Our superficial world has citizens competing, and our kids are paying the price. Many overworked parents are feeling the effects of trying to keep up with the Joneses. Living up to expectations that belong to another can leave us feeling empty and lost, needing something more. At a loss for answers, we are becoming a heavily medicated society while our children are heavily scheduled and learning by example. With every moment managed and well mapped out, there's little or no down time or freedom.
Advertisers and politicians like to keep us busy, distracted, and out of touch. Subliminal messages are much more easily penetrated by overwhelmed minds desperately searching for a way out. So, we convince ourselves that we have to work to pay the mortgage and to afford college for our kids. We convince our kids that they have to go to college if they want a good life. It's easy to get all caught up in this vortex of doing. But eventually, it catches up with us. So absorbed in doing what everybody else is doing, we lose who we are. So narrowly consumed and following the crowd, we lose our way – we forget that we have other options. So stress-filled, we become a part of a chronically stressed and traumatized society that is living by musts and shoulds. So out of touch with the self, we have become victims, without even realizing it. We lost our voice, our power, and are without the proper tools for finding a balance.
The flood of high speed technology makes it easy to get caught up and taken over by all the hype. Many of us have become addicted to devices, unable to turn them off – feeling trapped, overwhelmed, with nowhere to run to catch our breath. Compulsive use of technology, such as iPhones, tablets, and computers can interfere with your daily life, work, and relationships. When you spend more time on social media or playing games than you do interacting with real people, or when you can’t stop yourself from repeatedly checking texts, emails, news feeds, websites, or apps—even when it has negative consequences in your life--it may be time to reassess your technology use. 
A recent study looked at two elite East Coast high schools and researchers surveyed and interviewed 128 students, teachers, and administrators about students’ stress levels and coping strategies. They found that 49 percent of students reported feeling “a great deal of stress” on a daily basis. Half reported doing three or more hours of homework per night, and 26 percent noted that they had been diagnosed with depression—over four times the national average of 6 percent. 
While students are increasingly reporting feeling overwhelmed and stressed, they are doing what they are told they must. Parents are often the first group to be blamed for their kids’ stress since many equate their children’s success with their own, or push their kids to go to an Ivy League college because the parents assume that will help them lead happier lives.  Despite feeling stressed, kids like the prestige and enjoy overhearing parents' bragging about their accomplishments. Suzie takes pride in being the top-scoring captain of her lacrosse team, Tommy likes receiving praise for earning National Merit Scholarship and graduating at the top of his class, with acceptances to top name schools like Harvard and Johns Hopkins. But teachers, high school guidance counselors, and administrators are contributing to student stress, boasting about acceptances to prestigious schools, touting impressive standardized test scores, helping real estate agents sell homes and townships raise taxes. It seems everyone wants to jump aboard the success train, hoping that it will get them somewhere.
Striking a balance in life is hard to do and a recent survey shows that the effort to balance work and family life is, for many, a struggle. It shows the stress of balancing work and family life is felt most acutely by middle-class, college-educated families. For women, the struggle centers on time. For many full-time working moms, “feeling rushed is an almost constant reality,” and 4 in 10 working moms say they “always” feel rushed, according to the report. When mom is stressed, the entire home will feel it. Left unchecked, the family suffers and blames.
The yellow school bus can be a source of anxiety for many children. It triggers a mixture of emotions for students; fear, excitement, worry, sadness. But as those yellow doors close and cart away our youth, many moms are rejoicing, some more vocally than others. Nonetheless, “freedom,” is being celebrated, at least seven hours of it anyway. For one-half of the waking day, these kids are “safely contained,” and for the time being, are someone else's "problem." As a teacher, counselor, and mother who home-schools her son, I am familiar with the many problems contained within those school walls, and they extend well beyond the realm of academics. With so many parents working full-time, there's no one home for the kids after school and definitely no time to sit about chatting about the day's events. Our kids need a place to feel safe -- to be listened to and to relax. Instead, our schedule has us racing from one thing to the next . . . off to karate, violin lessons, Kumon, sporting activities, & more tutoring . . . Dinner is a quick grab from the nearest drive through window and the bottle of wine waits to be uncorked as soon as the kids run off to their rooms in order to get ready to do it all again -- bright and early.
Chronic stress is an epidemic and is being felt by everyone, young and old. We are conditioned by a system packaging and selling fear. Parents are buying it and consequently, our children are being brainwashed -- threatened by the mindlessness of adults chanting, “college,” “college,” “college.” The status attached to wearing name brands has so many of us duped into believing that a “good” college education is the only way to get a job, to become successful, and to be “happy.”
You may be surprised to hear that roughly 50% of American students who enter college don’t end up graduating! (According to U.S. Census figures, 6-in-10 high school seniors go on to college the following year, but only 29% of adults 25 and over had at least a bachelor’s degree.) Certainly, finances and life circumstances play into that figure, but the stress of college life cannot be ignored as a factor as well. 
Being on duty 24/7 is not sustainable. Even the best of us need time out for rest and relaxation. A lack of space and free time to partake in enjoyable hobbies, for simply taking a nap or for going for a hike, has taken a toll on kids and adults alike. Instead of turning within for answers, we are unconsciously turning outwardly towards unhealthy means for satisfying our longing for something more.
It's time to put on the brakes and to take stock of ourselves. Each one of us needs to drown out the world long enough for finding necessary quiet space for looking within. We must take back the right to do what is in our best interest and that means taking back our power, jumping into the driver's seat and navigating our own course in life. A course or path is unable to be successfully forged without inner examination.
There was once a time in our life when we felt connected and alive. Can you recall a time when you felt free? What were you doing when you were so immersed in something that time seemed to stand still? Were you building blocks? Playing the piano? Rock climbing? Playing basketball? Dancing? Riding the roller coaster? Only in stillness can we reawaken who we truly are. Only by reconnecting our busy mind with our body can we hear the messages lurking deeply within.
Parents, teachers, counselors, coaches, and society cannot tell us who we are, what we want, and where we we need to go. The joy of life comes from self discovery, from finding our life purpose by remaining connected to our heart. We cannot get in touch with our Divine purpose if we're busy listening to the voices in the crowd. We must be willing to take the path less traveled and risk criticism if we want to live fully and to fly freely. Life can become more hopeful, even magical, when we learn how to equip ourselves with the proper tools for coping with daily stress. Possessing the know how for finding our way when all the signs seem to be pointing in a hopeless direction, allows us to remain focused, calm, and confident despite adversity.
The college-bound path does need not be a path that feels force-fed, leaving you silently gagging and gasping for air. Below are eight (8) easy ways for finding space, for catching your breath, and regaining your footing so you can fly wherever you want:
- Create a journal. Get in the habit of writing. Write whatever comes to mind. Purge all that needs to get out of your head and onto paper. Write just before going to bed so that all negativity gets out and make time to be grateful for what transpired throughout your day. Go to bed feeling grateful. As a matter of fact, create a gratitude journal. Write daily the things you are most grateful. Get into the habit of appreciating the littlest things in life. Appreciation is the key to shifting away from negative thinking in order to cultivate positivity and to bring abundance into your life.
- Write a list of your good qualities: I am a good person, good athlete, intelligent, funny . . .
Really feel the truth of these qualities on a deep level. Start to understand the need to feel more compassion for those who criticize you, take behavior of others less personally, and begin seeing others in a better light as you begin to recognize and believe the good qualities about yourself.
- Stop Negative Thoughts Before They Gain Momentum. Trace back to a time when you started feeling negatively. Was it something someone said to you? What was your first negative experience you can recall? Why was it negative? Did you feel unworthy or incapable of speaking up for yourself? Were you unable to say, "No?" Now, go back and recall an image in time when you felt most free, happy. What was it like? Describe those feelings? What were you doing? Did you feel "good" because you were getting attention? Or did you feel "good" because you accomplished something you felt proud or worked hard towards mastering? Our thoughts have a lot to do in generating self worth and self confidence. What we think, we become. Our thought process can cause us discomfort and can lead us to more stress and dis'ease. So, make a daily habit of cultivating positive thoughts. Try focusing on one simple thing (i.e.): “I prepared a wonderful meal for myself.” “I decluttered my pantry and it feels good..” "I listened well to a friend who needed me. As you learn to pay attention to your pattern of thoughts, try practicing stopping negative thoughts and then turning them into positive thoughts. It only takes 17 seconds for a negative thought to stick and just 17 seconds more to generate the next negative thought, and so forth . . . In just 68 seconds, you did it! You created negative momentum. So INSTEAD, Today try noticing a negative thought, simply acknowledge it, and try to stop it before it picks up momentum. . . simple say "Cancel, Cancel, delete. " THEN, replace that thought with an image -- move out of the mind and into the heart -- FEEL your way out of thinking -- Recall a place that makes you FEEL really good. Go there. Really be there - Feel it. Smell it. Taste it. Hear the sounds. Stay in that feeling. Now say out loud how you're feeling -- NOW -- in the present moment. STATE HOW YOU FEEL, for example: "I love being [by the ocean,] listening to the waves, smelling the salt air, feeling my feet in the warm, soft sand. I feel relaxed. The ocean soothes me and makes me feel peaceful. I feel peaceful. I feel calm. I like feeling calm. I am worthy of feeling calm and relaxed.. The ocean is a place that allows me to feel my breath, to feel free, and to live in the present moment. I feel connected to mother Earth when I'm near the ocean. I feel alive. I am completely free of stress and connected to my highest Self when I'm connected with the ocean." As you stay with an image for 17 seconds [listening to the waves,] you add another positive image, [smelling the salt air,] and then add, [feeling your feet in the warm, soft sand.] Each 17 seconds of positive imagery creates positive momentum and shifts you into positive thinking and being. You can do this with any general positive image. Try It!!
- Practice forgiveness. Forgiveness is a way to align to the powerful feeling of self worth. Make a list of critical things you remember others saying. Practice forgiving yourself for believing them. See yourself as worthy of being appreciated, despite words. Work on appreciating yourself, for being loving and unique. Self love is critical for being able to shift out of negativity.
- Listen to your body. Our body has a lot to tell us. Over time we inherit a lot of negativity which gets a hold on us. Our beliefs stop us up and get in the way of creating a happy, healthy attitude. Failing to listen to our body and to our feelings by monitoring our thoughts, keeps our energy split as we turn away from our inner being's longing to feel happy. Today, listen to your body. Eat only when hungry. Drink when thirsty. Make good healthy choices of what you choose to put into your body and bring into your mind. Keep your thoughts positive and clean. Do only what feels good. Listen to your gut. Avoid negativity and doubt. Notice your heart rate, be aware of your surroundings, practice being more aware of whether another's negative thinking or action is affecting you negatively. If so, act to change the situation.
- Create a safe space . (physically, mentally, emotionally). Use this space to take care of yourself. Meditate, listen to music, go outdoors into nature. Use this time to practice feeling, to process your thoughts, and to return to balance -- back to your true nature. Or simply learn how to do TRE® Tension & Trauma Releasing Exercises with me! Shake it off naturally and restore back to balance and into healing.
- Practice awareness. Pay daily attention to what you are thinking and how your are acting or re-acting throughout the day. Practice being more patient with yourself and others. Observe your reactions. Do not judge or criticize yourself. Be calm and try to change your thoughts to something more positive. At day's end, take inventory. How did my day go? Who upset me? What could I learn about myself from my reaction? What can I work on? What do I need to do to feel better about myself? In the morning, wake up and make up your mind to work on that something . . . listening, smiling, finding gratitude . . . and go about doing it. Be easy on yourself. Recognize when you're falling into old patterns of thinking, behaving, then make an effort to keep practicing. Be like a warrior. Look at each day as your battleground. Take stock and assess if today was a win. If it was a loss, and you told the Comcast girl to go F*ck off, then see what you need to do tomorrow to make communication clearer.
- Lighten up. Find time to laugh. Smile. Do something that brings you joy. Look into the mirror and tell yourself, “I love you.” Try to get 8 heart-to-heart hugs a day and at least three (3) belly laughs!
Start by intentionally doing things that bring greater Self alignment -- play the piano, color, sing, dance, sew, walk, sit in nature, breathe, do yoga, cook, buy fresh flowers, hum, listen to music -- do simple things that bring rhythm and joy. Consciously cultivate an attitudinal atmosphere filled with love and positivity to help fly into greater momentum and raise your vibration so that you can continue flying effortlessly.
The soul waits until we're ready to come back home; it provides us with necessary rest, relief and reassurance. In our haste, we can't see clearly; we can't find that diamond we're searching for until we stop long enough to recognize that it's already around our neck.
From Jewels Heart