What is stress exactly? Although it is a heavily used word today, most of us don’t have a grasp of what stress exactly is, nor how to manage it. We all can agree, however, that when we feel stressed we are not happy, and we want the experience to be over as soon as possible but do we know what is happening inside of us, the dance between our mind and body, that is feeding the stress response? Chances are the answer to that question is no, and so we feel we are victim to stress.
Stress on the Fishing Line of Life
I picture stress in the same way as I do the tension on a fishing line tethered between the pole and the hook. Like us, the fishing line is built to handle a certain amount of strain, and if this is too great (because the ‘fish’ is too big), then it is subject to deterioration and breakage. Not surprisingly, when a person is stressed they will use words such as tense, stretched, or strained, similar to how one would describe the fishing line.
Interactions between humans, particularly emotional interactions, are like the interplay between the fishing line and the fish in the above metaphor. These human interactions affect both our biological and psychological functioning in overt as well as subtle ways. Easily identifiable stressors in life (the big fish, so to speak) are things like divorce, job loss, death of a loved one, and illness. Even chronic daily stress such as dealing with traffic congestion and facing excessive workload demands that can wear away at our wellbeing. Understanding the relationship between our emotional and physiological environment is critical to our health. Unfortunately, despite decades of groundbreaking work in the area of the mind/body connection, the chief medical approach to health and illness continues to suppose that the body and the mind are not connected.
Higher Perspective of Stress
When we relax and observe the experience of stress from a higher perspective, we get some interesting insights. We can see that stress typically has three distinct and related components. First, there is the stress event itself, which can be either a physical or an emotional moment. The second element is the processing of the experience, the interpretation of the event, which gives it meaning and codifies it as stressful by the individual. The third and last element is the response to the event, which involves various physiological and behavioral reactions.
The determination of a stressor (or stressful situation) depends predominately on the second component, the processing by the individual. The processing is based on the beliefs held by the individual, generalizations about the world, and opinions of it. These beliefs form the rules about what we think we can and cannot do and what should and should not happen.
Further, the interpretation of the event is dependant on the personality and the psychological state of the individual. For example, the experience of the loss of a job can create different reactions in different people. A person for which the experience does not create financial hardship may still respond with high stress if their deep-seated beliefs about self-worth or acceptance are tied directly to their job title and status. These less tangible feeders to stress are resonant from a person’s past, and even though the stress event is experienced in the present, it is the past that determines the response and its intensity.
Change The Movie
The area of study under neurolinguistics supports the realization that individuals’ past beliefs no longer need to be a legacy that carries forward unchallenged or unchanged. These beliefs can be modified and even eliminated to support a person’s desire for a more peaceful, harmonious, and less stressful life. Working with the power of language, mind mapping, the unconscious mind, rapid and healthy improvements to how life events are interpreted can be realized. Life events may be out of our immediate and direct control however, the interpretation of these events is significantly within one’s control.
We are the moviemakers of our life. We are giving our life direction straight from the Director’s chair every day. The problem is that so many people are creating the same type of life “movie”; a fear-based, stress-filled movie. I believe that type of “movie” has been oversold and overdone in today’s society. Why not change your movie into a more relaxed and enjoyable one and with scenes that give you pleasure and joy? Your blockbuster is just waiting for you, the Director, to show up and take over.
If you are interested in how you can begin making your desired life movie today, go to my website and book your complimentary consultation today. I look forward to chatting with you.
My coaching and researching over the years have resulted in the awareness that stress and anxiousness are rooted in three main drivers. Only one of these drivers needs to be present for anyone to start experiencing nervousness. This can easily lead to feeling powerless over time.
The three drivers are:
- A perceived lack of control
- Perceived lack of information, knowledge, and wisdom
- Perceived lack of feeling safe and sure.
When these drivers present in our lives for extended periods, they can show up in our bodies as uncomfortable feelings like heaviness or resistance. We use names for these bodily feelings like fear, unease, worry, overwhelm, stress, and anxiety.
It’s Only Natural
As human beings, we naturally crave certainty. We want to feel safe and secure in our environment and for our future. Our ability to accept and live with heightened levels of uncertainty has become second nature since the COVID-19 pandemic. Factors such as the economy, employment, finances, and health (both mental and physical) are challenging us like never before.
Everyone is different in how much uncertainty they tolerate before they feel the strain on bodily and neurological systems. For some, taking risks and living unpredictable lives is fun, exciting and they can’t imagine running their lives any other way. For others, high levels of randomness are deeply distressing.
The bottom line is that we all have a limit and that if you are feeling overwhelmed by the current level of current uncertainty, you are not alone. Many people are experiencing the same emotions right now. Know that no matter how helpless and hopeless you may feel right now, there are valuable steps that you can take to better deal with the level of uncertainty, alleviate your anxiousness and allow you to face the unknown.
Learning to Copy
Let’s face it, this feeling of uncertainty is not going anywhere. It has been with us since the beginning of time and an unavoidable part of life over the millennia. Very little is constant and you can’t control everything that happens. The 2020 pandemic has shown us that life can change radically and very quickly.
To cope with uncertainty, we try to predict the future thinking that will help us avoid any nasty surprises. In many ways this is a waste of time and energy, as this type of thinking only leads to overwhelm and worry. Conjuring up endless scenarios of negative outcomes is simultaneously robbing you of the enjoyment and pleasure of the present moment. It saps your energy, eliminates joy and many times creates unwanted and unnecessary behavior and habits.
Two Coping Mechanisms
Two ways to cope with uncertainty are more healthily are:
- Focus on what you can control
Whatever your fears or personal circumstances are, instead of worrying about the uncontrollable, refocus your mind to acting over the aspects that are within your control. For example, if you are worried about your health during the pandemic, act by regularly washing your hands, cleaning surfaces, and avoiding crowds. You can also amplify your ability to control your outcome by relentlessly focusing on you and your family being healthy. Allow only those images and thoughts to come into your awareness. Refuse to engage in any dialogue that does not support this as a reality.
- Accept that life is uncertain
The one thing that is sure about life is that it is unsure – but that isn’t always a bad thing. For every unpleasant surprise, there are good things that happen out of the blue as well. Think about the job offer that appeared, the unexpected phone call from a friend, or the chance awareness of information when you needed it. An opportunity arises from the unexpected and learning to deal with uncertainty can allow you to reap the rewards of the unknown.
Life is filled with uncertainty and these times are especially trying with so much unknown. Taking positive steps to reduce your overall stress and anxiousness can help interrupt the downward spiral of a negative thought. It will help you find your inner calm, and better cope with the ups and downs in your life. If you are interested in learning how my proprietary coaching method, Rewire Your Mind® can help you go from stressing to progressing in 3 proven steps, click HERE for a complimentary consultation.
At times such as these, our life is uncertain and each day we are exposed to additional information about the health of our world, communities and families. It is important that we resist reacting and instead we consciously choose to calmly respond.
What is Reacting?
While react and respond are similar words, they mean completely different things. Reacting in stressful times is instinctual and it comes from the unconscious mind. It is a process of operating on autopilot without any filtering. This is when you say things without thinking or you act without considering the ramifications of your behaviour.
What is Responding?
Responding on the other hand is more thoughtful and it involves exploring possible outcomes and thinking through options. It is when you take a step back and weigh the pros and cons of your choices. What would be best for yourself and others in the situation?
What kind of person would you rather be, especially at this stressful time? Would you rather be the type of person who creates a calm and happy environment for yourself and your family or would you prefer to be the kind of person who is a wild card, totally out of control and moving rapidly from one emotional state to another? The key to being calm and collected is to be mindfully present and have awareness of when you have been triggered.
How to Stay Mindfully Present Through Anxiety
So how do you become mindfully present when anxiety has yet again washed over you? The best way is to step back and create some distance, physically and energetically, between the trigger (the event) and yourself. Become the observer of your emotional state and be inquisitive as to why you are feeling that way. Refrain from judging how you feel and instead just accept it and observe it.
It is also good to take a few deep breaths as you allow the effects of the trigger to reduce or fade away. The fading could take a minute, an hour, a day or even a week. Every person and every situation are different. The gift of creating distance when you are triggered is the allowance for you to consciously choose how you are going to respond.
Here is an acronym that I came up with to help myself and my clients in the moment when we are triggered, and we want to avoid reacting negatively. It is AWARE.
A – Awareness
Just recognize that you have been triggered. For example, you are listening to the news and the headline is about a negative prediction about the pandemic and it causes you to feel anxious. This is also a good time to ask yourself, what is actually triggering you. Was it the event itself (the news headline) or was it related to your thinking around the event (the story you are telling yourself about the imagined outcome)?
W – Wait
This is where you give yourself time to breathe and create space. It could be shutting off the newsfeed, hanging up from the phone call, ending the conversation, walking away or any other means to create physical or energetic distance.
A – Accept
Here is where you make sure you accept your emotions and you do not judge them as bad. Remember, a healthy adult feels all of their emotions. Tell yourself that it is ok to feel the negative emotions and that it is normal and appropriate.
R – Respond
This is the big step. Here is the fork in the road. Here lies your opportunity to choose the road that has the best overall outcome. This is where you ask yourself, what is my goal and how can I respond in such a way that supports my goal in the best manner? Evaluate each possible response as to whether it takes you closer or further away from your goal.
E – Energy
Now you move forward from a place of awareness that you can choose the best, healthiest and most empowered response for yourself and others.
Although responding instead of reacting is not easy initially it can become easier with practice. It is unlikely to be responsive all of the time. However, decreasing the amount of time you are reactive and staying centered most of the time is a worthy enterprise. The faster you have awareness of when you are triggered, the faster you will be able to regulate yourself and get yourself back on track.
If you are curious as to how my coaching can assist you in developing your ability to respond instead of react and to keep your life moving forward even in stressful times, request a complimentary consultation.
To our Health and Wellbeing,
It is hard to cope with stressful situations, especially when they happen on a regular basis. Over the long term, stress can have devastating impacts to one’s overall health. This can in turn lead to heart disease, unhealthy levels of cholesterol, and high blood pressure. Finding ways that you can deal with stress so that it doesn’t knock you down is a smart, proactive step towards overall management of both your mental and physical wellbeing.
The tips that are offered below require some practice and dedication but if you stick with it, before long you will get the hang of it. Eventually, you will be enjoying a much more calm and peaceful daily life.
Tip #1: Slow Down and Step Back
Remind yourself to slow down and to either mentally or physically step away from the stressful situation in order to gather perspective and allow the situation to have a chance at naturally resolve itself. Do this by:
Gathering your thoughts
Talk to yourself or journal out your thoughts. This activity will open up perspective where in the heat of the moment you were unable to see it.
Allow yourself the benefit of time to think about the stressful situation. Ask yourself to view both the problem and potential solutions from all perspectives.
See the Big Picture
Put yourself in the position of a neutral third party and then ask that party how they see the situation. What comes up may surprise you.
How Important Is This?
We cannot afford the time, money or energy to be invested in everything that give us discomfort. Ask yourself if this is really the issue that you want to be engaged in. Will this issue matter in a day from now, a week from now, a month from now, a year from now? Ten years from now, will it matter at all? Probably not worth getting stressed out about.
Tip #2: Breathe Deep and Relax
Breath is such an important contributor to reducing stress. This is because when you breathe deeply, you are sending a message to your brain to calm down and relax. Your brain then sends this same message to your body and as a result, your muscles start to relax, and your overall tension reduces. My favourite way to breathe deeply is to inhale for the count of 6, hold for the count of 6 and exhale for the count of 6.
Tip #3: Walk Away
If you feel that your stress is triggering anger that involves anyone else, end the conversation and take some time and space. Stay way until you are mentally strong enough to deal with it or until the situation naturally works itself out. Realize that stressful situations can lead to your constantly re-thinking and re-playing things over and over. Mentally walking away means that you put an end the that rumination as well.
Tips #4: Concentration on Something Else
Stress can consume your thoughts. It can be helpful to kick it out of your mind and replace it with something more positive, calming and fruitful. Go for a walk, read a book, meet up for a coffee with a friend, catch a movie, etc. The idea is to give your mind a break and to think about something other than what is stressing you.
Tip #5: Burn Off Energy
When your body sends out a stress response, it thinks you have something to physically respond to. Often, we don’t have anything that needs running away from like a charging animal or anything of that sort. Still, your body needs to respond to burn off this extra energy. Physical activity can be a great way to relieve stress. Go for a walk, take a jog or hit the gym, whatever you feel up to.
Tip #6: Talk It Out
One of the most important things to do in a stressful situation that involves another person is to communicate effectively. This involves clearly expressing what you think, how you feel and what you want without demanding that you must have things your way. The basic message is “we both matter so let’s work this out.”
I hope you find these tips interesting and helpful in managing your day to day stress. If you are interested in how coaching can help you manage stress and ward off anxiousness, go to my website and request a complimentary consultation.
To our Health and Wellbeing,
Karen Spencer, Life Coach and Practitioner is a legal Complementary Healthcare Provider, and not a licensed Medical Doctor, Psychologist, Psychiatrist, Masters in Family and Child Counseling (MFCC), or a Masters in Social Work (MSW). The client understands that the Practitioner is not providing psychological or medical advice and that any services provided should in no way replace sound treatment from a licensed healthcare provider.