The interview today is with my good friend, Sandra Pawula from Always Well Within. She has a brand new super affordable and amazingly wonderful Ecourse that is beginning soon. If you live with a lot of stress this may be exactly what you need.
Introduce yourself and tell us how the course Living With Ease: 21 Days With Less Stress came to be?
I currently work as a freelance writer and mindfulness mentor. I love helping people find more clarity, confidence, and ease through cultivating mindfulness and awareness. My writing at Always Well Within focuses on finding greater happiness and freedom and has touched people all over the world.
Prior to this, I led a high-stress life as a busy non-profit director and fundraiser. Eventually, I suffered the ill effects of non-stop stress – in my case a frayed nervous system and chronic health challenges. At one point, I had to stop, be bold, and say “Enough is enough.” Only then could I gradually learn to live with greater ease.
What is your best practice for living with ease?
Some of the ways I reduce stress include soaking in a naturally heated pond, taking a nap, and using mindfulness-based stress reduction techniques like a body scan.
Mindfulness is the underlying key for me because present moment awareness allows you to clearly see your conditioned patterns of response and intervene at an earlier point before stress has gotten out of control.
Mindfulness also strengthens the function of the pre-fontal cortex of the brain, which enhances your ability to rewire old stories and programs and develop more resilience. These early deceptive messages can be deeply embedded in the less conscious areas of your brain and often play a role in keeping you stuck on an unrelenting treadmill of stress.
What if someone doesn't want to meditate? What's the next best thing?
There are many ways to reduce stress beyond meditation. There’s no one method of stress reduction that works for everyone. That’s why it’s good to experiment and find what works for you.
Exercise, a good diet, and prayer are all excellent ways to modulate your stress response. I recommend having a toolbox of methods since different situations require a different response. Whatever you do, it can take time for a new practice or approach to work, so don’t give up early on.
I’d like to add that mindfulness doesn’t mean just passively sitting on a cushion for 10 minutes a day. It’s aspiring to bring awareness into every moment, which brings you more in touch with the richness of life.
There’s been 30 years of medical research, which has documented how the use of mindfulness-based stress reduction techniques, employed as a complement to medical treatment, can reduce medical symptoms and psychological suffering in a wide range of conditions from headaches, heart disease, and skin disorders to anxiety and depression.
That’s another reason I’m a big proponent of mindfulness. However, my course isn’t a heavy-duty meditation course. Although mindfulness plays a central role, we look at many different inputs into stress and how to work with them effectively.
What life lesson that has to do with living with ease can you share with us?
I’m a tough nut! It took a long time for me to recognize the damaging role that stress played in my life and to take responsibility for my stress response. I remember clearly the precise moment when the light bulb turned on. I happened to be watching a video that outlined the stress response, but one that was also presented in a very loving, caring and non-judgmental way.
In that moment, I realized not only that it’s possible to dial down the stress response but, equally important, I had to be bold, stand up and take on the stress demon myself. No one else could fix this for me. I had to stop feeling like a victim of stress and begin to learn to be the master of stress.
What is something you know to be true for a fact now that you only used to believe before?
I am not my thoughts and emotions and neither are you. Most people are so aligned with their thoughts and emotions, they think that’s all there is.
There’s a greater awareness that allows you to take a step away from any experience and see it from a larger perspective. That awareness is with you 24 hours a day. It feels open, spacious, and free.
As long as you identify with the thoughts and emotions, an endless stream of stress and suffering ensures. When you step back and start living from this larger sense of awareness, you’ll find more happiness, joy and ease. That’s the power of mindfulness.
There will always be stressful physical, environmental, and personal circumstances in your life. The question is: how will you respond? Even though some people are more susceptible to stress due to genetics, it’s not hopeless or impossible to get stress under control. With the right training and support, you can learn how to intervene in the stress cycle and begin to live with greater ease.
Sandra Pawula is a freelance writer, mindfulness advocate, and champion of living with ease. She writes about finding greater happiness and freedom on her blog Always Well Within. Her new e-course Living with Ease: 21 Days to Less Stress begins on Sept. 9th and you can register now.