A couple of days ago, I read a quote, “Good Morning, Let the stress begin.” To be honest, that’s how my days were about a couple of years ago. Back in those days, my life was really stressful. I used to fret over everything that happened around me. I used to suffer from severe headaches every single day; my health had gone for a toss.
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All this, thanks to the 6-letter evil- ‘stress’. Yes, that’s what stress can do to you. It affects you from the inside out. And then, I had these people around me telling that “Stress comes from within: It is your reaction to the circumstances and not the circumstances
themselves,” as Brian Tracy had said. To be frank, those words would only add up to my stress then. I used to flare up when somebody told me that a change of thoughts is all it took for effective stress management.
But, today as an Emotional Intelligence Practitioner, I have understood the science behind it, and guess what, that’s exactly what I am going to tell you how to handle your stress, change your thoughts, and change your response to your circumstances to manage your stress.
I will explain also our body’s stress response mechanism. It was this understanding that helped me understand how I needed to be handling my stress. Here we go.
When subjected to stress, the Limbic Brain- the part of the brain that is associated with the danger response system gets activated and takes control. This is the reason why when we are under stress our actions are almost out of our control and possibly irrational too.
For, our pre-frontal brain that is in charge of rational thoughts is shunted out by the limbic brain. Now, this part of the brain knows just three responses- freeze, fight, or flee. That’s why when you are subjected to stress, you either feel like escaping the place, fighting it out, or totally helpless.
Now, stress being an emotion, we can become aware of it by analyzing four things- Physical Associations or our body language, Attention (or the things that we focus on), Language (the words that we use then), and M- Meaning or what that particular circumstance means to us (which is often what triggers our stress).
You can easily remember this using the acronym PALM. Changing one or more of these things can help us minimize stress. That is why we need to change our thoughts or our response to the circumstance, to overcome stress. Now, having understood how our body handles stress, let’s see some easy stress management strategies.
1. Move your body
One of the best ideas to get rid of stress is to move your body. In doing so, you are actually channelizing the fight/ flight response. You can choose to walk around, jog, or run. You may want to shake your body to some favorite music of your choice, workout, or swim. You may do yoga.
Absolutely anything works here, as long as you are moving your body. So, get as creative as you want to, with this. Remember, a physical workout does wonders for your body more than just burning away those extra calories. So, get started: on your marks, get set, move.
“A good laugh heals a lot of hurts”, said Madeleine L’Engle. It releases endorphins (the pain killers) and helps in fighting stress levels effectively. In addition, it’s impossible for our body to sustain emotions like stress, anger, etc. when we laugh because laughter is not physically associated with these emotions.
Now, our mind and body are of the same system, as said by the mindfulness experts. So, the mind cannot sustain the stress emotions, because the body clearly signals it wants something else. Eventually, the mind aligns itself along with the body’s demands and here you are as the happiest possible version of yourself! Laughter is indeed the best medicine.
Gratitude is one of the best things I learned in my mindfulness training. As a part of the mindfulness exercise, I began noting down the three best things that happened in my day ad expressing my gratitude for the same, every day before I went to bed. Gradually I noticed that I began noticing more positive things.
Now, this helped me shift my attention away from things that caused my stress in the first place, thus helping me beat stress. I should be expressing gratitude to my mindfulness training and the coach for this purpose. What are you grateful for in your life?
4. Spend time with your close friends and family
Man is a social animal. Spending some quality time together with people we love is one of the best stress busters. This releases happy hormones and also changes your attention away from things that put us under stress. We are blessed with lovely friends and family for a reason. Call them up now, and see your stress melt away!
William James was right in saying, “The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.” All of us have a set of thought patterns that trigger our stress. These thought patterns carry cues to what meaning we associate to the situations that cause stress.
Understanding this pattern, breaking them, and identifying different meanings to those circumstances, is a cognitive way of managing stress. Meditation, guided imagery, vacations, etc. are wonderful tools based on this strategy. What’s your thought pattern doing to you? Notice it.
6. Surround yourself with positivity
Unlike in a magnet in which like poles repel each other, in life, it is positivity that attracts positivity, while negativity attracts negativity. Shun those newspapers, social media, and television that poison your mind. Think of positive things. Surround yourself with people who lift your spirits up. You will see the world is a beautiful place to live in and in that world, stress would have no place.
7. Optimize your lifestyle
Ever known how your lifestyle could actually impact your health? Remember, the mind and the body are of the same system. If you feed on junk and hurt your body with an improper sleep routine, you are bound to be stressed. Start eating healthy. Have a healthy sleep routine, for, sleep is the best meditation. Optimize your lifestyle now, for a stress-free life.
It is always easy to blame the circumstances for our problems. But, who on earth hasn’t had problems? How is it that some people are able to manage their stress effectively while others aren’t able to? The answer is simple. Their secret lies in their thoughts, lifestyles, and habits. Let’s switch to those healthy styles too, to break free from our stress. Shall we?
About The Author
I am Manju S.M. I am an M. Tech by qualification and a freelance content writer and Genetic Brain Profiling Counselor by profession. I am also a mother of two dashing little princes, one of whom is an aspiring chess player while the other is two young to figure out what to aspire for. I have always been passionate about writing short stories and poems. You would be reading a lot of these in the blog. I am also an avid reader. I read a variety of books- especially stories of different genres. I also love reading books on the working of the human mind. Dance is one of my other passions. mymindvoice.com