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]Sandra 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.
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