“Stress is a part of everyone’s life, isn’t it?”
This is a question that a client asked me recently and I wish I could say ‘no’. However, in current times many of us are living a life in what could be described as a state of chronic stress. Many of us are often unaware this is even the case.
Stress has become such a part of the way we live our lives that we see it as normal. However, the dangers of ignoring a life under stress can have huge costs to our health in the long term.
So, what is stress?
We all talk about being stressed but what actually is it?
Feeling stressed just means that our brain is perceiving that we are in a situation of danger or distress. This triggers our fight or flight reaction (our protection mode) and results in physical changes within our body to deal with that.
This ancient reaction within us would prepare us to run, fight or freeze in the face of danger. The body prepares us by increasing our blood pressure and heart rate, tensing our muscles, and emptying or stopping our digestive system. This can be helpful in the short term, especially in days gone by when we might have needed to scarper away from a sabre tooth tiger!
These physical responses are designed to be active for short periods. When we get to safety, our ‘relax and rest’ response kicks in and we are back to a more natural physiological balance.
But in today’s world what tends to happen is we don’t find ourselves back in that safe place.
The consequences of this is prolonged exposure to stress hormones, which can have a detrimental impact on our health. It’s connected to Heart Disease, Cancer, Alzheimer’s Disease, Diabetes, immune conditions, chronic pain conditions and the list goes on...
Stress is more about what is happening inside us rather than whats going on around us
Much of the stress we experience is not actually caused from what’s going on outside of us. It’s predominantly caused by our perception of those things going on in our life and how we feel we should be dealing with them. It’s all about our beliefs and expectations.
To measure how stressed your life is, perhaps it’s easier to look at the opposite. How often do you feel in balance, feel full of energy, have clear thinking and focus on what you want to do, feel happy and fulfilled?
These feelings are what you should notice when you are not stressed. If you can tick all of those boxes then you’re probably not living a life led by stress… and that is fabulous!
However if these qualities don’t feature in your day, it’s quite likely that you’ll be living life under the driver of your stress hormones. It’s vital you take action to change that situation.
Finding things that connect you with calmness is a good place to start. It’s like tipping a balance scale, one counteracts the other.
So what is your usual ‘go to’ to feel better?
If your usual response to stress is to grab a sweet treat, cigarettes, alcohol or maybe a trip to buy new clothes, you’re probably already aware that these will actually add to the long term problem. We get temporary comfort from these actions but it is not a long term solution. It has just become a habit, a learned pattern that gives us that short term fix.
However a habit is often an unconscious response so we find ourselves following this pattern automatically and in a time of stress autopilot takes over.
So whats the key to escaping these unhelpful habits?
Quite simply its about creating and replacing them with new more helpful habits, this is the key to finding a better coping strategy.
Why not make a list of a few things that you know Feed Your Soul, that bring you to a feeling of calm or happiness.
It might be a phone call to your favourite friend, or perhaps a walk in the park. It could even be listening to your favourite music or just looking though photos of times you’ve had fun. They only need to be simple things but they must lift your spirits.
Try bringing at least one of these things into your day, every day. Keep that list to hand so you can turn to it when you are noticing that you feel stressed or feeling that urge for usual ‘unhelpful’ comforters. The more that you practice this the easier it becomes.
This is just one small step that can help begin to turn things around for you and there are likely to be many more that could help you to take more control stress in your life.
I’d love to hear what changes you’re making to bring yourself to a happier and healthier place ?
Please comment and share any good ideas you have!
If you would like more help to shift stress in your life please do get in touch and I would be more than happy to help.