5 Energy Balancing Techniques For Letting Go of Stress and Worry
BY JOSEPH CARDILLO, PH.D.
getting good at the art of letting go of stress is one of the core keys to living a life of joy, peace and flow..
While optimal amounts of tension and worry can be motivating in preparing yourself for an activity, enhancing the drive to hit your goal, too much tension will result in stress.Stress is what happens when you experience relentless tension. The danger is that as your stress escalates, you can experience numerous negative effects, including demoralization, loss of appetite, and depression. Other manifestations of stress include pain, nausea, fatigue, difficulty breathing, and amnesia.
“Energy and persistence conquer all things.”
— Benjamin Franklin
Once tension becomes stress, you lose your sense of flow and joy, and perform below your optimal level. In fact, your higher level energies of mind and spirit constrict or block. As a result, stress leaves you to perform at the most superficial level, draining your overall available energy. This pattern is difficult to overcome, restricting your growth as a whole person and even causing serious illness.
Be Aware of Quick Changes in Your Stress Level
All kinds of rapid change in your life can stress you out. For example, maybe you or someone you know suddenly experiences illness, the loss of a loved one, or new employment. The stress might even be due to a good cause, such as graduating from college or forming a new romantic relationship. How you react to such changes will determine whether you will be affected negatively or not.
Again, becoming aware is a good first step in dealing with and letting go of stressful energy. You can then support it with calming energy (force and information) and a change in your perceptive lens.
Extinguishing the influence of the major cause(s) of your stress is one possible path for dealing with it. But if that’s not in your interests or if that’s just not a realistic possibility, then adapting to it until you can extinguish it is another way to deal with it.
Each of these paths require certain energy. Also, this energy will be specific to you. In order to relieve and let go of the stress you are experiencing, you may need to first calm yourself down. But then, let’s say that your stress is the result of gridlock; you may also need to charge up more physical and mental energies to get unstuck and overcome it. This energy should send the particular messages you need to hear in the moment to give you the force and guidance you need.
Somewhere in your mix of fixes, you should include meditation and reflection, not only to increase awareness but also to put you in touch with your whole life being, recharging you with clean, fresh energy.
making time for inspiration and play is one of the keys to letting go of stress and worry. photo: jake berry
1. Tap Into the Energy of Joy and Inspiration
Take time right now to think over your agenda for tomorrow. Identify one or two predictable situations that will use up larger amounts of your energy. Then plan a bit of a recharging activity before or after your energy drains (but preferably both). If you can’t arrange this schedule, find ways to take little breaks during the energy-consuming activity. Get to a different environment and do something restorative. Read something creative or spiritual and of high interest and pleasure for you. Maybe you like to listen to audiobooks. Try meditating or listening to a piece of music that sends you the right messages to restore your energy, and finish your day happy. Or do something creative, like sketch a natural scene. Go slow—take the time to enjoy what you are doing. Notice these are all activities that fuel your spirit and help you let go of stress. Let these activities and your other production-driven mind-set relax and restore you.
Before you go back to your work, focus on your highest-level mind (spirit) and breathe deeply, slowly, and calmly. Now envision the energy you have cultivated within your highest mind, stream it downward into your higher mind, and then into your physical body. Feel the energy enter your body from the crown of your head and stream it throughout your entire body, then circulate it back up and loop it down again several times. Feel this high-quality, natural energy flowing through all the levels of your being. Luxuriate in the moment. Let it unify and restore you. Remember the feeling.
2. Eliminate Phantom Stress
Do you ever get all stressed over nothing? Sometimes your imagination gets you stressing over all kinds of negative scenarios that could happen to you but never will. Phantom stress is the result of both electrical and chemical activity in your mind and body. Individuals with phobias experience this feeling and get caught in it.Say you are afraid of snakes. Then you’ve probably experienced walking along and suddenly thinking you see a snake right in your path. Your reaction is virtually instantaneous. Within a millisecond, you are in the throes of your fight-or-flight response, streaming an electrochemical storm inside you.
It doesn’t have to be an insect or animal phobia, however. Similar responses can occur just walking through a crowded shopping mall and suddenly seeing (or thinking you see) someone you really don’t want to bump into. These and similar kinds of stressful reactions are often inflated and inaccurate, but they all turn on your energy-draining pipeline to full blast and cause a lot of unnecessary stress.
What’s more, when we are thinking this way, odds are we’re probably wrong in our assessment—wrong around 99 percent of the time! In fact, when you are already fearful of something, you tend to see it even when it is not there. Nature has wired us with this fuzzy circuitry for a reason.
Maybe when you were young, a one-foot-long, yellow-and-black snake almost bit you (or did). So you file the object as “dangerous snake” in an emotional memory that is very fuzzy and makes it hard to let go of stress around the incident. To see how this memory system works (and how it doesn’t), imagine making a photocopy of a picture on an old analog photocopying machine. Then imagine taking a photocopy of “the copy” and repeating that process a few times over. After a while, all distinguishing features in the photo start to disappear. In the end, you may only see some dark shading and a few lines here and there. If you were doing this with a page of print, for instance, an O would decay into what may look like a C after making a few copies of copies; you wouldn’t be able to distinguish between an L and an I. This is how your emotional memory records things—fuzzy.
Although it may seem counterintuitive, this is where nature’s genius reveals itself. Consider what would happen if evolution had given us high definition fight-or-flight memory. Say you could memorize feared objects with such high definition and specificity that you could recall the most intricate of details with absolute clarity. If this were the case and you’d previously been bitten by a one-foot-long, yellow-and-black snake, you would deposit those specific details in your memory. Then if, sometime later, you encountered a seven-foot-long, brown-colored snake with diamond shapes on its back, your highly accurate memory would give you a free pass, assuming that dangerous snakes are all one foot long and yellow and black. Your fight-or-flight response would not kick in, and you wouldn’t see and feel any stress or threat—at least not yet. However, you may be looking straight into the eyes of a diamondback rattlesnake that’s about to attack you.
“Phantom stress is the result of both electrical and chemical activity in your mind and body.”
By keeping a fuzzy image of your feared object in memory, nature activates your fight-or-flight response whenever anything even remotely resembling the object of your fear presents itself, making your assessment and response often inaccurate, yet protecting you in the one situation when they are accurate.
Fear-based memory is so powerful that you can be roaming around an environment full of positive and pleasing objects with only a single fearful object, and your mind will locate that fearful object faster than any of the others. This is why a frowning (or disgusted-looking) face in a crowd of smiling people will stand out even though there are many more happy faces.
What this essentially means is that nice things will distract you from things you don’t find fearful or stressful, but they won’t interrupt you when it comes to things you do fear. But this pattern isn’t good when you are trying to let go of stress in your life. This is because each positive element, even though it may be irrelevant to the task you are trying to concentrate on, is relevant to you and your whole energy cultivation.
Scientifically there is reason for the expression “stop and smell the roses.” In fact, any positive sensory elements within your immediate environment are energetically useful when it comes to taking your attention off of and letting go of the stress you may be experiencing. This allows you to refuel while slowing down energy consumption. It may also offer energetic information to enable you to further deal with your task more fluidly. By ignoring the positive energies in your environment, you may be turning yourself off to both the information you need and to the calming force of those neutralizing energies. Opening yourself up and seeing and feeling into these energies can refresh and rebalance you.
Western Energy Balance
There are various meanings for the term balance with regard to energy. From a Western scientific perspective, balance refers to an optimum state of mind between calm and alert.
You may ask, what’s optimal? Your mind is balanced when you are operating in a mind-set that is in a middle ground between an activated, focused state and a calm, relaxed one. To enter into this state, your brain has to be able to make adjustments. Staying in this middle ground keeps your physical and mental activity flowing. If you were to be any calmer, for example, you would be too mellow for the specific situation you’re in and if you were any more alert, you’d be too “wired.” Adjustments are made per and amidst tasks or goals to keep you in your balanced (optimum) mindset.
Holistic Energy Balance
In mind-body medicine and many holistic arts, we enjoy the idea of balance as an optimally performing mindset—one that is especially good for letting go of stress. We add to the Western perspective the Universal Principle of yin-yang as an essential element for fully understanding the concept of balance. This is because the concept of yin-yang provides a very clear picture of energy as it exists in all things from biggest and smallest, the force and information that comprises it, and its continuous momentum.
“The circle of the yin-yang symbol represents the energetically cooperative nature of all things.”
The circle of the yin-yang symbol represents the energetically cooperative nature of all things. In holistic medicine, we consider this energetic cooperation Universal Law: the concept applies to all things in the Universe—ourselves and all we do included. The dark color in the symbol refers to yin, the female universal energy within all things, from the tiniest particle to the Universe itself. The light color refers to yang, the universal male energy, also within all things. Here, the terms male and female refer to specific energies, not gender. Notice that within the symbol’s dark coloration, there is a dot of light; and in the light coloration, there is a dot of dark. Conceptually, this refers to the universal need for (and balance of) both yin and yang everywhere we can see and beyond. You can’t have one (yin or yang) without the other. You need both (yin-yang) for balance and harmony.
Balance is an essential and serious concept in holistic medicine and in Asian traditions. The word China translates to “middle,” “center,” or “middle kingdom.” As with many concepts based in these traditions, there are layers of meaning below the superficial, and many benefits to cultivate and grow. In a similar manner, martial arts practitioners study a form or posture only to learn four years later, when they think they have mastered it, that there is another, more advanced form—with deeper concept and benefit—then another and another. In the West, we can become frustrated with this idea—when a student earns a degree, many believe this means they are done with their education. I have personally heard many individuals saying things similar to, “Okay, that’s it—done with that. Now I’m ready for something else.”In Eastern traditions like karate, earning a black belt indicates that you have mastered only the basics of your art. That is why students are told the story that in the most traditional martial arts, there was only one belt: the white belt. As the story goes, the white belt, after much experience (naturally soiling and tattering), turned black, indicating the wearer had achieved a certain level of mastery; but as her experience continued, the student’s black belt would continue tattering until it turned white again. And the circle continues: to black then white, over and over and over. Traditionally, the karate student sees the dojo as just a smaller representation of what happens in life.
This kind of balance—this continuous journey of yin-yang, of body-mind-spirit, of informed power—is what you learn to pursue; it is not a trophy. Through cultivation and growth, you transform your personal energy from low to high, and learn to sustain this high-quality energy, health, spiritedness, and joy throughout your life and beyond. This pursuit is, in fact, connected to our ultimate purpose in life. For this reason, I want to get more specific about yin-yang.
3. Balancing Yin-and-Yang Energy in the Body and Mind
First, notice the term yin-yang is hyphenated. This is done purposefully. It indicates that you do not want one without the other, and that you need both for balance. You can be a person, for example, who is soft (yin) yet unyielding (yang), a person of backbone (yang) yet not hardened (yin). Harmony balances opposites, and balancing opposites energetically results in harmony. Just as day turns to night, and night to day, and just as the seasons change, so it is with the body, mind, and spirit. There is no conflict, stress, or stagnation when you are balanced. Your energy and life flow.
You can consider the nature of yin as the Universe’s reproductive energy. Yang’s nature is, on the other hand, productive. Yang refers to issues of exterior and heat, whereas yin refers to interior and cold. Yin’s physical and psychological problems have to do with cold, deficiency, and low energy; whereas yang has to do with excessive energy—e.g., type A fiery personality and overexcitability.
The principle of yin-yang can also help you to see more clearly and better regulate your personal energy patterns and let go of stress—how they are functioning and affecting you. For example, an individual’s high-energy appearance may be because he is yin deficient, which makes him seem to have jumpy, excessive energy. You see this often when someone is burnt out, has stayed up all night, is full of coffee, and is scrambling in frustration. Their yang (productive energy drain) is straining, overheating, and draining, not really excessive. Look at the symbol again. As yang energy wanes, it naturally wants to shift to yin—as yin will “cool it off ” and facilitate its restoration. When someone is burnt out, it may be that their yin (reproductive, cooling, restorative, energy-gaining pipeline) is and has been deficient, and as such, can’t refuel the person’s energy output. The yang energy is, however, what you are left to see on the surface. At the extreme of either yin or yang, you naturally and energetically want to enter the other.
“At the extreme of either yin or yang, you naturally and energetically want to enter the other.”
For balance: yang-excessive needs energy to “bleed off” the overabundance of fire-heat in the individual, whereas yin-deficient requires cultivation of the person’s yin energy. These are not interchangeable. If someone is yin-deficient hyperactive, you won’t get good results by taking a jog, which will make the person’s yang energy strain even more.
If, on the other hand, the person is yang-excessive, the jog will achieve the balancing result you want, staving off some (or all) of the excessive energy. Chemical treatments, whether pharmaceutical or in the form of caffeine or energy drinks, can be problematic for the yang-excessive person in the same way an exercise like jogging can contribute to further imbalance for the yin-deficient person. Also, even when chemical treatments are appropriately used, they provide only temporary solutions, and sometimes compound problems with undesirable side effects.
Exercise: Balancing Yin and Yang Energy
For one whole day, complement the actions of your environment, whether they are generated by a person, place, or circumstance, which will ultimately help you greatly in letting go of stress. Don’t barge into a place. If someone speaks, listen. Relax when the traffic light turns red. When you are the next person in line at the store, don’t hand the cashier your money until he or she is ready and shifts into the “receive” mode. Use your passive mode to build energy, then filter it down to your active mode to spend it. Be both soft and powerful. Be strong and fluid.
4. Get Rid of Old Behavioral Patterns
Sometimes stress and loss of calm originate from behavioral templates that mess you up. You may be speaking to someone who seems to be staring out the window. That person may actually be thinking about what you are saying, but their seeming lack of interest in your words fires your frustration circuits and streams adrenaline into your bloodstream. Next thing you know, you are derailed, saying or thinking something you may regret. The problem in dealing with and letting go of this stress is that we aren’t always aware of its connection to our habits. Remember, these templates fire in a virtual instant—in milliseconds. Therefore, their relationship to how we are feeling or how things are working out for us may go unnoticed.
What we do notice is the stress that dysfunctional behavioral templates cause in our lives. Sometimes, we get so used to operating under the influence of these processes that our actions and emotions, including all of our stressors, feel normal to us. I’m sure you have heard individuals using the phrase, “This is my burden” or “Every life has its tribulations.” It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that stress is part of the turf we tread upon—environmentally, interpersonally, intellectually, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. If, on the other hand, it turns out that the turf itself is stressing you out, you need to make some adjustments in order to let it go. You can start by looking both internally and externally.
What You Can Do for Relief
Check to see if your stressors are the result of dysfunctional templates. If so, begin removing them. You can do this by practicing reflection, looking back with an open mind into endeavors that fall short of your goals or that don’t work out, and even those that do work out yet you still wish to improve. This type of reflection is the most common. Sometimes, however, you need to more immediately consider and regulate your thoughts, feelings, and actions in order to fully let go of stress. For this, you can also practice reflection on the fly.
But you can also practice reflection on the fly. Although it is a little more difficult, this kind of reflection can be done within an activity, making adjustments to improve your performance as you go along. Most of the time, though, dysfunctional templates kick in so fast, you feel there is no stopping them. And though it may seem impossible, you can, with preliminary practice, stop them and let go of the stress they generate. A good place to start practicing is by taking some relaxed, mindful time later in your day to look over the situations that brought you stress. By tracing the dysfunctional behaviors associated with your stress, you can be on alert for them when they pop up in other real-time scenarios in the future.
The key to success is in knowing the peripheral energetic signs of stress. This knowledge gives you a cue when a specific template is about to bring you trouble and helps you replace it with one that will achieve better results.
“you want to replace a dysfunctional template with a healthier one. Then you must train your mind to use it as your mind’s default setting.”
It isn’t easy to do this at first, but you can learn with just a little practice. Because dysfunctional templates trigger so quickly, it’s hard to become aware of them midflight. However, through mindful reflection later in your day, you determine what state your mind and body were in just moments before you engaged in the behavior that stressed you out. The behavior may have been a thought, feeling, or action (remember, these are all energetic events). This information makes you conscious of early links in the chain of events and information that streamed through your mind and led up to the actual behavior. Once you are able to identify the links (symptoms), you can train yourself to stop their progression before the stress-causing behavior occurs.
Ultimately, you want to replace a dysfunctional template with a healthier one. Then you must train your mind to use it as your mind’s default setting. By replacing the faulty template with your new functional one and using it repeatedly, you will short-circuit the early link, create a new brain circuit with the healthier template, and establish a whole different—in this case, stress-free—outcome.
At that point, your new behavior will automatically engage every time afterward when you are in a similar situation and you should have no problem letting go of stress and even cutting it off before it starts. You might be thinking, “That sounds like a lot of work.” But it really isn’t, because you are going to do it little by little.
5. Follow The Energy of Bliss
“Follow your bliss” was an anthem made popular by the mythologist Joseph Campbell. Mind-body medicine also addresses this idea of bliss but from a scientific perspective. This view allows us to take the notion of bliss a few steps further in understanding why it is an important aspect of letting go and living a stress-free life.
Bliss is related to the idea of Self because when you are mindfully operating within your Self, fully aware of the informed power of your highest mind vibrantly and brilliantly flowing through all three levels of your consciousness, what you experience—what you feel—is bliss. This feeling is perhaps as opposite of stress as one could ever get. Bliss is what it feels like to be operating in sync with your original nature. When you operate from this whole-being vantage point, rather than draining energy, you gain energy. Rather than living in conflict with who you are, you live without stress, authentically—flowing your full living being with others and the things you do.
However, following your bliss does not mean, from a mind-body medicine perspective, that we should all go out and become hedonists in any realm, be it the body, mind, or spirit. Some people allow themselves (their attention) to attach to things. When this happens, you lose the wider view as well as your ability to regulate your focus, because it is attached to energy other than your own genuine consciousness flowing with it. Attached, your mind and life start working like a guided missile, with your attention or mindfulness following the “thing” you’ve attached it to instead of you, your Self. This pattern is true, loud, and clear in all addictions, and it removes the possibility of conscious self-regulation and flow. Furthermore, it uses up the energy you need to create your life. But this pattern goes beyond addiction and includes anything you attach to, such as owning a certain vehicle, attaining certain employment, and so on. This generates a huge stress point: a conflict between your original nature—your deepest Self—and the way you are living and feeling day by day. This conflict also blocks access to your higher energies, and furthers the strain and drain of your lower energy resources.
To follow your bliss, you have to put your attention inward. Go back to the original clean, uncontaminated, stress-free slate of your original Self. One way to achieve this is by practicing mindful breathing. Focus on your in-breath as though you are tracing it with your index finger, streaming your awareness through to your human mind, into your higher mind, and into your highest (spiritual) mind, which is where your true and first nature exists—your bliss. By mindfully exhaling, you are further able to touch this brilliant informed power as it cascades through all realms of your whole living being. This is also a powerful practice for releasing and letting go of stress in realtime.
“To follow your bliss, you have to put your attention inward.”
As you witness and journey within this space more and more, you will discover that the place you have been journeying to is what the great masters of enlightenment have referred to as the heart of your very being—and in order to get there fully, you must let go of stress and move into a state of peace and presence. When you mindfully exhale from this vantage point, you can extend your awareness beyond yourself without perimeters. And then you will uncover the big discovery that this place—the heart of you—is also the seat (the heart) of the Universe. Your heart is its heart and its heart is yours, simultaneously. On that day, which will come for you with practice and cultivation, you will consciously experience the center (the source) of all energy. You will be one and the same.
Within this view, when you are centered within your full being of tri-level consciousness, you are in and experiencing your bliss; from there, you will get the right force and the right message—from there, you cannot go wrong. If you trust in anything, trust in the blissful intelligence of the Universe. Trust in the direction in which it is naturally flowing you. The more hectic and stressed life becomes, the more important it is to feel into and flow with this energy. Make yourself aware, witness, energize, be, and then do. Feel your stress vaporize as you let it go once and for all.
This article on letting go of stress is excerpted with permission from the book Body Intelligence: Harness Your Body’s Energies for Your Best Life by Joseph Cardillo, Ph.D.
About The Author
Joseph Cardillo, Ph.D, is an inspirational speaker and sought after expert on energy teaching. He is the best-selling author of several books in the fields of psychology, health, and holistic wellness. He holds a PhD in holistic psychology and mind-body-medicine, and he is an expert in Attention Training™ and creative thinking and has taught his methods to over 20,000 students at various institutions. He is a regular contributor to Psychology Today and The Huffington Post and is a research associate at Mind-Body Science Institute International. Visit his website: josephcardillo.com