Taking charge of stress

Cherry-blossoms-pic by Iva

“Somehow, we’ll find it. The balance between whom we wish to be and whom we need to be. But for now, we simply have to be satisfied with who we are.” 
(Brandon Sanderson)

Perhaps you have a balanced life, some people do, with enough rest, enough play and interaction with family and friends, healthy life-style, and a balanced working-life. You may even take time to invest in your prayer life. If that’s you, well done. Keep doing what you are doing, as it is serving you well.

Most of us, on the other hand, will struggle with stress from time to time. Whenever we 
are overwhelmed in any one area of our life, it may be helpful to find ways to de-stress and 
do whatever will help us get out of our head at least a few times a day. We may already have 
things we do that are helpful in this regard, so these suggestions are only meant as pointers. Use them if they help you, leave them behind if they don’t.
“Stress management is all about taking charge: of your lifestyle, thoughts, emotions, and the way you deal with problems. No matter how stressful your life seems, there are steps you can take to relieve the pressure and regain control.”*

Listen to your body

No matter what is going on in our life, our body will feel it. If you need rest, let your body tell you and try to make room for things you find relaxing. If you need friends, a listening ear, don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for support. If you are not eating well, make sure to include at least a few healthy meals throughout your days. This may seem so obvious that we take it for granted at times but looking after out bodies is as important as it is looking after our soul and our hearts. Self-care is crucial if we want to have a good quality of life.

Exercise

Exercise is as important for mental health as much as for our physical wellbeing. Whether it is swimming, cycling, walking, running; if we have a lot on our mind, physical exercise will somehow clear our head from worrying. At the moment I use an app with a variety of exercises; it helps me to schedule exercise in my week. You, however, find whatever suits you best. Even short walks in fresh air, in the park, will do the trick.

Explore creativity 

Whether it’s writing, photography, pottery, cooking, or something else it does not really matter as long as you try to express yourself in a creative way. It is not about being perfect in something, 
but rather about having fun. Creativity invigorates us and opens up new possibilities. 
It challenges our way of thinking, in a non-threatening way. It can also help express some of 
the heavier emotions that are better to be carried by the paper than by ourselves.

Pray 

When we have a lot going on, it is easy to convince ourselves that we do not have time to pray. However, taking time to connect with the Source of peace and love will only help us when 
life appears like a stormy sea. Even ten or twenty minutes a day spent in God’s presence will 
make a difference. We can read a Scripture passage and pray with it or simply come to the Lord 
and share how we feel. It is good to allow the moments of silence, of listening, to penetrate 
our reality. God invites us to come to Him as we are, knowing that no matter how we feel, 
we are loved.

These suggestions are not exhaustive. When we find ways to de-stress, we will gain more energy and enthusiasm for life. In turn, worries might turn into challenges, something perhaps we can even enjoy, and obstacles might prove to be new opportunities. This will come only with practice and regular effort, but eventually we may end up being creative even in how we live our life, and that would have made all the difference.

* (http://www.helpguide.org/articles/stress/stress-management.htm)
© Iva Beranek
Photo by © Iva Beranek

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Offering daily reflections on RTÉ

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This is in the studio of RTÉ Radio 1 in Dublin, where earlier in the year I recorded scripts for the programme “A Living Word”. These short daily reflections were on air from Monday 29th January till Friday 2nd February and for those of you who missed it, you can hear them online at this link. You will need to scroll down to the actual date, where it will say my name, click on each day and enjoy.
I will be recording new scripts over the next few days and they will air soon too.

If you would like to join my mailing list about my speaking and writing adventures, comment below with your email address.

To those of you who celebrate: a very Happy Easter!

© Iva Beranek

Beauty and the city lights

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There are times in a day when the city invites us to pause, to take in the surroundings, to notice the beauty, to inhale life in its colours. It is as if the city is saying, “You’ve been rushing. Take a moment, stop, take a deep breath, and smell the loveliness of life”. Often we miss those opportunities unawares, but when we do accept the invitation, our soul is bathed, as it were, in a gentle radiance of joy.

White feather in the bush 

This gentle, tender feather has been sitting in the bush in front of my kitchen window. I’ve been looking at it for more than a week, thinking how I need to go out and take a few photos. I went away for the weekend, came back, and the feather was faithfully still there. I finally made it out and took my camera along. The wind and the rain at times tatter its looks, and then it dries and shines again in its whiteness. After more than a month now, I’m amazed it hasn’t been blown away. So tender and yet unmovable. A quality I’d love to have.

The city is an artist with its sunsets

A composer puts notes together to create magic, so does the city put colours at the end of the day when it greets us in its sunsets. Sunsets often catch me as I try to rush to the bus. Those are the moments when the city invites us to pause on a bigger scale. “You who are worried about life, I give you beauty, I give you these colours. Pause. Just for a moment, don’t rush. Let me remind you that you are a masterpiece. Let this sunset sink into your heart. Here in this city, I remind you of love.”

Iva-sunset at the canal Nov 2017

© Iva Beranek (Dublin, 28th November 2017)
Photos by © Iva Beranek

Why couldn’t I?

Iva-writers table

Why could I not write with a black marker on the black paper? No one told me I couldn’t, but they will say it’s silly. No one will be able to see it. What if I don’t want it to be seen? What if it’s a secret only for those who deserve to carry heart-shaped-gold hidden behind the dust that fell on my tears? What if it’s a lie I want to write about, but don’t want anyone to know? And then I will put some colour on it. Red. RED like crimson. Will it look like blood? Well, I want it to be full of life. You don’t have to colour your perception with meanings I did not create. You can always ask. I’ll clarify.

No, I won’t write with red, it will be a splash in the middle of the black paper, all over the black ink. It will spread down, rise up, go left and right, little bit of everywhere like rivers that are forming their own river-banks for the first time… Which colour should I add then? Yellow, I think. In the middle of the red, it will shine like the Sun. Some of it will splash like raindrops all over the top. Raindrops turned into stars. And then blue; I will squeeze it out at the bottom of the paper like deep sea that stands naked before the universe filled with a wonderful mystery.

I think I will leave it like that, to dry out. It’s neither a painting nor drawing nor a weird way of writing. All these colours – they are life.

© Iva Beranek (Dublin, 10the October 2017)

When the waves meet the shore

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I don’t always take advantage of the fact I live close to the sea. Partly it’s because Ireland isn’t warm enough in order to go for a regular swim, unless it’s in a swimming pool and unless one is adventurous and doesn’t mind being immersed in the cold water. But for walks and leisurely atmosphere Irish coast is beautiful and it does wonders to your soul.

That day I was already in the neighbouring coastal town, so I asked for direction towards the sea. It took less than ten minutes from the main street. I walked there and sat at the beach. Some people were actually swimming; not many. The Sun was playing hide and seek with the clouds. It was warm when the sunshine was out, and then the temperature cooled down with the clouds and the sea looked less blue, more grey and dark. I found it peaceful, so I sat observing how the sea meets its shore.

I love watching the waves of the sea coming to the shore. The last one jumps as if playing some exciting game, and explodes into millions of small particles of water. As it does that, it soothes the shore, caressing the pebbles and stones. The sound of the waves is so calming…

After throwing a few pebbles in the sea, I let the wind play with my hair. It was that kind of day.

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© Iva Beranek (Dublin, 11th August 2017)
Photos by © Iva Beranek

A letter. Send to: a tooth fairy

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Dear tooth fairy,

I don’t know how often you get a letter from an adult, but I am guessing it does not happen very often. As you know, I had my wisdom tooth taken out on Tuesday. I was a little bit afraid* that I might be in pain after the surgery, simply judging by the pain the week before, but it all ended up going smoothly and painlessly. I already had to face one of my fears last year, and going into surgery was another. Do I get something for bravery?

You know, I was wondering if you would pay me a visit, and the night after the extraction I got a box full of amazing chocolates from a friend. I presume you arranged that, so I wanted to thank you. I had no tooth to leave beneath my pillow for they kept it in the clinic. I was wondering whether I should have asked for the tooth, but clinging onto something that needed to be removed is not wisdom, so I think I’m alright without it. If you need the tooth, I will tell you where to go. You have abilities far beyond my knowing, I am sure you will know how to decipher which tooth was mine.

Since it was not just any tooth, it was a wisdom tooth, I thought you could give me more than chocolates. Also, if you look like an ugly man in a dress, the way my friends suggested, please pretend to be invisible. Would you be able to tell me, the fact that my wisdom tooth is taken out, does that mean that I now have more or less wisdom? Why is it even called the wisdom tooth?

I must say I am grateful for one more thing, though I think that Someone with more power than you brought this one about. For reasons far more extensive than what I can put into this letter, I was aware for a long time that I needed to rest. Yet, with all this awareness, I still was not able to take all the rest I needed. This tooth plunged me into it, without even asking for my permission, and perhaps that was its wisdom.

As I am writing this I want you to know that you are still welcome to bring the other gift. Something tells me you have another surprise, perhaps it’s even big. I can’t wait to see what it is!

Yours,
Iva

*understatement.

© Iva Beranek (Dublin, 7th April 2017)

Seeking beauty

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Beauty is the inner quality of the soul. It shines from within, like a sun whose rays reach far away corners of humanity.

Do not seek beauty only with your eyes, seek with your heart as well.

© Iva Beranek (Dublin, April 2012)
Photo by © Iva Beranek

Wild

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This life is wild, unpredictable like the wind at times….even when you have a dream, and the stubborn inner certainty to follow it, still you can never know all the roads where you will be led on. Sometimes we don’t even know if those roads are right, or wrong, until perhaps later on. Even beauty is wild, goodness too, in this world that sometimes doesn’t value either of the two. I want to take all the goodness that I can and throw it in the face of the ugliness out there, all the terrors and wars and ways in which we walk over the treasures in someone else’s heart, oh if I could be that wild to stand up and say, ‘no, not here, you cannot walk over these people’s dreams. Here is a mirror, go and have a look, there is a treasure hiding in your heart, yes you forgot that you are good! Stop that war, stop that fight, rather take this mirror, and show others who they are’.

Horses, I always think of horses when I think of being wild. Wild horses, running free, untamed, knowing that freedom is their destiny. I suppose there is grace in their ‘wild’, there is pose, and elegance. They are who they are meant to be, and while I call them beautiful, in their wildness there is peace. Oh if people could learn from it!

© Iva Beranek (February 2017) #wildheartwriters

Solitude

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I like to roam in nature or around the city, with a camera around my neck, looking for scenery to open itself up before me and present me with a new version of beauty. Solitude, most people say, are those times when we are alone, but I think it is more than that. It is a quality of presence as we go about our day, a connection with everything, and with God, but also with oneself. It is those times when we don’t need to pretend. Sometimes solitude is alluring and pleasant, other times it burns like a transforming fire. It teaches of the essence of who we are, created and loved, but also imperfect. If we really want to get to know someone we need to spend time with them. Same is true for getting to know ourselves. We need to spend time with what is in us, with our thoughts, inner movements, experiences, everything that we are, even our contradictions. It may seem attractive to run from one thing to the next, avoiding to meet, befriend ourselves. But in those moments, rare or not rare, perhaps depends on the day, when we decide to stop, take a deep breath, we let ourselves be, in those moments peace slowly starts to enter in. I have to say, solitude is not always easy, it shows me the cracks in my very own being. But it also shows me not to be afraid of them. It shows me the road to open up to God even those exiled areas of my heart.

Solitude is, however, not only about self-exploration. For me, being alone is an invitation to create. I hardly ever write when there are lots of people around. One or two, I don’t mind. Or if I got to a coffee shop and bring the computer along, I don’t mind lots of people passing by, but I still have this quality of presence that helps me to focus on the ‘paper’ in front of me. Whether the means is the camera, writing, prayer, reflection, solitude provides this unique focus on what truly matters, and has the ability not to be overly distracted with the rest.

© Iva Beranek (Dublin, 8th February 2017)
Photo by © Iva Beranek
Photo challenge, Daily Post: Solitude

How many episodes of ‘Gilmore Girls’ can one watch in a day?

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Many, if you ask me, even though I did not count my record to date. I started watching it again on Netflix sometime in September. I say ‘again’ because I watched most of it years ago when I was still living in Croatia. It almost feels like I haven’t stopped since, but I have, and I forgot what I saw before. I knew the characters, yet I did not remember much of the story, which was good, so I can enjoy it as if watching for the first time. I got back into it really quickly. Soon I watched episode after episode, every free time I had: in the morning before work, in-between something, getting ready to go out in the evening, I wasted no time.

I probably broke the record with how fast one can watch through the “Gilmore Girls” seasons. On occasional free day I would not be surprised if I watched up to (at least) ten episodes; and a season normally has twenty-two. So when it came to the end of October, I was already half way through the 6th season, wondering what will I do when I finish 7th, and final one. But my withdrawal syndrome kicked in sooner than expected when a Netflix glitch told me at the end of the 20th episode of the 6th season, “Thank you for watching”. And it looked like there was no more.

“You gotta be kidding me!”, I thought. “I can practically become a citizen of Stars Hollow (where they live), after watching it. I already love coffee, I would fit right in.” I was not prepared for that. Thankfully, and I say that with a great sigh of relief, when I refreshed Netflix, all was alright and I continued watching. This month I watched much less, because for different reasons I had to watch over the phone. I could watch two or three episodes a day this way, not much more.

But now, as I am on the last episode of the last season, I don’t need to worry about the withdrawal syndromes! Because this is right on time for the new film that came out on Netflix a few days ago, “Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life”. No spoilers please, as I still haven’t dived into the new episodes! To top it all up, a friend and I went to a Gilmore Girls themed party in Dublin just recently. While the party did not match our standard or expectations, we had fun.

I even tried ‘Rory’, the infamous drink they had for Rory’s 21st birthday.

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Well, I agree with Lorelai’s and Rory’s judgement, the drink sucks. They didn’t like it in the show, and while I was very curious about it, I didn’t like it either. Not sure how it feels when they put something dodgy in your drink, but it was a weird experience drinking it so I said “I ain’t finishing this” – and neither did they finish it in the show.

Thankfully, I still have a little while longer to spend in Stars Hollow, and if I see I will miss watching it when I come to the end, I may start all over again.

© Iva Beranek (Dublin, 27th November 2016)