If you are a person like me who suffers from both depression and anxiety,the search for inner peace can be a difficult quest. But what do we mean when we talk about "inner peace"? Is it just some clichÃ© promoted by self help gurus? Beyond the clichÃ©s I do think inner peace does exist as an essential quality to combat stress, anxiety, and depression.
It has been my personal experience that inner peace is the core ingredient to resiliency and the ability to withstand the challenges inherent in life. In this post we will discuss how to incorporate the core attributes of peacefulness and simplicity into your day to day life to ease the stress of everyday living.
My working definition of inner peace includes three elements:
Sometimes anxiety and stress are ways that our mind and physical being tells us that something in our life is out of balance. If we don’t listen the stress becomes worse until life deals us a hand such as a physical or mental illness that we can no longer ignore. Anxiety is like that banging sound you hear from your washing machine when the clothes are out of balance. You have to adjust something or the cycle will not complete.
One of the exercises I do periodically is what I call a "Life Balance Assessment." I first write down all the broad areas of my life which are important to me such as: Family, friendships, work, fun and relaxation, home, etc. Then I create a visual of a pie (a circle) on a large sheet of paper. Next, I cut up that pie using the elements of my life but I assign a percentage to each piece of the pie according to how much time I am realistically spending each week upon that life element. So for example you may have a pie which has you spending 75% of your time on work pursuits and only 10% on family. Clearly this would indicate a life out of balance and particularly if you want to spend more time with your family.
The time you spend upon some life elements may always be a larger piece of the pie than others. For example I will by necessity spend more time working than having fun or relaxing. So the key here is to not just look at the size of the pieces of pie and what they represent but to ask yourself if this is a balance you can live with? Do you want to spend more time with friends and family? If so then you need to cut back on spending time on some of your other life activities.
It is all about finding a working balance for you so that you are not overly stressed or burned out due to any one area of your life. Easier said than done I know but it is a worthy examination to be conscious of where all your time is going.
2. Conscious Living
For some of us life can become like we are rats in a maze blindly searching for the prize we know is somewhere out there but cannot find. It is possible to live life without being conscious of what we want. If you ask yourself things like, "Why am I at this job?" or "Why am I in this relationship?" and you don’t know why, you may be living a life without awareness or direction.
Nobody can predict the future and many of our goals will not work out in the end. But it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have them. Knowing what you want in life can take the edge off anxiety. We are no longer a leaf in the wind, blowing aimlessly according to life’s whims. We have goals, a purpose, and a direction to guide us as we make conscious decisions.
Asking self exploratory questions can help us to become more conscious of how we wish to steer our life. These questions can include: What do I value in life? What are my priorities? What makes me happy? What are my overall life goals? Is my current lifestyle good for my physical and mental health? The answers you give to such questions may give you clarity as to which activities, pursuits, and even relationships to sustain and which to end.
Living with awareness can prevent us from needlessly wasting time and energy on things which hinder our personal growth and progress.
Living a Life Congruent with Your Values
I suppose this is what some would call integrity. For me integrity means walking the walk and not just talking the talk. For example do you value friendships but seldom seem to find time to spend with friends? Do you value your health but find yourself sabotaging yourself with eating poorly or not getting enough sleep? Do you tell others about the importance of getting treatment for depression or anxiety but neglect to do so for yourself? Do you criticize others for their bad habits but fail to do anything about your own addictions? All of these differences between what we say we value and what we actually do can lead to great anxiety and distress.
Nobody is perfect. We all mess up. We all make mistakes and sometimes even self destruct. But awareness is the key to learning from our mistakes and making life changes so we can be in greater harmony with what we value.
Again, a life check can really help with maintaining a sense of integrity. Make a list of your values. Are you living a life which is congruent with these values or are you way off course? Now is a good a time as any to think about how we want to be and how to make that happen.
I have given you just a few ways to increase your ability to find some inner peace. If you have any other suggestions to pass along with regard to incorporating peacefulness into the everyday please share them here. Your words may be just the thing someone else needs to hear today.