Guest post by Sandra Pawula
Often, we associate courage and strength with the ability to keep pushing forward irrespective of stress, high achievement through long, dedicated hours, and winning against all odds.
In our demanding, modern world, it’s become standard procedure to dismiss stress and carry on.
That might be necessary and acceptable occasionally. But it’s a huge mistake to let stress become the regular routine.
To put it simply, chronic stress diminishes your joy, wrecks your health, strains your relationships, and decreases your ability to focus and be productive.
But usually we fail to draw the line between our current stress and its future outcomes.
It seems improbable that working late everyday now will lead to heart disease in what seems like the distant future. It seems impossible that falling into bed exhausted at the end of each over-filled day could trigger or exacerbate an immune disorder. It seems unbelievable that going into overdrive to care for everyone else, will land you with anxiety or depression.
Until your world suddenly collapses, that is. Then, it may not be easy to retrieve your healthy or happiness. It may even take years of persistent effort.
Apply the Power of Now to Tune Into Stress
So how can you stave off this tendency to deny stress?
Stop right now and tune into yourself.
Are you stressed out? Be quiet for a moment and listen to your inner self as best you can. Right now, in this moment, how do you feel – in your mind, your emotions, and your body? Do you feel calm and relaxed or do you feel stressed?
• Are you obsessively thinking of the past or future?
• What kinds of mental messages are you repeating to yourself? Do they calm you or stress you?
• Do you feel preoccupied, worried, pressured, angry, jealous, or fearful? What are the dominant emotional tones?
• When you scan your body do you find tension, discomfort, or pain in one or more areas?
• Do you feel tired?
• Are you communicating in an edgy way?
This is not an exhaustive list, but just a few signs that you might be stressed. And, we haven’t even considered the potentially significant symptoms of stress like headaches, insomnia, chest pain, rapid heart beat, stomach troubles, overeating, drinking too much, moodiness, agitation, forgetfulness, disorganization, and so many more.
How would you rate your current level of stress on a scale of 1 – 10? Look back at your week and rate your general level of stress on a scale of 1-10 as well.
Be honest with yourself. Don’t dismiss stress without a second thought. Use this moment right now to do your own mini-stress evaluation.
6 Ways to Gather Your Courage and Say No To Stress
What did you learn about stress and you when you tuned into yourself?
If you discovered that you feel stressed more often than not, it’s time to gather your courage and learn to say no to stress. Below are six ways you can catch stress before it fully compromises your health or happiness.
Be willing to be different
The cultural norm dictates pushing yourself to keep going and do more. When you decide to take a 15-minute break at work to just breathe and be still, go for a walk outside, or listen to relaxing music, you’ll be breaking the stay busy rule.
You can expect that your co-workers or boss may find this odd at first. Be courageous in a friendly way and stand your ground. Taking nourishing breaks will decrease stress and make you more focused and productive too.
Educate yourself about stress and its impact on well-being
Ignorance is not bliss when it comes to stress. The more you know the truth about stress, the more likely you’ll be to take courageous action.
And, you’ll know what to do. For example, did you know the research says:
• Multi-tasking elevates cortisol, the stress hormone
• Checking email frequently can increase stress
• Feeling helpless or out of control can turn on the stress response
The more you know, the easier it will be to find your strength.
Learn to kindly say, “No”
Taking on too much will naturally lead to stress for almost everyone. But many of us are afraid to say no. Have you been programmed to give and give and give without thinking of yourself? Does you self-esteem depend upon saying yes?
You can change that programming
It might feel uncomfortable at first, but gradually you’ll feel more confidence and ease when you learn to say yes to you and no to too much.
Think of one task, engagement, or activity that you would like to release from your list and go for it. If it involves communicating to someone else, write yourself a script, rehearse it to boost your courage, and then use it for real.
Make time for ease
Too busy to relax? “Too busy” is not an uncommon feeling, belief, or reality. But if you get sick from stress, you won’t have to worry about being too busy anymore.
Start small, even if it means taking 1 minute to quietly breath when you wake up in the morning, at lunch, and before bed. Then, find a 5-10 minute activity that brings you peace even if it’s as simple as staring out the window or walking around the block.
Gradually work up to a 20-30 minute block of relaxation every day. You might have to give something up (like adrenalin pumping television programs), but it will be so worth it.
With courage you can acknowledge and address your deepest patterns. So much of our stress arises from our long-held, dysfunctional beliefs.
Take an inventory of your deceptive beliefs like:
• I have to be perfect.
• I’m not lovable.
• I have to hold it all together because no one else will.
• I have to please others to feel I’m okay.
Those kinds of deeply held beliefs are a sure-fire recipe for stress and tension. You won’t be able to change them overnight, but having the courage to acknowledge them is the first step. Create a positive belief about yourself and then use it to counter deceptive beliefs when they arise.
Find stress reducing activities that work for you
Everyone is different when it comes to stress reduction. What relieves stress in one person may trigger it in another. So you need to get to know which activities relieve your stress.
Some people love running or getting a massage. I’m a big fan of mindfulness-based stress reduction techniques, which have been proven effective through more than 30 years of scientific research.
Try out some stress reducing activities and see which ones you enjoy. Don’t give up if the first one doesn’t work for you. Have the pluck to try another.
Is there one tip on this list that you could start working with today to lessen your stress and increase your ease?
Right now, it may seem like the stress of external circumstances control you. But, in reality, you’re the one in charge of your body, brain, and life. Believe in your ability to dissolve stress and you will.
Sandra Pawula is the heart and mind behind Always Well Within, where she writes about creating a life of joy and ease. Her signature e-course, Living with Ease: The Mindful Way to Dissolve Stress is a complete roadmap to dissolving stress and preventing it from overwhelming you again.
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