Stress is a normal physical response to the events in life that make you feel threatened or upset your balance in some way. Stress, however, becomes more dangerous when we don't know how to handle these events or life itself. I find that when most people claim they are "stressed" they are actually very out of touch with what it is they are truly feeling, so they just slap that word onto their emotional state. When we are in better touch emotionally and expand our emotional vocabulary, we can be empowered.
Stress can be Positive
Having a stress response is your bodies way of protecting you, so in emergency situations stress can save your life and help you rise to meet challenges. The problem in our current reality is that most of our stress is not coming from being chased by a tiger, but rather deadlines and expectations. Stress turns on your fight or flight response. Your fight or flight response turns off your: immune system. Your immune system then tries to fight whatever it is that is causing discomfort.
I came up with an acronym for stress to help people get a little more descriptive on what it is they were feeling: strained, tense, rigid, exhausted, suffering or spent. Instead of just slapping "stress" onto your current state, instead try to get more in touch with what it is that is truly going on.
How Stress shows up in the body
The body does not distinguish between physical and psychological threats and stress can show up in three ways: Cognitively, Emotionally, and Behaviorally. Cognitive: memory problems, inability to concentrate, poor judgment, seeing only the negative, anxiety, and worrying. Emotional: moody, irritable, inability to relax, feeling overwhelmed, depression, and general unhappiness. Behavioral: eating (more or less) sleeping (too much or too little), procrastinating, using substances to relax, and nervous habits.
When Stress becomes unhelpful
After a certain point of stress, if we do not know how to turn it off, it can cause major damage to your health, mood, productivity, relationships and quality of life. This point is different for everyone, so the first place to start is to figure out how you experience stress, deal with it appropriately and then learn how to turn it off.
Over the next four weeks we will be answering the question, "how do I manage my stress" and begin to share applicable techniques on how to do so. We will go over how to manage stress with the Four A’s: Awareness, Acting, Adapting, Accepting. Before we break into all this information, I would like you to start with asking yourself these questions with you feel stressed:
- What just happened? (This helps you identify what currently took place)
- What is it that I am truly feeling? (chose from the acronym above)
- How can I help the situation? (this helps you shift and focus on solution rather than the problem)
This will help you begin to practice a different response to the inevitable. You always have a choice on how to respond to life, the trick is remembering that you have that power!