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.
We all know how worry feels. It is an uncomfortable feeling triggered by a thought of the worst-imagined outcome. This results in feeling uneasy, a belief of not being safe, and a fear of not being capable of handling the future.
That feeling of worry is prompted by a series of negative thoughts that then develop into gloomy mental images. Because, those worrying thoughts are focused on undesirable outcomes, there is a natural and frantic step into rapid problem solving that follows. The relentless scanning for answers in our neurology leaves us feeling overwhelmed, and if it lasts, we can experience fear and even panic.
Human beings have the outstanding ability to mentally rehearse future events. This ability to think ahead means that we can anticipate obstacles or problems that allow us to take appropriate pre-planned action. When this ability to think ahead is used in this manner, it is adaptive, productive, and highly-ecological for self and others.
However, when this ability is used to the extreme and it becomes focused on a relentless negative hypothetical scenario making that leaves one feeling anxious or apprehensive. Then it it can turn to be maladaptive and unproductive. The key is recognizing where and when you take on maladaptive future thinking. It is the first step in combating unnecessary and damaging worry.
Worry During COVID-19
It’s tough not to be worried during the current pandemic. And it’s even harder to be productive and positive each day while going through all of the uncertainty. Anxiousness and stress are dominating many people’s lives right now and distracting them from focusing on the generous current moment where life is truly lived. Having a strategy to handle worry when it shows up is a smart step forward towards peace and towards controlling how you are living your life right here, right now.
Here are 4 of the top tips for handling worry during COVID-19:
Imagine putting your worries in a box.
This is all about you controlling when and how you worry and to stop being a victim to your emotional state. To gain control over the feeling of worry, follow these easy and fun steps. Recognize that by implementing this method, you are allowing yourself to live worry-free for the majority of your day.
Step 1: Write down any worry that comes into your awareness on a piece of paper during the day. Be as specific about the feeling of worry as possible.
Step 2: Put the pieces of paper containing your worries into a designated worry box.
Step 3: Choose a time of day (preferably the same time each day and no longer than 30 minutes) to allow yourself to read each of your worries and to give them some attention.
Step 4: After you have read your worry it may no longer feel like a concern. If so, throw the worry in the garbage. If it still feels concerning, give yourself some time (around 5 minutes) to contemplate the worry. Put the worry back in the worry box if you feel that it needs more attention tomorrow.
Examine the thoughts that are triggering the worry
Recognize the extreme thinking that is fueling each worry that you have written down. More than likely the worry will be centered around an overestimation that everything will go badly or conversely an underestimation that things will go well. You most likely will have used words such as always, never, everything, everyone, all, no one, every or forever. You may have also used words such as can’t, won’t, shouldn’t, must, must not, or need to.
Next, ask yourself some challenging questions about each worry. Ask such questions such as: “how do I know for sure”, “what if something different happened”, “what are some facts that do not support my thinking.”
Re-write each worry
Rewrite each worry in a more positive and realistic way. Recognize the probability of the feared outcome is probably very low and so now focus on the more likely outcome. Focus on the result that is most desired by you, the one you truly want to become your reality.
Recognize what is outside of your control and then let it go
Worries that are adaptive are usually ones that can you can approach with meaningful, productive, actionable steps. For example, if you were worried about not making your flight on time tomorrow, you can take steps to reduce that worry by checking-in online, pre-arranging a taxi, packing the night before, and so on.
If the worry is unsolvable or outside of your control to fix, then it is best to accept the uncertainty. This is the wheelhouse for most chronic worriers and where they need to do most of their work.
Worrying is often an attempt to predict the future to prevent unpleasant surprises and to control outcomes. The problem is that it does not work, it never has and it never will. Worrying about all of the ways that things could go wrong does not make life more predictable, it just keeps you from enjoying the good times that are right in front of you now.
To read more about handling uncertainty during the current pandemic, watch for my next blog coming out soon.
If you are interested in how my proprietary coaching program Rewire Your mind® can help you step away from worry and into a more joy-filled life, sign up for a complimentary consultation on my website.
And as always, I invite you to join in on the conversation on Facebook and Instagram.
To Your Health and Wellbeing,
Are you ready to take that step forward towards something new, untried, and adventurous? Do you find yourself imagining your desired future and then pulling back when it is time act? Why is it that some people see all the reasons why not to do something instead of all the reasons why to do something?
To be able to embrace our future in ways different from our past, we must be ok with uncertainty, the unknown, and the untested. For a lot people however, the fear of failure is a huge barrier that holds them back from this new way of experiencing life. This is especially true for entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs are so closely entangled with their business that their identity and ego are immersed in their venture. When things do not go as they desired, it can feel that they are broken at their core. It can be devastating, and it can be paralyzing.
With all the uncertainty that entrepreneurs face daily, it is a wonder that they get anything done at all. I know that as an entrepreneur myself, there are days that I feel smart and able to face anything. Other days, I am convinced that my ideas are stupid, doomed to fail and that I will never succeed. I believe however, that these two parts of me both serve a positive purpose. It is when one part plays a bigger role, drowning out the other part, that I need to pay attention. It is the cocktail of anxiety and nervousness mixed with excitement and anticipation that makes the best formula for me to go forward in a balanced way.
Beware of Low Self-Esteem
What we need to be on the look-out for however, is low self –esteem. Low self-esteem can de-rail any effort. It is the belief that regardless of how hard you work, how many hours you put in, how much risk you take, you do not deserve success. This belief needs to be overcome and the best way to do this is to be aware of any negative thoughts, stopping them as soon as they are identified and replacing them with positive self-talk. I like to have about half a dozen positive statements about myself and my success pre-written and easily accessible on my phone. When I find myself stuck in negative thinking, I either read these positive statements or listen to my stored recording of myself saying them. I then repeat them a few times until I feel a shift in my mood.
That Voice is NOT You
Most of us have a naturally critical voice in our head. What we need to be aware of is fact that the voice is most likely not our own. It is probably the voice of either a parent, grandparent, past teacher or boss. What we need to do is identify where this voice is coming from and then decide if we want to let it go. We took on these beliefs of others most likely when we were a child and we were powerless. Now that we are adults, we are free to accept or reject them, recognizing they represent the opinions of others and we are allowing these opinions to shape our lives.
So how can you use the dance between excitement and fear of failure to your advantage? Try these five ways to reframe fear and turn it into your friend rather than your foe.
Figure Out Why You Want the Change:
Ask yourself what it is exactly about your current life, job, relationship and so forth that you want to change. Knowing why you want to change will keep you motivated to go forward.
Acknowledge the Fear:
For many, fear stops any movement forward because nobody likes the feeling of fear. If you simply allow yourself to feel the fear when it shows up, you will notice that is quickly dissipates and suddenly life feels more manageable and less scary.
Play Out the Worst-Case Scenario:
This is one of my favourite strategies to keep moving forward. I ask myself what is the worst possible way that this could go. If I can handle whatever it is that I imagine, then I keep moving forward.
Remember There is no Real Failure:
Everything we do creates a result, so ultimately, there is no failure. There may be disappointment or unhappiness with the result however, it is important to take away information that you can use going forward, even if it is what not what you will do next time.
Look at How Far you Have Already Come:
If you honestly look back at your life, I am sure that younger you could not have imagined how far you have already come in your life or your business. Congratulate yourself on the process. Recognize that there is unlimited number of versions of success.
If you are interested in getting past any negative thinking and moving forward without self-defeating fear sign up for a complimentary consultation.
How can you practice imagination today? What in your life can you build an imaginary story around? What’s stopping you from imagining – nothing!
If you are curious about how my coaching services can help you access your greater, unlimited self and move you away from a life of anxiety, sign up for a complimentary consultation.
To our Health and Wellbeing,
What is Anxiety?
The Fight or Flight Response
Anxiety Can Be Lethal in the Long Run
To our health and wellbeing,
Following a consistent routine before bedtime not only helps keep our stress levels low – but also boosts mindfulness, productivity, and results in better overall sleep.
In my last blog post, I discussed the importance of starting our day off right by practicing mindfulness. Mindfulness can be achieved by developing an acute awareness of our body and our surroundings with a sense of appreciation and calm. In this blog, I will be examining how we can also end our day with mindfulness. By following a consistent and relaxing evening routine we will be able to get more of what we all crave – sleep.
Stress Causes Insomnia
Stress is one of the top reasons people experience insomnia. Remember – if you are struggling with insomnia you are not alone. Around 30% of the adult population report that insomnia is a major factor in their life. It only takes one night of worry to see how stress directly impacts sleep. The inability to mentally let go makes it difficult, if not impossible, to physically and mentally relax.
Personally, when I experience worry or stress, getting sleep becomes a challenge. Missing sleep then creates more of what initially made sleep impossible – stress. This cycle can become quite debilitating and problematic – which is why developing a calming bedtime routine is so important. It signals to our mind and our body that it is time to unwind and slow down. This can gently ease us into slumber – as opposed to trying to forcefully prod ourselves to sleep.
A few relaxation techniques can be just what we need – especially when we are highly stressed and agitated. Below, I have outlined a few of my favourite bedtime rituals for mindful rest.
If you need to work in the evening, make sure you have some wind-down time before bed to avoid feeling tense.
Limit your caffeine and alcohol intake, as this will make it harder to fall asleep. Instead, try drinking herbal teas, or a warm milky drink.
It’s a good idea to have a warm bubble bath before bed, and not a heavy late-night meal or alcoholic nightcap –which can interfere with a sound sleep. This will in turn, lead to reduced anxiety the next day.
Getting some fresh air and exercise may also help our body unwind. A stroll in the evening air, walking the dog, stretching, or yoga can help achieve the feelings of relaxation.
Before we tuck in, ensuring that our bedroom is a pleasant place to sleep in is vital – doing a quick tidy, even if its just putting things into piles can be especially helpful.
Make a to-do list for the next day. This way, we can empty out our minds in readiness for sleep.
It is also a good idea to lay out our clothes and pack a lunch so we are ready to go right away in the morning. All this preparation will undoubtedly help us relax and stop our minds from racing.
Don’t listen to the news, or watch it less than an hour before bed.
Ensure a calm sleeping environment, with no devices blinking and pinging to remind us of the stress of our work or social lives. And of course, we should try to avoid using electronic devices just before bedtime.
Make sure the bedroom is as dark as possible, with no LED display lights, as these will interfere with sleep patterns.
What bedtime routines do you use to quiet yourself?
To our health and wellbeing,
Anxiety can show up in many forms. One of these is the intense feelings of nervousness and uncertainty that can occur when meeting new people or going into social situations. This is known as social anxiety. If you are someone who deals with social anxiety, you should know you are not alone. Almost everyone experiences some sort of shyness or introversion when meeting someone new or being in a crowd of people. It’s a natural response to feel somewhat apprehensive. And one that is hardwired into us as a protection mechanism. However, sometimes those feelings can become overwhelming, even debilitating, causing people to stop living their lives to the fullest. It may even impair their ability to do their jobs, go to school, interact with neighbours or take positive actions towards their general wellbeing, like seeing their doctor or dentist.
What Lies Behind Social Anxiety
In many of my previous blogs, I’ve talked quite openly about dealing with anxiety for most of my life. Although my anxiety was intense and frequent, I never experienced social anxiety. My personal experience with anxiety showed up as intense worry about my future. It wasn’t until I was able to get help in identifying and removing my unhealthy unconscious limiting beliefs about my future that my anxiety was actually eliminated. I can however say with much
confidence that a similar approach of dealing with unconscious limiting beliefs would work well with social anxiety.
Underneath the exterior behaviour that usually accompanies social anxiety such as sweating, blushing, and the inability to speak is most likely an internal dialogue of thoughts like; I will look stupid, I will be laughed at, or I am unsafe. Most social anxiety comes from being hurt in the past, either through bullying or teasing. It is in those intense negative experiences that people make decisions (usually unconsciously) that either they deserved what happened because there is something wrong with them, or that being with all other people is actually dangerous.
It Can be Overcome
If you have social anxiety, you may find yourself avoiding going out with friends, applying for jobs or dating. Joining social clubs is totally out of the question. Sometimes people with social anxiety live online, as that feels so much safer. Having a connection online to either people or groups is a good start; however, it cannot replace the benefits of face-to-face connection.
The good news is that social anxiety is understood now more than ever. The anxiousness does not need to be hidden, and admitting to the struggle with social situations is so much more accepted.
Do you struggle with social anxiety? How do you manage your social anxiety? Are you willing to open up to the idea that there could be unconscious limiting beliefs that are holding you back from engaging fully with others? I invite you to join in the conversation on Facebook and Instagram.
To our health and wellbeing,
If you have an anxiety mindset, you constantly turn over issues. You think about the future, and pick over the past. You analyze, worry, or ‘nit-pick; about what did happen or might happen. It’s exhausting, and ultimately unproductive. I know, because I did it for years. I constantly reviewed every scenario, past and future, in my mind and dissected them into tiny bits of useless information, which I then used to berate myself with.
Anxiety-prone people often ask “what if?” What if I take the highway and there’s a crash? What if it rains and I get wet? I might get pneumonia and die. What if I say something stupid? This kind of anxiety
is largely based on fear of the unknown, of taking risks, and of feeling unprepared or unable to deal with the unseen.
‘I Wonder’ Instead of ‘What If’
In order to stop myself from the habit of imagining the worst-case scenario of asking “what if” followed by the inevitable negative thought, I now ask “I wonder.” And I follow this up with a positive thought. So instead of thinking; what if I take the highway and there’s a crash? I would think; I wonder how smoothly and safely the traffic will flow on the highway today?
Instead of thinking; what if it rains and I get wet? I might get pneumonia and die. I would think; I wonder if it will rain. I’ll take my raincoat in case it does. That way I will stay warm and dry no matter what the weather does. This mindfulness technique directs my attention to the alternative outcome. One that is more productive, creative and optimistic. This simple change in thinking has had a profound effect on my level of anxiety, as well as that of my clients.
‘If Onlys’ and ‘Shoulda, Wouldas’
Another common phrase people who deal with anxiety struggle with is, “If only…” If only we had gotten up earlier, we wouldn’t have been delayed. If only I had a million dollars, then I wouldn’t have any money worries. If only I hadn’t eaten that cake, I wouldn’t have got sick or put on weight. This kind of anxiety is tinged with regret, and often disguises an underlying anger or resentment.
The third kind of anxiety mindset is “shoulda, coulda, woulda.” This type is about what you should have done, what could have been or what would have happened. This is the worst kind of negative mindset;
as it is a major way of beating yourself up for the past, the present and the future.
This mindset takes a huge amount of energy, and can become quite obsessive, as we worry away, trying to rewrite our history. Shoulda, coulda, woulda mindset can also be a passive-aggressive way of blaming other people. Either way, it usually erases positive thinking as you constantly try to change the past and the future without being able to live in the present.
Awareness Is the First Step
Regardless of what particular negative thinking you engage in that triggers your anxiety, awareness is the first step towards making a positive change. Pay close attention to your language for the next week. What sort of negative talk and thinking dominates? Once you can recognize it, you can start making changes.
As with everything and anything, it is the small first steps that move the momentum forward. Over time this awareness, coupled with the discipline of correction, will eliminate anxiety-breeding talk and replace it with more talk that is accepting and gentle.
I invite you to share ways you try to focus your talk in a positive way in the comments. You can also join in the conversation on Facebook and Instagram for inspiration. And if you’re looking for assistance overcoming those negative mindsets I’d love to chat.
To our health and wellbeing,
The Christmas season is a time of seemingly endless gatherings with family and friends, celebrations at the office, and entertaining at home. All of this anticipation can be exhilarating; however it can also be anxiety provoking due to the unrealistic expectation to create the “best Christmas ever.” The most wonderful time of the year can easily turn into the most exhausting time of the year. And this can lead to January burn out, regret and financial burden. I have come to appreciate how important planning and prioritizing is to reduce the probability of having a Christmas that is not all that jolly and actually a bit melancholy.
Here are some of my best suggestions for a stress free Christmas:
Set Realistic Expectations
The sooner you understand that the holidays don’t have to be perfect, the better. There is no perfect Christmas. That concept is reserved for the Hallmark TV Channel only. Families change and grow and so traditions come and go. Choose the one or two celebrations that are meaningful enough to hold onto. Then allow space to create new traditions that serve your family as it is in the present.
As with all tasks, if you plan ahead the chances of success are higher than if you wing it. Christmas is no exception. Set aside specific days for activities like shopping, baking, visiting, decorating and so on. That will prevent last minute scrambling. Also, by having a plan you are more apt to say no to activities that would leave you feeling resentful and overwhelmed.
Set a budget and stick to it!
Before you spend any money on the holidays, decide how much you can afford to spend and then portion that amount between all of the necessities such as gifts, food, entertaining, travel, etc. There is nothing more anxiety-provoking than the January credit card statements if December was managed poorly. Preplanning your spending and refusing to buy into the message: happiness is a mountain of presents, are necessary defences. Realize that there are a lot of ways to spend less money on gifts and yet still show that you care. Things like a gift exchange or Secret Santa is a great way to reduce the financial burden of gift giving. Homemade gifts are meaningful and can be very special to the person receiving them. Donating to charities is also becoming a popular alternative to actual store-bought presents.
Keep your health as a priority
All of your good work on health should not go out the window just because it’s December. Your routine might not be as strict as it usually is however that does not mean that you should just abandon your health goals. If you are watching what you eat, then use the trick of eating healthy food before going to the holiday party to avoid overeating on sweets and appetizers. Also, incorporate some form of physical exercise into your routine each day and make sure that you’re getting the right amount of sleep.
By preplanning some simple, yet effective strategies for how to get through the holidays you can prevent anxiety and overwhelm from taking over this year. Identify what triggers cause you most the stress (financial or personal demands) and develop a plan of how to combat them. With some simple techniques and strategies, a joyful and anxiety-free Christmas can be enjoyed.
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.