This is the first in a series of blogs to provide you with tools to reduce the degree or frequency of stress encounters.
If you really want to escape the things that harass you, what you’re needing is not to be in a different place, but to be a different person. Seneca.
I don’t think any of us need to be reminded of the harmful effects associated with stress. You know, those times when our “fight or flight” response is triggered because we’re overwhelmed, afraid we’ll lose our job, can’t pay the rent, feel like we’ll never catch up, our kids are too demanding, and countless more reasons. The hormones released during these times are useful, if in fact, we need to fight or make a quick get-a-way. However, as most of us know, a frequent flow of these hormones are harmful to our physiology.
One of my mentors, Mary Morrissey says, “We’re surrounded by electronics, opportunities, choices and information, all coming at us at high speed, and sometimes our brains struggle to sort through the deluge. People today have to make more decisions in 24 hours than our ancestors did in a year. Even little things, like buying a pair of athletic shoes, are more complicated than they used to be, with tens of thousands of options vying for our attention in this one small area of life alone.”
If you’d like to take a quick stress screen, provided by Mental Health America, just click here. The fifteen questions only take a few minutes to complete. Go ahead, I’ll wait.
How’d you do?
Let’s get started in reducing your degree or frequency of stressful experiences. We’ll begin with awareness.
It’s been my experience that many of us comment frequently, either aloud or by internal dialogue, on the degree of stress or business we experience. So, on some level, we appear to be aware of the condition. “I’m so busy,” “There’s just not enough time,” “I’m so stressed,” are just a few of the phrases commonly thrown about. There’s nothing wrong with acknowledging these conditions. In fact, it’s important to do so. Awareness and insight are the first steps to change.
The problem, as I see it, is that we typically don’t take the next step, to move our thinking out of these thought patterns. While we may be aware of these conditions, it seems a kind of “mindless awareness.” To repeatedly vocalize an undesirable feeling or experience, without taking action to remedy it, is like praying for what we don’t want. Over and over, again and again, we mentally and verbally affirm conditions we don’t want to experience. This kind of thinking keeps us trapped in stressful states.
For this next week, I suggest noticing each time we realize we’re in a stressful state. Just notice it. Make a mental note each time we begin to repeat our stressful mantras. No action required. Not yet.
OK, just one action…stop and take a deep breath and a slow exhale.
Maybe that’s two actions, not sure.
Sara Paddison, in her book, The Power of the Hidden Heart, says, “Stress is inner biofeedback, signaling you that frequencies are fighting within your system. The purpose of stress isn’t to hurt you, but to let you know it’s time to go back to the heart and start loving.” This probably rings familiar with those of you who have attended one of my Postpone Procrastination Now! seminars. You’ll recall that I stated that procrastination is a gift that reminds us that we’re not in harmony with the task at hand. Same with stress. We are definitely not in harmony with the task at hand when we’re stressed out.
Another stage of awareness is being tuned in to our stress triggers. Under what circumstances do we most often find ourselves stressed? According to Whole Living, here’s a list of the twelve most common stress triggers.
- Jobs that never end
- Job you don’t like
- Close relationships
- Constant care-giving
- Holiday pressures
- Taking too much
- Not enough quality time
- Striving to be perfect
- Lack of enjoying your passion
- Disorganized clutter (Is there such a thing as organized clutter?)
Wow! Something to think about.
To recap, this week my suggestions are to simply notice when we’re feeling stressed. Make a mental note. Take a breath. Also, make note of what conditions and circumstances promote that stressful feeling in us. By taking these steps, we’re increasing our awareness, a mindful awareness of stressful experiences, with the goal of reducing the degree or frequency of stress encounters.