Do you remember the last time you got caught up in a situation that pissed you off or made you so fearful that it completely dismantled your ability to respond in a constructive way? Sometimes it can feel like you didn’t really have a choice in how you responded, it "just happened". If you’d like to have a more conscious choice in how you respond to stressful events in your life, keep reading…
Imagine this common scenario: You’ve had a late start to your already overbooked day and are already feeling somewhat stressed when you get into your car and remember you needed to get gas as your tank is on "E", so now you have to make another stop, which will delay you further! Depending on your typical thought process, you may immediately begin to feel anxious and worried: "Oh no! I’m going to be late for my appointment", causing tension to build as you speed down the street, gripping the steering wheel tightly and swearing at the slow poke driving leisurely in front of you. Or, you may find yourself getting angry, berating yourself with thoughts like: "Why am I late again?… I should be more organized… I should have gotten gas last night… But I was just too tired! … I need a break! …They better not give me any crap about being late! … Do they have any idea what my life is like?… I’m not putting up with any crap today. After all, they kept me waiting last time!". You head into your day feeling belligerent and defensive..
The Mind Body Link
Whether you react in fear or in anger, the thoughts in your mind create stress in your body. Your heart beats faster, your blood pressure rises, your breath becomes shallow, your adrenalin surges, and you produce higher levels of a hormone called cortisol. The primitive "fight-or-flight" response is activated but there are no lions or tigers coming at you – "just" thoughts convincing you that your survival is at stake.
Your thoughts have immense power. When something happens that violates your sense of how things should be, and you perceive danger ― whether real or imagined. Are you aware that numerous studies have shown that chronic stress accelerates aging and makes you more prone to dis-eases like heart disease, stomach ulcers, cancer, insomnia, migraine headaches, panic attacks, and depression?
Fortunately, there are many valuable practices that can help you go beyond the primal fight-or-flight response. You can train yourself to respond from a more evolved part of your brain creating a different response – one that is as natural as the stress response – but infinitely more peaceful, healing and aligned with what I call your ‘Million Dollar Zone’ (that state of being where you are grounded, relaxed, flowing and abundant).
Choices that Relieve Stress
1. Connect With Your Body. While the mind is constantly flitting to thoughts of the future and memories of the past, the body lives in the only moment that truly exists: the present. One of the best ways to relieve stress is to tune in to your body. Allow yourself to feel all your bodily sensations, including ones that your mind might label as "unpleasant", such as tightness in your jaw, churning in your stomach, or stiffness in your neck. Most people want to avoid feeling these sensations but if you allow yourself to observe them without judging them as "good" or "bad", or needing to understand, interpret or rationalize them, they will often resolve spontaneously. Tuning into your breath is also a great way to connect with your body and create a shift in your state of being.
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