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Stressed in Paradise

How we handle stress determines our levels of happiness, health, and overall well-being. But what really is stress? I tell my clients that stress boils down to the difference between reality (what is actually happening) and what we thought should have happened. That’s it! When things aren’t the way we want/expect/envisioned it causes us discomfort. Is it a lack of control? Of preparedness? It’s simpler than that: it’s a lack of acceptance. However, simple doesn’t mean easy. This lesson rings true for me one week into my month-long remote work in Hawaii.

When I first decided to stay in Hawaii for the month of January, I coordinated what I considered the essentials to be able to work remotely: a secure place to stay on Oahu, decent WiFi, and a car.

Within a week, I lost all three.

In less than a week, the styes I had in both eyes also progressed to infections making it painful to see and driving (let alone getting in saltwater) nearly impossible. It was a humbling lesson that no matter how I envision (no pun intended) things will go, 99.999% of things that happen in my life are outside my control.

What is within my control? 1. My actions

End of list. Full stop.

As much as we would like to think we control our thoughts, our feelings, and even our own bodies, we really don’t! Our mind is the sky, thoughts and feelings are but the weather. They only have the power we give them. And then they, in turn, have power over us. The quote “thoughts think themselves” by philosopher Allen Watts has been incredibly helpful in allowing me to recognize this. The thoughts in my head don’t make me a bad person. Nor do they make me a good person. They just make me a person.

I would love to be able to tell you that I didn’t feel any discomfort in the process. But to deny the feelings we are experiencing is to deny reality. There is a difference between acknowledging the feeling and allowing yourself to work through it, and telling yourself you “shouldn’t” be feeling it and it is “bad.”

If I were in control of my body, I would tell my eyes (and my back and other achy joints, for that matter) not to hurt.

In the end, it is only my actions.

And that is the lesson for me. Living a life walking a path of peace doesn’t mean a life of ONLY peace. It’s learning how to find peace in moments that do not seem peaceful. To find what is the moment teaching me. What can I learn? What are the facts without my judgment of them?

The ironic thing, this is precisely what I am doing remotely for over 160 executives! As a Master Practitioner of the Energy Leadership Index by iPEC, I help people see how they show up day-to-day and how their energy shifts when they encounter a stressor. I teach them tools to create space that allows them to choose their response instead of reacting by default. I teach them tools to help them focus on self-compassion and self-care instead of self-improvement.

What actions have I taken to practice self-care? I found a new place to stay in Kona (with fast WiFi!). I saw an ophthalmologist who give me medicine for my eyes. I resume my daily meditation practice. I exercise. And I let go of the things outside my control.

As much as we may picture a life of nothing but positivity and safety, that’s not life! Life is the messy, unknowing, seemingly random, perfectly imperfect present moment. I may not know what the rest of my time here will bring. But the same is true of any day no matter where I am. The future is unknown. And that is an absolutely beautiful thing.

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