With all the talk about stress these days, you’d think we’d all be very aware when we are stressed-out and understand the consequences of it. However, over the past 30 years working with clients and myself, I’ve discovered that we often don’t fully understand the magnitude of the impact of stress. Most of us are not aware just how stressed we are and what this is doing to us. In this article, we’ll look at the effects of stress, it’s source, and three simple steps we can take to immediately shift out of stress mode into empowerment!
Chronic stress has wide-ranging mental-emotional-physical consequences, including:
-the inability to focus and concentrate,
-cycles of anxiety and/or depression,
-cycles of binging on food, alcohol, or stimulants,
-muscle tension, high blood pressure, and cardio-vascular disease,
-difficulty breathing and asthma,
-chronic fatigue, chronic pain, inflammation, and fibromyalgia,
-indigestion, acid reflux, and irritable bowel syndrome,
-inhibition of immune response leading to susceptibility to colds, flu, and even cancer or AIDS,
-suppression of the reproductive and hormonal system,
-diabetes. . .
Recent medical research points to the fact that up to 95% of all doctor visits are stress-related. While we may think that we need to go to the doctor to get medicine to make us better, what most of us really need first and foremost is to learn to consciously relax, while reducing, reinterpreting, and handling the stressors in our lives. If we do that first, I think we’ll be amazed at how the phenomenal intelligence of our bodies takes over and resolves the majority of our physical issues.
So, let’s take a look at the source of stress and three simple steps we can take to reduce it right away.
According to “The Relaxation and Stress Reduction Workbook” (New Harbinger Publications, Inc., Oakland, CA, 2008, p.1), “Stress results from any change you have to adapt to.”
These changes can be related to environmental, social, or physiological factors.
Environmental factors include moving to a new home or place of work, weather, pollutants, noise, traffic, pollens, and environmental fields such as electro-magnetic, x-ray, microwave, and cell-phone transmissions.
Social factors include the demands of others on your time, energy, and attention, work deadlines and presentations, interpersonal conflict, financial difficulties, and forming, shifting, or ending relationships including marriage, divorce, and the death of loved ones.
Physiological factors include growing stages, menopause, lack of exercise, poor diet, inadequate sleep, sickness, injuries, and aging.
Though these changes have a great impact on the stress you feel, there is one thing that differentiates those who will feel overwhelmed from those who will handle these changes and thrive. I believe this one element is really THE FACTOR when it comes to stress.
It’s this: how you interpret the changes that are happening.
No matter what happens in your life, how you interpret it makes all the difference. The interpretive lens you bring to any event will determine if something stresses you out or inspires you to effective action.
Stress researchers Lazarus and Folkman emphasize just this point. They say that, “Stress begins with your appraisal of a situation. You first ask how dangerous or difficult the situation is and what resources you have to help you cope with it. Anxious, stressed people often decide that (1) an event is dangerous, difficult, or painful and (2) they don’t have the resources to cope.” (p. 2, TRSRW)
In other words, how you interpret and label your experience is the key factor—and this is such an empowering point!
Why is it empowering? Because it says that the stress you experience is an inside job. The stress you feel is the result of how you are looking at things. It’s the result of how you are thinking and feeling about what’s going on. If stress is a result of something you are doing internally, it is something you can change. You can choose to interpret events and circumstances differently. You can choose to take effective action.
So, the next time, you feel the slightest hint of stress rising up in your body, here are 3 simple steps to get a handle on stress and shift into empowered action:
1. Insert a mental pause. Stop what you’re doing, take a deep breath, and observe yourself. Just taking a brief time-out can interrupt the build-up of stress.
2. Notice what you are thinking, how you are feeling emotionally and physically, and what you are doing. Notice the words and images in your head, the emotions and physical sensations in your body, and the actions you feel compelled to take when you think and feel this way. See if it’s possible to just notice these layers of your experience and accept them, without judging yourself as “good or bad.”
Calmly observing and accepting yourself “just the way you are” and events “just the way they are” is a huge stress reducer.
3. Ask yourself “What is one thing I can do right now to move this situation in a positive direction?”
If you take a few moments to go through these 3 simple steps, you’ll immediately take the edge off your stress and feel more relaxed and empowered.
Enjoy your practice!
P.S. Click Here for an amazing guided audio experience to release stress and shift into a relaxed, positive, empowered inner state!