Living With Ease: Interview with Sandra Pawula

It is my pleasure and honor to offer you this interview with Sandra Pawula.  Sandra writes one of my favorite go-to blogs, Always Well Within, where I find spiritual wisdom and inspiration.  She's a writer herself, so everything she shares speaks to creatives.  Sandra has a new e-course that starts September 9th.  I'm planning to sign up–it's just $21.  Please check it out.  And read her informative comments on easing stress below.

You've been writing a popular blog for quite some time now. What made you decide to offer an E-course?

The purpose of my blog, Always Well Within, is to help others tap into their own inner spring of true happiness and freedom. A blog post can inspire, encourage, instruct, and spark change. But, you can only go so far in a blog post.

I’ve already been facilitating online meditation courses for more than five years. It feels natural to extend that into an e-course via my blog so that I can support people to grow through a process of positive change that occurs over a period of time.

I’ve led a high stress life, and I know it’s not easy to turn stress around, which is the focus of my course. You need a more concentrated immersion and an ambiance of care and support, to begin to retrain these long-held patterns.

What is the greatest enemy to living with ease?

Your own mind. Marcus Aurelius said:

“If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.”

This hasn’t changed since the time of Marcus Aurelius, thousands of years ago, and it will never be different now or in the future. Yet, many of us suffer needlessly because we don’t realize we are responsible for our own thoughts, emotions, and perceptions and have the power to change them. Instead, we function on automatic and in a reaction-triggered mode, feeling like a victim of circumstances, relationships, and our own turbulent mind. This can adversely affect your mood, your body, and your overall sense of well-being.

That being said, it’s important to know that some people are genetically predisposed to having a stronger stress response or a weaker relaxation response. Some immune-related diseases may diminish your ability to respond to stress as well. Early nurturing or lack thereof can also impact one’s capacity for resilience. A series of strong stresses that arrive one after the other can also wear out your ability to cope effectively with adversity.

If stress plays a big role in your life, you may be dealing with a unique mix of factors like some those above. If so, it’s critical to take this into account, and at the same time to know it’s still possible for most people to see significant improvement through the mindful use of stress reduction practices.

Stress is endemic in modern life. Physical, emotional, mental, and circumstantial stresses will always occur in your life. But you can learn to intercede and diminish the stress response. The long-term impact of stress can be so debilitating it’s foolhardy not to do so. Stress can be a key element in the development or exacerbation of many disorders like heart disease, diabetes, depression, anxiety, skin conditions, and inflammatory bowel disease, among others. Not to mention it can totally wreck the quality of your life and relationships.

Is it really possible to reduce stress in our crazy new millennium lives?

Absolutely! More than 30 years of medical research has proven this to be so. Here’s one example of cutting edge research from the Harvard Medical School News, which provides an unequivocal yes to this question:

“A new study from investigators at the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind/Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center finds that eliciting the relaxation response—a physiologic state of deep rest induced by practices such as meditation, yoga, deep breathing and prayer—produces immediate changes in the expression of genes involved in immune function, energy metabolism and insulin secretion.”

It’s true that our highly active digital engagement – even digital addiction – adds a new dimension to the activation of stress, but we can learn to disengage from time-to-time as part of our personal stress reduction strategy.

Can you share one tip for living with ease?

Breathe! It’s simple, it’s cheap, and it’s always available. Pausing to take a slow, deep breath immediately begins to change your biochemistry. It tells the brain that danger has passed, and it’s OK to relax. But, it's not enough to just breathe once! You need to learn how to breathe, and turn it into a regular practice.

And finally, since my audience is made up of creatives and writers, can you speak to the unique stresses that we face?

Stress takes on so many possible forms in a creative life: Fear of rejection and rejection itself, deadlines, an erratic work flow if you are a freelancer, resistance, lack of motivation or inspiration, finances, juggling your craft with a “real” job. These are just a few ways that stress can manifest for writers and creatives.

If you find stress creeping into your creative life, regular use of mindfulness-based stress reduction techniques will help tremendously. But, you also have to dig deep and be willing to look at what triggers you. Once you know, you can begin to deconstruct the old stories that keep you struck one at a time, or put practical strategies in place that head-off the stress response. Through doing so it will be so much easier to find your flow.

Sandra Pawula is a freelance writer and inner explorer. She writes about finding true happiness and freedom at Always Well Within. Her new e-course, Living with Ease: 21 Days to Less Stress begins on Sept. 9th, and you can register right now.

How do you deal with stress?  Does writing ease it for you as it does for me?  Please share!

Photo by hirekatsu.

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17 Responses to Living With Ease: Interview with Sandra Pawula

  1. J.D. 08/20/2013 at 05:18 #

    No, writing doesn’t ease my stress. I want to have some success. Put up or shut up. I write genre fiction. I’m not sure my writing is serious enough to influence stress. The twists and turns that I put in a story don’t necessarily have anything to do with what is going on in my life or I what I feel in soul. Therein lies the problem, I suppose. Writing that comes from some deeper level might be more cathartic. I need to feed off doing the work. “Success” would take a different look. “Lack of motivation” and “juggling craft with a real job” wouldn’t matter so much, if the writing left me energized. I got caught up in Nirvana’s music again over the weekend. Kurt Cobain sometimes cut favorite lines from poems he had written and put them together, forming a lyric for a song. Almost in defiance of his art. His songs, even with their sometimes nonsensical lyrics, touched people–at least me–in the place where only art can go. It didn’t matter that I didn’t know Kurt or that there was not a lot about him to admire; he found a spot we could share. That’s the spot that is hard to reach with genre fiction. I pray that I can write to that place. There’s still time. I just need to take a deep breath.

  2. Sandra Pawula 08/20/2013 at 08:37 #

    Hi J.D.

    I understand how the wish for success can be a stress in itself. It sounds like you have a yearning to express what’s in your soul and to really write from that spot where there’s a sense of profound commonality with others. That’s an incredible motivation. I don’t know how you meant the word “pray”, but I think prayer can actually help us move toward our deepest held wishes. It’s an honest between ourselves and what we hold to be highest. I thank you for your honesty here. There is time and taking a deep breath is a good way to let out any pent up stress. May your vision unfold perfectly as you wish.

  3. jean sampson 08/20/2013 at 21:07 #

    When I write poetry, it is more exciting than stressful. Even the revisions (which are usually many) are exciting because they provide me with a deeper view into the cave. I have no idea what I will find there, but I always find treasure I didn’t even know existed. I don’t usually find creative work stressful, however, I am doing some paintings for a decorator who wants me to paint with bland, neutral colors/non-colors and I am a person who usually pushes color to the max! So for me, having to paint the way someone else says to paint because that is what will sell is EXTREMELY stressful and I find myself thinking about it with some sense of dread. I know I will make it my own somehow, but it is not the road I usually travel and it seems like a very boring path to take. However, I am beginning to see it as a challenge and to feel a little excitement—–so that is a good sign! I wonder how I am going to make this work for all 3 of us—-myself, the decorator and his clients! I am feeling more excitement, less stress already!
    Great to see you here, Sandra! I know your e-course will help a lot of people! I always enjoy your blog!

  4. Beverly 08/21/2013 at 04:53 #

    Charlotte, thank you for hosting Sandra. I love what she has to say! Sandra, I felt a visceral response to “deconstruct the old stories.” It’s vital. So, so vital.

    I’m looking forward to the course!!

  5. Vishnu 08/21/2013 at 08:21 #

    Hi Sandra, enjoyed reading your interview here. Isn’t it interesting that one of greater stresses is the mind, which is forever galloping around?

    I think a mindfulness practice and the breathing technique you described are a couple ways I use to battle stress in my life. Also, sometimes, stepping away from an issue or problem (some mental relief and distance) also helps.

    I’m going to let all of my readers know about this course because everyone can use a little stress relief – especially those who don’t think they are stressed!

  6. Charlotte Dixon 08/21/2013 at 09:04 #

    Jean, you make a good point–doing creative work for other people can be stressful, if only because you’re waiting for their approval. It sounds like you love your poetry, though! Thank you so much for stopping by.

  7. Charlotte Dixon 08/21/2013 at 09:04 #

    Sandra is the best, isn’t she? And I totally agree about the necessity of deconstructing the old stories. Onward we go!

  8. Charlotte Dixon 08/21/2013 at 09:06 #

    Hi Vishnu, I know for absolute certain that my overactive mind is the source of all my stress! And I know that Sandra’s class is going to be a huge help in overcoming the stress. Glad you stopped by.

  9. Sandra Pawula 08/21/2013 at 10:45 #

    This touches on such a deep point, Jean. So much stress can arrive when trying to please others in ways that feel in conflict with our true self. I love how you are working with it, which illustrates our true self is not static but willing to learn, shift, and expand.

  10. Sandra Pawula 08/21/2013 at 10:48 #

    Thank you,Beverly. “Deconstruct the old stories” came to me in a very visceral way. I “know” on one level it’s all about how we perceive. But I had an epiphany about how I constructed stories of fear as a child and how they have influenced my entire life. So I’m very keen on deconstructing the stories! I’m excited about the course too.

  11. Sandra Pawula 08/21/2013 at 11:33 #

    Hi Vishnu,

    Stepping away from a problem is a great suggestion for reducing stress, Vishnu! Thanks for adding that idea. Yes, our own mind can be the source of all sorts of troubles!

    Thanks for your support. I’m so excited about the course, I can’t wait for it to begin.

  12. Jennifer Lynne Flint 08/21/2013 at 12:01 #

    Great article, Sandra!

    I’m quite a high-strung person by nature, so over time I’ve gotten really, really good at managing stress. Breathing and meditation do help a lot, and I couldn’t live without them.

    Lately, though, I’ve learned to keep myself in a light alpha (meditative) state most of the time, just by adjusting the muscles around my eyes in subtle ways. I’m not entirely sure how this works, but it really does. It even helps with things like food intolerances, which are also exacerbated by stress.

    I discovered EFT (the Emotional Freedom Technique) recently too, and it has been very helpful with stress management, because it helps to activate the parasympathetic (or calming) nervous system. Highly recommended!

  13. Jeffrey Willius 08/22/2013 at 10:29 #

    Sandra — your mention of breathing reminds me how often, lately, I’ve caught myself NOT breathing. I don’t mean not breathing properly; I mean not breathing at all. I do this when I’m deeply focused on something, especially something that requires physical coordination — like playing tennis.
    I’m working on more focus on continuing to breathe, which actually helps my tennis game in other ways than just getting enough air.

  14. Charlotte Dixon 08/22/2013 at 10:52 #

    Hi Jeffrey, this is Charlotte chiming in–because I have become aware that the same thing happens to me.  I'll be working away and realize that my breath is caught up in my throat–constricted.  Not a good thing for a writer!  The toughest thing for me is becoming aware of it.  Once I'm aware, I can breath again.  Thanks for commenting!

  15. Sandra Pawula 08/22/2013 at 12:03 #


    Thanks so much for sharing your experience, which underlines the importance of practicing self-awareness as often as we can throughout the day. It’s easy to get over-focused as you point out whenever we are engaged in a task or activity. One important key is balancing focus with spacious awareness so that we have bare awareness of the task or activity rather than an over focus. Good luck with getting expanding your awareness of breath. I know it’s more challenging in a complex physical activity like tennis but I’m have full confidence you’ll achieve your intention.

  16. Maryse 08/27/2013 at 14:27 #

    I used to deal with stress by avoiding my stressors, which made for a lonely life. These days I’m practicing keeping a balance between activities (which may trigger stress) and time alone. I need the solitude to recharge and stay in touch with what truly matters. When I feel myself sliding into stress, I breathe and remind myself to trust. It all shall pass and be ok. Practice, practice, practice…

  17. Charlotte Dixon 08/27/2013 at 16:10 #

    It does take practice, doesn't it? Sounds like you have found a healthy way of dealing with stress, Maryse! Thanks for dropping by 

    Sent from my iPhone

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