Originally published in the Winter + Spring 2018 issue.
Stress impacts the whole body. When a stressful situation occurs, the nervous system responds and immediately increases cortisol and adrenaline to prepare the body for emergency action. Your heart rate and blood pressure increase, muscles tighten, you may feel nauseous, and begin breathing harder. Although this is a natural response to stress it is not natural to experience it daily.
Daily stress brings on a lot of consequence that includes everything from difficulty concentrating to fatigue, weight gain and depression. So how can this stress cycle be stopped to allow calm amid chaos? The key is choosing to participate differently.
- Create supportive, healthy boundaries. Takeinventory of your daily activities and decide if adjustment is needed to alleviate stress in your life. Create buffers in the day so you can move in a fluid way without the anxiousness and stress of being overscheduled. Carve out blocks of time to focus solely on a project and to answer emails and voicemails. In the evening allow space for the activities you enjoy such as light exercise, connection with friends, and quiet time to read.
- Breathe. Offer your body the gift of breath; it is free, portable and accessible any time yet it is rarely used to its full capacity. Take a slow, deep breath in through the nose, filling the abdomen like a balloon. Pause and then slowly exhale through the nose as you contract the abdomen to push out all the air. Repeat. The gift of breath will calm the body and provide you a new perspective on the situation.
- Say no. This can be a challenging but necessary assignment if you want to reduce stress in your life. Before making any decision, ask yourself “What will this provide me?” This one simple question will help you decide whether your participation will cause you angst, or move you in the direction of stress-free living. By pausing and asking yourself this question, you will be able to make a conscious choice instead of one out of convenience, haste, or guilt. Kindly express thanks and gratitude for the opportunity and say no. It really is as easy as that.
- Give permission.You are in control of your response in every situation in life but you cannot control the response of others. Before any stressful conversation silently say to the other person, “I give you permission to respond however you need to respond.”This one simple act will allow you to express your thoughts and concerns and release control of the other persons response. Stress happens when we worry about the unknown, or try to please another person and fall short. Choose to do what is best for you, be kind to yourself in the process, and provide permission for others to do the same.
- Use the power of word. Words often feed stress in the body more than the situation itself! What if instead of saying “I just don’t have enough time” you shifted your mindset by saying “I have all the time I need.” Just through the power of word you provided space to accomplish the task at hand with grace, focus, and calm instead of being frazzled and stressed out. You can also recite phrases like “all is well” “I am enough” or “I release all control” to set the stage for a positive experience.
Stress will always be present in life; the good news is you get to choose how you want to participate in it! Advocate for yourself, create a supportive environment and know that you have everything you need to live stress-free.