without any judgment, see if you can experience a layer of smells that are more subtle.

Easily bring your full and complete attention to your sense of taste. Notice that there is always a taste in your mouth even when you are not eating or drinking. Without judging it good or bad, allow yourself to experience this sense fully.

Tenderly bring your full and complete attention to your sense of touch. Feel the temperature of the air on your skin. Feel the sensation of your clothes on your body. Feel the pressure of your feet on the ground and of your seat on your chair.

Let your full and complete attention slide down toward the floor. Without moving them at all, see if you can locate your feet. Allow yourself to experience the sensation of having your full attention inside of your feet. This might feel like a tingling or vibration. Let this feeling expand. Feel the experience of being inside your legs, inside your hips, inside your torso, inside your chest, inside your arms and shoulders, inside your neck and head. Feel the sensation of inhabiting your body. Focus on what feels good. Focus on where you are okay.

If thoughts come, let them flow by and stay with the feeling. This can take some practice. Be patient with yourself. Many of us spend most of our time living from the neck up. Being fully in our bodies can initially be uncomfortable or disorienting. The benefits of this practice are incredible, so give yourself the gift of patiently staying with it, even for a few minutes to let it do its work.

Finally shift your full and complete attention to your breathing. Follow your breath in and out. Notice that breath comes and goes with or without your assistance. Notice that as you breathe, you are completely taken care of. Are you breathing? Or are you being breathed? Rest in the awareness that nothing is required of you at this moment.

Allow yourself to feel your sense of gratitude, appreciating your ability to see, hear, smell, taste, feel, breathe and experience what it is to be human. Appreciating that at least for this moment, you have everything you truly need. Appreciating that you are here and alive and have the space and freedom and ability to experience your life.

Allow yourself to be fully present, in your body just for these few moments. Enjoy taking a break from all of the stories of the past and of the future. And now, holding on to this feeling, maintaining your connection with your body, return gently to your life in progress, centered, calm, grounded and ready to see new options and possibilities.

In intense moments, I have successfully condensed this practice to 30 seconds and gotten exactly what I needed when I really needed it – although my preference is to spend at least 15-20 minutes.

I hope this is useful for you throughout the holiday season and beyond.

Wishing you an inspired holiday and new year,

my signature

Sharon Rich supports people and organizations
in succeeding beyond their wildest dreams by incorporating leadership principles
in their work and lives while maintaining focus on the triple bottom line:
profit, people and planet.

Sharon Rich
Leadership Incorporated
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©2009, Sharon Rich. All rights reserved.

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