An extraordinary powerful method to overcome anxiety and moments of stress

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Photo by Matt Power on Unsplash

I hear my suede brown shoes splash and squeeze on the soft slushy mud underneath the leaves. The leaves crunch and stick to the bottom of my shoe. Their colors vary from red to brown, but all equally as beautiful. There are oak leaves, birch leaves, and so many other kinds. They all fall, none of them are spared. They all change colors and eventually end up underneath someone’s shoes. The leaves glisten as the sun breaks through a small crack in the, still thick forest cap. The water on the leaves is now visible. Tiny drops reflecting the light and slowly moving to the center of the leave, where they join the other droplets. A drop of water, falls on my nose. I look up, eyes wide open, shocked by the fact that something had just hit my nose. I touched my nose as I looked up and tried to figure out from where it had fallen. Of course, I would never find out. I wiped the droplet of my face and smiled, but in a way that it was barely noticeable.

I now heard the branches crack. The wind was playing with them moving them from left to right. With each move, another leaf twiddled down to the ground landing right in front of my feet. An acorn quickly followed. I heard it hit several parts of the tree and zoomed past by left ear. If I had moved an inch in that direction it would have hit me right in the head. I start walking again. Hearing the crumbling and crunching sound of hundreds of acorns on the ground. Some are already split into two, others are still green and lush. I’ve walked many times in this same forest but each time there is something new. In the silence of the forest, I hear birds. In the distance and close by. Some with a high pitch tone others making beautiful symphonies of different heights and tones. It’s always been a delight to hear them do their thing. A woodpecker is barely hearable. I would love to spot him but all I have is a direction of the sound. I still have to go around all the trees in that direction to maybe have a chance of seeing him.

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There is a droplet falling off one of the higher golden-colored leaves and creating a chain reaction in the tree. One by one the droplets fall, creating a curtain of fake rain. If you wouldn’t have noticed, you would have thought it started raining. I bend down and grab an acorn that’s cracked open. These are the wonders of nature, seeing how the acorn is soft on the inside but has a hard shell on the outside. It makes them resistant to the weather but still lovely as a source of food for the squirrels. I drop it again and it makes a deaf hit on the ground, all the sounds are muffled by the leaves and mud. “Why aren’t you working right now?” A thought suddenly popped up in my mind.

“Wait what? Did someone just say that to me?” I was confused, the thought seemed so real, but it was just a thought. So I walked on. I loved seeing the sun breaking through the forest. It warmed my face and barely lit up a small leaf still holding strong on the stem of the tree. I was delighted to see it and grabbed my phone to take a picture. I was confronted by all kinds of notifications. All taking my attention and I forgot about what I was doing for a minute. I looked around me again and noticed the leaf again.”Oh yeah, that’s what I was about to do!” I opened my camera app and took a photo. I put my phone away but the notifications I had just seen clung to me like thistles.

Thoughts rise and harass

I saw a message from my girlfriend, a few from friends, and notifications with comments on Instagram. Some emails of work and all of them passed by in my head one by one. “How would my girlfriends be right now?” I thought to myself. “Maybe she needs my help or maybe we could hang out tonight?” It felt great to think about that “Oh no I can’t I…” a thought quickly arose within me. “I have already made plans with friends so I can’t hang with her.” Slowly my chest started moving quicker. And my hands, that were cold from the harsh autumn wind, slowly warmed up. Then the thought of work popped up in my head. “Had I done enough work today? Was my content good enough?” And quickly those thoughts started to become more anxious and stress evoking. “Will, I ever make it? Will my work ever be enough for people to follow me?” I felt light-headed. As peaceful and calm as I felt just a few minutes ago, I now felt rushed, stressed, anxious.

My body had gone into a stress response. Shallow breathing and a feeling that someone grasped my throat, squeezing it just enough so that breathing would get harder. I tried to slow my heart rate because it was getting to the speed of an intense workout. Trying to breathe into my belly but it felt tensed as if I had just done 100 sit-ups in a row. I looked down and the leaves that had just been so colorful were now less colorful. Dull in a way. The birds stopped singing their exciting serenades. It felt as the trees closed in on me and I was there alone. “You will not make it! Your work is crazy! Everyone thinks you are going crazy and you’re doing so many weird things lately!” The voice of a family member sounded in my mind over and over again. I pushed on. Walking step by step, but I didn’t hear my feet anymore. All senses had been dulled down.

Once again I try to take control of my mind and body again. In a desperate attempt, I sit down on one of the benches in the small but beautiful forest. My back straight and my belly expending forcefully as I took a deep breath. But the breath still was shallow, quick, and uncontrolled. I closed my eyes forcing myself into a meditative state. I sat there for maybe a minute, but it felt like the hands of the clock had already gone round twice. But my breath didn’t slow down. I got frustrated and rushed off the bench. Walking must help. I kept walking through the forest. Turning left and then left again, Then right. Off the road. Through the trees. Crushing some broken branches under my feet. I turned right again and I now stood in the middle of the forest. An open place. The warming hug of the sun came over me. The trees on the other side of the small wet patch of grass seemed to wave and smile at me.

And the colors started to show again

I made a step into the sun. Before it had only touched my hands and the tips of my shoes. Now I was comforted by the warm hug. It felt like I had just sipped the first gulp of coffee in the morning. The warmth quickly flowing like water through my body. First, my head started tingling, then my hands and feet. My chest, my legs, and arms. I spread my arms and took a deep breath. Opened my eyes that unconsciously had closed. I heard the birds again. Their voices were so loud that it felt deafening. I smiled and took another deep breath. Once again closing my eyes. Taking a breath in till I couldn’t get any more oxygen in my lungs. Then holding it for three seconds and breathing out. Letting every part of my body relax and I held my breath again. For as long as I could and slowly breathing in again through my nose as I couldn’t hold it any longer. I opened my eyes again and there was the turquoise blue of the sky again.

I closed my eyes again. Took a breath in again, three seconds hold, out and relax and hold again. Breathing in through my nose and opening my eyes. The arrangement of golden, glowing, and fading colors of the leaves blinded me and I felt my heart rate slowing down. In, three-second hold, out and relax and hold again. Then in and I opened my eyes again. I smelled the wet earth and saw the few droplets not yet consumed by the grass and sun glistening. My arms were still spread. The smile on my face got larger and I once again closed my eyes. In, hold, out, hold, in. And I opened my eyes again. As a wave of comfort, I sank onto my knees. I felt the wet grass in between my hands. Grabbed an acorn again and shook in in my closed hand. I put that acorn in my pocket and I looked up to the forest. The trees had become pencils filled with a palette of golden colors waving on the blue canvas of the sky. The cracking of the branches and the falling of the acorns on the field created a sort of rhythmic ticking on which the birds mesmerized me with their songs.

I noticed my breathing had slowed again. Deep long breaths into my belly. My entire body felt warm and light. The stress and anxiety had moved past. Just as the clouds had cleared from the sky. I got back up to my feet and thanked the trees. I crossed the field of grass and pushed my hand against the cracks and sharp edges of the bark. I noticed the sound of water just beyond a small hill of sand covered with all sorts of plants and bushes. I gently crossed through the densely packed greenery and saw the creek. A duck was gently moving by following the current. Ripples formed as leaves, twigs, and acorns dropped in. I smiled again and knew…

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Move through the cracks and you’ll find the light on the other side

A tear had made its way across my blushing cheeks and uneven skin. My eyes closed and a deep sense of gratitude and joy came over me. As heavily the dark and anxious thoughts had hit, as gentle and calming this feeling of joy was. Two opposite forces. One entering with a sledgehammer, the other flowing like water. “Be like water making its way through cracks,” I remembered. I remembered once again what was most important. Water held the answer to my experience. I forced and pushed and tried to use a hammer to get rid of a hammer. I tried desperately to get rid of the anxious feeling, the stress. Wanting to take control again. But it was not until I stopped and became like water that the sun came out and evaporated the clouds in my mind. Quite literally I thought to myself. Taking control never was the answer to overcoming anxiety.

It was letting go. “Become like water” I once again repeated in my mind. “BECOME LIKE WATER!” I laughed out loud and looked at the little creek. “Fucking hell,” I thought to myself. “How could something that had always been here, so simply hold the answer to something I had been struggling with for years.” It was as simple as going for a walk in nature to soothe my soul, to calm my anxiety. It was as simple as becoming soft. Formless as Bruce Lee said. It was only then that I could move through the anxious thoughts, the feeling of desperation and doubt. By staying rigid and hoping to take control I only made it worse. Water could move through stones not by force but by patient, consistent, and gentle movement. Slowly tearing away the stone. It moved freely and formless. So did I at that moment out in the sun. I didn’t try to take control of anxiety. I allowed it in. Welcomed it as an old friend, serving it diner.

I spread my arms and gave it. Not out of weakness but filled with strength. Letting it pass through my entire body and just breathing in a few times. I felt present again and the thoughts and emotions faded. Leaving me empty. Ready to be filled up again with joy. It was never about winning from stress. It was about working with it.

“Be like water making its way through cracks. Do not be assertive, but adjust to the object, and you shall find a way around or through it. If nothing within you stays rigid, outward things will disclose themselves.

Empty your mind, be formless. Shapeless, like water. If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle and it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.” ~ Bruce Lee

I remembered the quote and I closed my eyes I felt like water and heard it in my ears I now was water and moved through all the thoughts in my mind with ease. Remembering that it was Today I Lived.

One simple solution

One simple solution. When stress and anxiety arise be silent. Try to think of water. Be formless like it and flow through all the thoughts. They all just happen. Do not try to get rid of them or feel better. You have shaped the perspective around them that they are bad. You labeled them as stress and therefore unhealthy. They are just as needed as joy. Let them be and they will leave as soon as they came. Do not cling to them, nor try to push them away. What happens, happens. It is only then that you can deal with anxiety and stress. It is only then that you can live right now.

Today You Live!

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