Stress is a natural part of life, right? So how come it can feel like such an unnatural, and at times extremely painful part of our lives as women, mothers, and entrepreneurs? Well, I might not be able to answer that “how come” question, but I can offer you a seasoned resource on stress management and emotional wellness. My guest blogger, Jeff Cannon, helps individuals create a profound shift toward ongoing happiness and greater success by following their own Simple Truth. Delicious, right?! I thought so too. Dig in!
Welcome to the 21st Century. It’s filled with luxuries, freedoms and opportunities our parents and certainly our grandparents never had. That doesn’t mean life is a cakewalk, in many instances it means quite the opposite.
Why? Because we may have changed the world drastically around us in the past 40,000 years, but our bodies are basically the same they were when modern humans first appeared on the earth. This means our wiring is still throwing us into an auto-response based on our original fight or flight response mode, when it may not be necessary in today’s world.
Its why, when your boss or client calls you into a meeting your heart beats faster, you start to perspire, and you may even fumble with your words. It is why, when you have to give a presentation your body panics, even when you know you need to be at the top of your game. At the moment when you should be calm so that you can be at your best, your mind and body panic – sending you into stress overload.
Don’t get me wrong, stress is a part of life. It is part of the human condition. It kept us alive when we first crawled out of the trees, and is so ingrained in us, it will continue to be a part of how we live well into the future.
Just because it is a part of who we are, doesn’t mean it has to ruin your life. With the proper techniques, you can learn how to manage your stress so that you can win your life back and live the life you love. The way to do this is quite simple actually.
First, understand that stress is part of your natural programming. Deep inside your brain is a tiny organ called the amygdala. Its sole job is to pump out hormones to keep you alive. If it gets a signal that you might be in danger, it sends your body into fight or flight mode [i.e., stress]. This was an extremely useful tool 40,000 years ago when we were in a constant state of danger. But in today’s world it just sends you reeling out of control; usually at just the wrong moment. Like when your boss calls you into their office or when you’re heading out on a new date.
To break this cycle, you need to learn how to hit the pause button before your 40,000 year old programming sends your blood pressure soaring and puts you into a full bore panic at just the wrong moment. So the next time you feel your blood pressure jump or your brain start to spin out of control, hit the pause button, slow the world down, and start spinning it at your pace.
Here are some easy exercises that can be done anywhere to help you do just that.
Breathe 8-2-8. I cannot stress enough how beneficial proper breathing is. If you feel your heart start to race, take three deep breaths into your stomach as you focus you attention on your belly expanding and contracting. Feel it move against your clothing as you slowly count to eight on each inhale, let your breath settle for a cont of two, and then exhale for a count of eight, again letting your breath settle for two before inhaling again. It will center you and help you regain your mental footing.
Ground yourself in your setting. Rather than trying to escape, close your yes and listen to the world around you. Listen to the hum of the lights, hear the sounds of the people and equipment wherever you are. Embrace your environment as a reality, but not your reality. Know that you are separate from it, that the fear and angst it breeds is not something that you need to be a part of. Relax in the knowledge that when you open your eyes it will all be there, but that it will only touch you if you let it. You, and only you, have control over how you respond to the world around you.
Learn Your Triggers. Identify and monitor the triggers that cause you stress. The next time you feel your stress growing, think about what happened to cause it. Turn your mind inward and review the emotions that were set off when that trigger was activated. Try to remember another time in your life when you had the same emotional response. Remember, the way an event affected you is as much a part of your past as it is your present. Use that insight to help you separate the present event from past associations to reduce the way you escalate a small event into greater stress.
Own your stress. Don’t try to pretend it doesn’t exist. Admit to it and embrace it. Then let it go with a great big inhale. Running from a problem only makes it worse, and only prolongs the stress it brings.
Stress is part of life. But it does not have to ruin your life. Let it out. Release it. Fill the empty space it leaves with the kind of positive energy that will help you live the life you love living.
Jeff Cannon is the author of the book The Simple Truth: Mediation for the Modern World. He is also the founder and lead instructor for The Simple Truth Project. Today he works with individuals and entire companies, teaching them how to minimize stress and distractions while improving focus. His work helps people and business owners transform their personal and professional lives by living their own Simple Truths.