How To Turn Stress On Its Head

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beauty,sunset,

It’s that time again. Time for the Encourager of the month, where you get to meet and greet brilliant beings who shine their light for the rest of us to enjoy.

Today’s guest author is the lovely Sandra Pawula author and founder of Always Well Within.

Thanks Elle, it’s great to be here.

Ever feel like you’re chained to a stress treadmill and there’s no way off?

I understand.  I’ve been there!  I’ve led a high stress life so I know stress can feel insurmountable.

And, ironically, there’s a seed of truth in this feeling because the chronic activation of the stress response can actually decrease your ability to cope with taxing experiences and gradually impair the biochemical feedback loop that turns off the stress cycle.

Even so, I want you to know it’s not hopeless at all because science has demonstrated you can change your brain. You can learn to successfully intervene in the stress response, and it’s actually relaxing when you do.

As you begin to dismantle your reaction to stress, retrain your brain and build resilience, you’ll find more happiness and ease and probably better health too.  This is the 5-step framework I use for managing stress in my life.

1.  Take Responsibility for Your Stress Response

Often, we’re in denial when it comes to stress.  At least, I was for many years.  It’s not unusual to:

  • Dismiss stress as an inevitable part of life.  However, feeling like you’re not in control like this can engender stress itself.
  • Fear being perceived as a weakling at home or at work, so you force yourself to put up a good front.  That only adds more tension to your world.
  • Operate from a deep-seated pattern like the inability to say “no,” so you take on more and more even though you’re about to explode through the roof.

There are countless ways to deny stress, aren’t there?  But, this denial can come at a significant cost.  Chronic stress contributes to serious health issues like heart disease, immune-system deregulation, anxiety, and depression among other debilitating disorders.

I’d like to encourage you to honestly assess the level of stress in your life.  Where would you place it on a scale of 1 to 10?  What are your ways of denying stress?  Are you ready to give them up?

2.  Identify Your Stress Triggers

In order to manage stress effectively, you’ll need to know and understand your individual stress triggers.  When you know your stress triggers and commit to working with them, you can begin to:

  • Change yourself.  You can identify your early warning signs and intervene before stress pushes you over the top.
  • Ask others to change.  You could ask your neighbor to turn down the music, for example.
  • Accept the situation as it is.  Acceptance brings a sense of control, which deflates stress, whereas resistance multiplies it.

Some of your stress triggers may be obvious, but others may be subtle or barely conscious.

Take 5 minutes to jot down the stress triggers that immediately come to your mind.  Then, let the question percolate over the next few days.  See what else surfaces until you feel you have a complete list.  Then, tackle one at a time in a relaxed and easy way.

3.  Learn Stress Reduction Techniques

While it may seem impossible at the moment, you can learn to consciously invoke the “relaxation response,” the biochemical antidote to the stress response.  Thousands of people have successfully learned to manage stress so you can too.

Common ways to elicit the relaxation response include diaphragmatic breathing (belly breathing), mindfulness-based stress reduction techniques, progressive muscle relaxation, jogging, repetitive prayer, yoga, meditation, and even knitting.

However, when it comes to stress reduction techniques, we’re very individual.  You’ll resonate with some techniques while others may leave you cold and not work at all.  Don’t give up if the first technique doesn’t work.  Try another!

If adding a stress reduction technique to your life feels overwhelming, start small.  Just 5 minutes a day will begin to establish a positive habit of ease. You can expand gradually from there.

4.  Explore Your Deepest Patterns

Often, our innermost patterns keep us locked in unhealthy beliefs and behaviors that generate a constant background of stress.  For example, if you have low self-esteem, you might:

  • Try to please others at your own expense.
  • Say “yes” when you want to say “no.”
  • Compare yourself to others and put pressure on yourself to be more like them.

Now, don’t feel bad if you have low self-esteem.  It’s a common challenge and just one example of the diverse mind patterns that can keep you a prisoner to stress.

The willingness to love and accept yourself exactly as you are will enable you to begin to dissolve these deceptive brain messages.  Remember, no one is perfect.  Nevertheless, we all have our own inner beauty that is waiting and wanting to shine. So use frequent doses of love and self-acceptance throughout your day to encourage yourself.

Then start with just one pattern that’s been a stumbling block for you.  Let it rise to the surface and allow your creative mind to provide ways you can begin to gradually transform it.  Or, access helpful articles like the ones on Live Purposefully Now  to show you how to proceed.

5.  Create Your Own Stress Kit

An ideal stress kit will have a mix of key stress reduction techniques that you’ve tried out and know work for you.  Three is a good number!  You don’t want too many or you might get overwhelmed.  But, it’s beneficial to have at least one failsafe.

Practice one of these techniques daily as a preventative measure. Also, be ready to pull one out of your kit any time you notice stress beginning to mount.

Then add simple supportive practices to your stress kit like optimism, gratitude, laughter, smiling or sense awareness.  These quick practices can also be powerful ways to turnaround ascending stress.  And, once they become your standard attitude, stress will hardly have a chance.

More than 30 years of scientific research has proven the effectiveness of consciously eliciting the relaxation response and the use of mindfulness-based stress reduction techniques.  So why not give it a try?  I know you can set stress on its head if you give ease a chance.

We’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences.  In the comments below tell us how you manage stress? 

[success]IMG_Sandra_Outside-CroppedSandra Pawula is a writer, mindfulness advocate, and champion of living with ease. She writes about finding greater happiness and freedom on her blog Always Well Within. Her signature e-course Living with Ease: 21 Days to Less Stress begins again on January 6th and you can register now.[/success]

 

This is a fabulous time to begin anew, check stress out and check in with Sandra’s e-course…it looks amazing.

Encourage one another.

Love Elle

Photo credit: www.Bigstock.com

Sandra Pawula

Sandra Pawula

Sandra Pawula

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18 Comments

  • I love this: If your eyes are blinded with your worries, you cannot see the beauty of the sunset. ~ Krishnamurti
    Although a sunset and a sunrise can be just the magic that will lift stress too.
    yes learning to say no and feel okay about it is definitely a stress reliever.
    Breathing, meditating journaling and self-care help me with breaking the stress cycle along with being present, living in the now!

  • Suzie,
    I love this quote too! These are all wonderful ways to break the stress cycle. I especially appreciate the power of living in the now, but it’s so useful to have all these supporting practices like like journaling and being in nature. Thanks for your thoughts and keep enjoying!

  • Hi Sandra
    Within the small life that we create for ourselves there is enormous potential for striking a balance in every small thing we do.The choice is always free before us to craft value through the moments that we live in. The peace you feel within at your core speaks to you ruthlessly yet softly about the quality your actions. And the best part is that you are always allowed to retrace your path to your origin.You can always commence to create balance right where you are.
    Thanks Elle for bringing home this important lesson through Sandra’s post
    Mona

    • Hi Mona, so glad you enjoyed Sandra as our Encourager of the month. She has such wisdom to share that I feel blessed to share this site with her. 🙂

  • Beautifully said, Mona. This is so true: our choice lies in every moment whether we are addressing stress or any quality we would like to dissolve or expand in our lives. Thank you for this important reminder!

  • Identifying the triggers is key, right, Sandra? Stress is healthy for the most part, for me, as it keeps me on my toes in a good way. It is when things overwhelm that tension sets in. I certainly have my “Say yes when i should be saying no” moments! Still, I am far better today than before.
    Thank you, Sandra and Elle!

    • Hi Vidya, I can so relate to what you say about saying yes, when no should be the operative word. It’s good that Sandra has these wonderful techniques to share. And I feel greatly encouraged by her wise words. 🙂

  • Hi Vidya,
    Yes, identifying the triggers is so important and sometimes they can run very deeply into the core of our being. Also, you’re right, a little bit of stress like a deadline can be healthy. But too much stress start to affect our brain more quickly than we might ever imagine. So we just need to watch out for stress becoming a regular thing.

    You are such a giving person, Vidya. I complete understand the temptation of saying “yes” a bit more than we can actually manage.

    Thanks for sharing your perspectives, which are always so valuable to me.

  • Loving all the advice on reducing stress in your life! It really does make a difference on every level of your life. For me learning to heal my own stress has reduced many physical ailments as well and emotional. My absolute favorite part is being grateful for the smallest things in life and being present moment by moment! Reducing stress Rocks! I hope your readers won’t give up if one stress reduction technique doesn’t work. There are so many out there and if you just keep trying, you will find the right one for you possibly changing your life!

    • Hi Melissa, nice to see you here. And thanks for making the point…there are many techniques out there, for everything and it’s totally about finding the ones that resonate with each of us personally. 🙂

  • Hi Melissa,
    It’s so exciting to see how reducing stress has had such a powerful impact on your life and has also been enjoyable too. I’m a big fan of being present moment to moment, which can really take the air out of our stress balloon quite nicely. Thanks for sharing your experience and encouraging us not to give up if one technique doesn’t work. You are so right that there are many wonderful and relaxing ways to approach stress.

  • I feel its almost impossible to avoid stressful situations in life. Being able to relax and switch off is vital in these days of extreme technology. Switch off the tv and have a evening of silence as much as possible and being aware of your precious self.

    • Freya,
      Thank you for saying this. You are so right, we’ll never be able to avoid stress. It’s a natural part of life and the stress response is built into our system to protect us. It just becomes a problem when it’s on too much. Like you say, we need to switch off sometimes, but it seems like we’re losing that ability in all the hustle and bustle of modern life. I love your proposal for an evening of silence!

  • Hi elle and sandra; Such a great post shared by two of my favorite women. since having gastric surgery i do at least 30 minutes of exercise every day. Its either riding my bike that doesn’t go anywhere or walking on a treadmill. regardless its repetitive. I noticed i had lots of time to think so i started taking my digital audio book player with me and listening to uplifting or inspirational books while doing my work. My brother says he doesn’t know how i do it, but i don’t know how i would do without it now. Its like a stress vaccine. another thing i have done has to do with family disputes. often my mom will ask me questions that she should know the answer to and that if she thinks about the question she should also realize that just asking it is offensive. so I have taken to ignoring these questions. If she persists then i actually tell her i thought that was one of those questions you asked even though you should already know the answer to. it keeps me from getting upset beyond reason and it reminds her without being mean. it doesn’t work every time, but it avoids a lot of arguments. thanks again for the great post. take care my friends, max

  • Hi Maxwell,
    I think listening to inspirational material is one of the absolutely best ways to expand our perspective, which itself reduces stress. Adding it to exercise is a real win-win. Thanks for sharing this with us, Maxwell. It’s such a useful reminder for all of us. And, I’m so glad you found a way to reduce arguments with your mother! That’s such a blessing for both of you.

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