We all get stressed. Perhaps you get stressed when you get an uncomfortable phone call, a piece of mail, or before dealing with a demanding client, going on stage, on a date, speaking in public, or attending a social gathering. Maybe you're dealing with stress on an everyday basis...
What Stress is Really About
Research has shown that our brain’s primary function is to ensure our survival. The “old” part of our brain, which we will call the Emotional Brain, can’t tell the difference between mortal danger and what we merely perceive as dangerous, so it responds to both in the same way. This means that on an emotional, and thus physiological level, your Emotional Brain causes you to react to every-day stress situations, such as perceived unfairness, the presence of a disliked person, a break up, a disappointment, a competitive situation, or a perceived lack of love or personal affection - as if a tiger was chasing you down to your front door. You essentially get triggered - your pulse rises, your adrenaline rushes, and your Emotional Brain takes command! This mechanism is so powerful, the physiological and emotional arousal go unnoticed within a matter of seconds.
Stress is NOT Bad
The cells in our bodies don't come in direct contact with reality, they get the messages that we send to them through our nervous system, and that affects their biology. When we perceive stress as "bad for us" - our cells' connection with reality is mediated by some perception of ourselves as being relatively unsafe, and believing that things are going to get even worse.
If we look at stress in the same way that we look at any emotional response - never the "truth" but merely as a "road sign" which is pointing us to a better life, then we can start to see stress as what it really is - it's our body's natural response to perceived threats, that has been proven to actually HELP us to be better prepared for dealing with life challenges. Recent studies have shown that people who view their stress responses as helpful - increase their longevity, help themselves to relieve overall stress by reaching out for help or by helping others, and experience greater achievements due to increased, stress-induced will-power!
What You Can Do About Stress
When you feel stress or nervousness arising (your heart is pounding, you're breaking into a nervous sweat, your stomach is churning, your throat is tightening, or you are experiencing shortened breath) see if you can do the following:
1. Get Present: First, take several deep breaths to get better connected to the present moment, rather than to your mind's projections of the future.
2. View your stress POSITIVELY: Remember that stress is there to help you! Your mind thinks you're in danger and so stress comes to the rescue. It's actually been shown to make you more sociable, resourceful, and alert.
3. Focus on the POSITIVE OUTCOME: Ask yourself "what POSITIVE outcome is this nervousness/worrying trying to help me to be better prepared for?" And focus your attention on the positive outcome that you're being helped to achieve, in as much detail as possible.
4. Relax Even More: To deepen your relaxation and counter the physiological arousal of stress, where it's not needed (you're not actually in any danger), see if you can find a part of your body that isn’t participating in the stress response (it can be your ankles, for example), and imagine that you can expand the relaxation from this body part to any other area of your body that you wish, by using only your natural breath. With each breath, imagine the relaxation spreading from this body part and throughout areas of your body that are feeling relatively contracted, and softening them.
5. Access a Memory: To top off your mind shift, see if you can find a memory of a joyful and successful encounter with challenges in your life that has any similar qualities to the challenge at hand. Let yourself get totally soaked in that memory - how did you breathe? stand? sit? walk? smile? hold your head? The deeper you'll submerge in the positive memory, the more you'll find your body's response becoming increasingly comfortable.
6. Regularly Empty The "Stress Container": Imagine that you’re carrying a container with you everywhere you do. This is your stress container. Whenever you perceive something as stressful – your container fills up with a few more drops of stress. The alarm goes off in the morning, you’re late for work, the kids are fighting, you had an argument with your spouse…. Drip drip drip into the stress container! Do you engage in activities that bring you release, and that empty this container every once in a while? Dancing, singing, playing a game (like bowling, or mini gold), or a night out with friends - can all be excellent ways to empty your “stress container” so it doesn’t reach the point of saturation.
Stress as a "Habit" of Self-Sabotage
Stress can also be a habit of self-sabotage. This happens when stress is part of what seems to be an ordinary trigger-response cycle which leaves us in the end with an UNDESIRED outcome, such as feeling disappointed, or helpless without means. If you recognize stress to be driving force of some undesired outcomes in your life - it's important that you become familiar with the arousal of this stress, the situations that trigger it as a habitual response, and the outcomes that you no longer wish to experience. When you've done this, you can use any of the methods below to assist you in ultimately replacing the stress habit with a new, more resourceful response.
To learn more about changing habitual responses and achieving new outcomes - get the Power of Pause full e-Guide on this website.
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