A conscious approach to living does not make you immune to stress. However, choosing to practice awareness can shorten the time in which you experience seeming moments of pressure or tension.
Emotional stress can be a double-edged sword, both a good thing or a bad thing, depending on your point of view. When viewed from one angle it can be stressful and bring up unresolved trauma. Viewed from yet another angle, it can be a catalyst for personal growth and awakening. Stress can be used as an excuse to play the victim, and it can also be the force that pushes you forward into a better existence. Stress can be used as the reason you choose to become numb through drugs, medication or alcohol, and it can also be the reason you are led to education, exercise, and nutrition.
When I witness myself in old stories or patterns, overwhelm and stress, the first step I take is allowing myself to feel what I’m feeling underneath that first reaction. Creating a solid practice takes time and dedication to understand what your personal stressors are. And how to become aware of the limiting belief that might be triggered due to the stress response.
Stress affects one’s spiritual, emotional and physical well-being. Here are seven steps on how to make this your biggest catalyst for change:
1. Understand the stress cycle.
Relieve your symptoms of stress–do what you need to reduce headaches, settle your stomach, get some sleep. If your head hurts, you can’t meditate, so first get the symptoms under control. One of my favorite tools to honor and accept my fears, feel my feelings safely and relief me of physical stress is Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), also known as tapping
Take care of your body–Begin, slowly and gently, to do the things that you know are good for you. Eat well, exercise, sleep. You must reduce cortisol, and increase serotonin for your body to have the capacity to find quiet.
Watch your reactions–observe your reactions to stressors and whether they are appropriate for the situation. Are you overreacting? Is there some other way to respond to the stressors in your life. Start by simple observation. Don’t try to “fix” yourself, just observe what is happening. Observation alone is a great way to manage stress.
2. Look for beauty–Keep an eye out for little miracles by being grateful for what you already have. Gratitude deserves all the positive buzz it gets. It’s a life-changer, but can gratitude produce miracles? Uh-huh, yup, it can.
Here’s why: Self-focus, which diminishes with a gratitude practice, has been shown to ruin people’s relationships, reduce their resiliency, and damage their health and emotional well-being. For example, it’s associated with higher blood pressure, increased coronary atherosclerosis, anxiety, depression, social isolation, and more.
3. Find quiet– Your inner voice speaks when we listen. But its more like a whisper than a shout. Find quiet so you can hear.
4. Remember your connection–Focus on when you used to be connected and make it a practice to remember that every day. When stress approaches, recall that peaceful time and imagine actually being there. Remember the trust you had. Remember how protected you felt.
5. Mindless to mindfulness–Practice being fully present and mindful. Give yourself the assignment of being mindful for 1 day, 1 hour or 1 minute. Really be present. Observe yourself and the events around you and fully participate with your heart.
6. Choose to change your patterns–Make a choice to find yourself again, but make that choice like an open window catching a breeze. Don’t force it, don’t make a “to do” list, don’t stress about it. The best ways to manage stress don’t involve creating more stress.
7. Self-compassion – This is a way of relating to yourself that does not involve harshly judging or punishing yourself for every mistake you make or every time someone does better than you.
Research on self-compassion shows that it is associated with:
- Less anxiety and depression.
- More optimism.
- Better recovery from stress.
- Better adherence to healthy behavior changes, such as exercise or diet.
So when you feel the rush of emotions flood your body, take a deep breath and let them pass through you. Make a conscious choice to perceive reality as a set of experiences working together for your good. Go through it and grow through it; your light will shine a bit brighter because of it!