As we draw closer to the end of the year, and the shorter days lean quite literally towards the ‘dark side’, things can suddenly start to feel a little overwhelming. When we’re already trying to bring balance to our bills and everything else from work to everyday life, the prospect of things like Christmas and New Year can add even more stress to an already hectic lifestyle!
It might sound a little silly to use Star Wars as a reference point for learning how to manage stress, but if you’re familiar with the ways of the Jedi, then you’ll be no stranger to the fact that the very concept of being one is built upon some solid foundations, such as emotional resilience and the art of mindfulness. So here are 7 ways that the Jedi can help you de-stress!
The best starting point for any form of stress management is having a good mantra, and there are many to choose from where the faraway galaxy is concerned. In fact, it can actually be quite fun to binge all the movies and shows and take notes of which Star Wars characters have the best ones! But perhaps one of the more memorable mantras from the Star Wars franchise is: “I’m one with the Force. The Force is with me”. The character Chirrut Imwe practices this a great deal in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, and it’s also spoken by Ahsoka Tano in Star Wars: The Clone Wars.
While the line itself may not hold a great deal of relevance, having a ‘grounding statement’ whenever we’re feeling overwhelmed can make a huge difference, as it’s a great way of steadying our emotions. And while the Force doesn’t exist (although it depends on one’s perspective), realizing we aren’t alone can be very reassuring during times of emotional crisis. And don’t worry if you don’t feel any more like a Jedi after repeating the line – just remember that Chirrut Imwe isn’t one either, yet the Force is still pretty strong with him!
6. Meditation & Mindfulness
It’s no mystery that the Jedi practice meditation – they’re seen doing it in many Star Wars films. The first thing you’ll need to do is find some space where you can relax, free from any distractions. Using a comfortable floormat or cushion, sit with your legs crossed, maintain a good posture, close your eyes and focus on your breathing. This will help you find calm, and when coupled with detaching your mind from the things that are making you feel stressed or panicked, will be extremely effective (Qui-Gon even does this during his duel with Darth Maul!).
You should also put any digital devices out of reach – unless you wish to add some relaxing music to the mix. While meditation is usually the act of clearing one’s mind, mindfulness on the other hand allows you to focus on being in the present, and to think about things you usually find relaxing. Perhaps you like to imagine going for a long walk in the countryside, or sitting by the ocean – or maybe you like to imagine visiting locations in the faraway galaxy! Either way, mindfulness is designed to help you be in the present and to focus more on all your senses.
5. Being One With Nature
It might sound like a bit of a cliché, but there are many reasons why taking walks in the countryside or along the beach are good for us. There’s fresh air, peace and quiet, beautiful scenery and it’s also a way to reattune ourselves with nature. We are part of nature, and in this instance it’s no stretch to suggest that the Force does, to some extent, actually exist. After all, it is said to “bind all living things together”, and reminding ourselves that we’re part of something greater, something beyond the mundane things of everyday life, can certainly help ground us.
We’re not suggesting that you visit your local park and try to telepathically communicate with the frogs and fish (although you certainly could, just like Jedi Ezra Bridger does in Star Wars: Rebels with loth-cats and many other creatures!), but visiting a place that’s green or blue definitely has benefits where stress is concerned. And by all means, take the time to admire everything on offer – the grass, the water, and all of the wildlife. This can be a great way to ‘unplug’ yourself from everything else, and you can also coincide it with some meditation and mindfulness too. Just don’t expect to be able to make rocks float!
4. Exercise & Stretch
While you never really see any of the Jedi undertaking exercise routines or stretches, you don’t really think those lightsaber duels and all other manners of action-packed activities can be achieved without the necessary workouts, do you? Part of being a Jedi involves taking care of one’s body, or to risk sounding like a cliché again, to treat it like a temple (or a Jedi temple, for that matter!). Forget midi-chlorians – exercising releases endorphins, which can help in combat or even reduce stress. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach, though, and only you know your limits.
We’re not suggesting you suddenly start running marathons or train to become a martials arts expert – exercise can come in many shapes and forms. It could be a short or long walk, a fitness DVD or Youtube workout like Pound Fitness (the drumsticks used in those will really make you feel like a Jedi), or an impromptu dance to your favorite songs! Building exercise into your daily routine can prove really effective in fighting stress, and throwing in some very basic stretches will help make you a bit more flexible. Not only that, but stretches are also a great form of stress relief in themselves, and can even form a useful part of your daily meditation and mindfulness routine.
The mind can be a busy place and oftentimes messy. Sometimes streamlining our thoughts can help bring a sense of peace, but this isn’t always easy to do. When we’re busy and life is getting on top of us, we tend to overthink and panic, which creates a vicious cycle that’s difficult to break free from and which results in our thoughts being a little more all over the place than usual (just ask Kylo Ren!). Learning how to focus our thoughts can help ‘bring balance’ and a sense of inner peace. And the good news is that there are many ways you can learn how to do this.
This entry is probably best grouped with some of the other practices we’ve talked about so far – meditation, being one with nature, exercising, and stretching. Without those other things, learning how to focus your mind and settle your thoughts will be trickier. But once you’ve gotten into a daily routine with all of the above – and everything else on our list – you’ll find that you’ve got something positive to focus on, and during times of stress you’ll have a few go-to techniques that will help bring that balance you need.
2. Emotional Control
We all respond to things differently, and when we’re feeling stressed, we tend to do the opposite of what we should be doing – we get angry, upset, anxious and worst of all, even more stressed! In fact, think of it as Yoda’s warning to Luke in The Empire Strikes Back, but with a little twist (because you definitely aren’t at risk of going over to the dark side!). How about: “Stress is the path to even more stress!” Okay, perhaps it’s not quite as catchy, but you get the idea. In other words, having something there to remind ourselves of the negative impacts of stress can be useful.
Our point is that learning to control our emotions is the key to managing stress. But don’t worry – we’re not going to go all ‘Jedi Council’ on you and discourage you from things such as love and other forms of attachment! It’s actually the negative emotions we want to distance ourselves from, and learning how to recognize these behaviors when we’re feeling stressed is the first step to being able to control those emotions and implement yet another step in our stress management plan. You could even group this step together with having a grounding statement, or a mantra.
1. Bring Balance to Everything
It goes without saying that the key to a healthy lifestyle is to look after our bodies. We’re no dietary experts, but making sure we’re well-hydrated and getting all of the nutrients that our body needs will help to naturally alleviate levels of stress. It’s not the key to eliminating stress entirely, but stress can have physical effects on the body, so we need to have the right energy levels to deal with it when it rears its ugly head. With that said, we should also be able to enjoy ourselves, and cutting out ‘junk food’ isn’t the answer, either. The key is moderation.
It’s not all about food, though – making sure we have plenty of exercise and sleep is also paramount to managing stress. Sleep is our body’s way of resting and healing, and as we’ve already said, exercise helps release endorphins, while also keeping us fit and active. But perhaps one of the most important ways to stay healthy is to take some well-deserved time-outs too. You’ll know when your body is calling for one, and learning to listen to what your body is telling you is another effective tool is managing stress. With that said, don’t let yourself burn out before you do.
You don’t need to be a Jedi Knight to master all of these things – even at Padawan-level you’ll find that they’ll make a great deal of difference. Having a plan in place to manage stress can at first seem a little tedious, but you’ll start noticing the benefits in no time. So there’s only one thing left to say – May the Force be with you!