In today’s world, stress has become a chronic condition many of us struggle with. With how fast paced our lives are and the exposure we have to social media and the news, it’s no wonder this is becoming a growing issue. When we feel stressed or hear others say they’re feeling stressed what exactly does this mean? Stress is when your body feels an external threat and as a result enters “fight or flight” mode. “Fight or flight” mode is when our body either freezes/flees from or challenges the perceived threat. This response is accompanied by a surge of adrenaline, racing heart beat and thoughts, sweaty palms, and other symptoms we frequently associate with anxiety. This response can be triggered by the everyday stressors in our life that cause us to feel out of control or helpless.
Over time, this can become our body’s automatic response to even the smallest difficulties. The more we engage in this response the more reinforced it becomes. This can ultimately impact all forms of your health and well-being. To prevent your body’s response to stress from having a long-term impact on your life, it’s vital to begin establishing a new thought patter/bodily response to stress. Explained below are ways to begin stopping stress in its tracks as listed by Ryan Haddon, ICF Certified Life and Spiritual Coach.
The first step in managing stress is becoming aware when you’re having a stress response. Once you bring awareness to the sensations in your body only then can you begin making a conscious change. Instead of panicking, place your hands on your stomach and take deep, long, slow breaths feeling your stomach expand and contract. This type of breathing and awareness changes your thought process and slows your heart rate.
When that hamster wheel of racing thoughts begins in your mind it’s vital to bring awareness to the present moment. The best way to do this is to plant your feet firmly on the floor acknowledging the support of the ground holding you up. Shift the energy from your mind and channel it down through your feet redistributing the energy throughout your body. In addition, going for a walk and bringing awareness to your feet hitting the ground, heel toe, heel toe, can be useful in bringing you back to the present moment.
It may seem silly, but we have the ability to talk ourselves out of stress and panic. This begins by acknowledging this feeling is temporary and will pass. Stress, fear, sadness, these are all emotions just as valid as happiness and excitement. These feelings come and then they go. Becoming frustrated with yourself for how you’re feeling and exerting immense energy to make the feeling go away can be counter productive. Sometimes, sitting with the feeling, acknowledging its purpose, and reassuring yourself that it’s temporary is all you may need.
When we have thoughts spinning in our minds, it’s frequently helpful to externalize these internal thoughts. To do this, take a piece of paper and write down any thoughts that may come to mind. They don’t have to make sense, look pretty, or be complete sentences. Simply put words down on paper getting everything in your mind out. Without a way to externalize your thoughts, they’ll continue to bounce around in your mind allowing the stress cycle to continue.
As humans, we’re constantly working towards this place of acceptance. While it’s somewhere we may never get, working towards the idea that everything is the way it should be can be very helpful. This mindset does not mean we enjoy things the way we are or are happy with them, but we accept them and trust in them. Changing our perspective from things are happening to me to things are happening for me can be helpful as well.
Lastly, pinpointing specific thoughts causing stress, challenging those thoughts and incorporating new ones is incredibly powerful. We have the ability to change our thought patterns, which are typically negative to be more positive. Utilizing the phrase “fake it till you make it” can be very helpful in this situation. By faking it, you can trick your mind and body into a feeling of well-being and serenity.
If you’ve found yourself struggling with every day stressors, it may be useful to try counseling. Contact Symmetry Counseling at 312-578-9990 to set up an appointment with one of our very skilled therapists today!