How To Become A Healer Of Stress
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ArtWelcome to the February 2016 Edition of Inner Peace Monthly
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Kevin Schoeninger, www.ThePowerOfPractice.com
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"How To Become a Healer of Stress"
Common Reactions to Stress
Being alive today you’re going to feel stress. Whether it’s time pressure, financial pressure, relationship pressures, parenting pressures, pressures to do everything possible to insure your safety, or other pressures to perform—life these days promotes stress-filled reactions.
How often do you find yourself doing any of the following?
(suggested by p. 150-151, Super Genes, Harmony Books 2015)
-Emotionally overreacting, reacting out of proportion to what is actually happening
-Complaining about the pressures you feel
-Unloading your stress onto someone else
-Shutting-down emotionally or shutting-down your connection to others
-Handling stress by putting even more pressure on yourself or others to be “perfect”
-Handling stress by blaming, criticizing, or gossiping about others for the stress you feel
-Bottling up your stress until you can get it out at the gym or numb it with food or alcohol
Choosing Your Response to Stress
Of course, most of us do some of these things some of the time. Yet, if these are our go-to behaviors, if these are the ways we habitually handle the pressures we feel, we have become stress perpetuators and/or escalators. We are amplifying the pressures on ourselves and those around us.
It’s O.K. We all do this sometimes. Yet, becoming more conscious of when we are doing this is the first step to doing something different—something healthier, something more beneficial and healing. As Deepak Chopra and Rudolph Tanzi tell us in Super Genes:
“These behaviors are generally unconscious, because when examined rationally, they don’t achieve what they set out to do—decrease the harmful effects of stress. Stress is a feedback loop. The input is the stressor (e.g., a tight deadline, an obnoxious boss, an unreachable sales goal); the output is your response. You have a choice to intervene anywhere along the loop by changing the input or the output. The more consciously you intervene, the higher your chances of reducing the bad effects of stress.” (p.151, SG)
Identifying Stress As It’s Happening
So, our focus today is on identifying the inputs that are creating pressure and consciously choosing responses that heal stress rather than escalate it. In this way, we can recognize stress-perpetuating patterns and choose healthier responses.
What kind of input increases pressure and stress? Research has identified three characteristics of inputs that create stress. They are:
2) unpredictability, and
3) lack of control.
For example, you are woken up in the middle of the night by a dog barking loudly next door. You went to bed a little later than normal and you have to get up early for a meeting in the morning. You have precious little time to sleep!
The dog barks repeatedly, over and over and over again, at unpredictable intervals. Just when you think it has quieted down and you are settling back toward sleep, the barking jolts you awake. You know your neighbor is out of town and there is no way to stop the dog from barking. The barking is beyond your control. Your sleep is at that dog’s mercy. Your stress builds and builds until you feel as if you’ll explode.
The stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline pump through your body. Good luck getting back to sleep now. You feel helpless. And the effects of that stress combined with the stress of less sleep will carry on into the next day and beyond.
Stress can build like this acutely and intensely. It can also build more subtley, with tiny stressors adding up over the course of a day, weeks, or months. Either way, the effects are similar, your body goes into and stays in stress mode until the situations are resolved. With situations that are ongoing, your body may stay in a constant state of low-level alert, with stress hormones constantly circulating through your body—and this has severely damaging consequences for your cells, your organs, your body and your brain.
As Chopra and Tanzi tell us:
“These hormones lead to a cascade of reactions, including elevated heart rate and blood pressure that your body is meant to endure for only a brief period under acute conditions. When prolonged and repeated, the stress response starts to damage tissues and organs throughout the body.” (p.146, SG)
Stress puts us in a chronic state of inflammation which can lead to brain fog, low energy, low motivation, and low self-confidence or serious illnesses such as heart disease, IBS, diabetes, and cancer. Chronic stress affects our cells down to the DNA level, turning off or turning down the genes associated with optimal well-being and making us susceptible to the worst potentials in our genetic code.
So, obviously, handling stress is a primary concern for all of us. If we can catch our stress reaction as it’s happening, we can step in to shift our response.
Managing INPUT and OUTPUT
We can handle stress on either the input side and/or the output side. In other words, we can manage stressors and/or we can manage our response to them. We can learn to recognize stress triggers and change the mental-emotional-behavior patterns that are set in motion. As Chopra and Tanzi have said, stress is a feedback loop moving back and forth between stressors and our responses to them. Fortunately, we can intervene at any moment, interrupting the stress reaction and activating a healing response in its place.
Let’s look at some simple, easy ways to do just that. As you peruse these lists, make note of any suggestions that jump out at you. You don’t have to remember all these suggestions—and you certainly do not need to do them all. Just read through them and see what feels right for you at this moment. What would be simple, easy, and good for you to implement today? Jot down your top priorities. . .
(suggested by p. 148-149, SG):
On the input side:
-Manage your schedule well; be very mindful not to take on too many responsibilities. This is job one! All of us need to implement healthy boundaries around what we take on. For many of us, this is a big one! Our desire to help means that we easily take on too much until we’re overwhelmed. Healthy boundaries are good for everyone.
-Schedule time for meditation, sleep, exercise, recreation, family, and socializing. Keep these appointments as you would any important meeting.
-Schedule time to prepare healthy meals. Healthy eating takes conscious planning.
-Step out of stressful situations to regroup and get centered. When you feel stress building, take a time-out. Get in the habit of saying, “Can we take a 10-minute break and I’ll come back to you on this?” Take a walk to clear your mind and reset your priorities.
-Decrease background noise and clean-up clutter at work, in your car, and home
-Stand up and move at least once per hour
-Vary your daily activities. While healthy routines are important, don’t let any routine become boring and mindless. Keep learning, expanding, and changing your routines to keep them fresh and to keep you engaged.
-Decrease boring or repetitive work that you don’t enjoy
-Avoid people and situations that ramp up your stress. Sometimes we think we have to engage with certain people or situations, when we don’t. Ask yourself “Is this a person or situation that I can just step away from?”
-Be in contact with people who support you
-Reduce caffeine, alcohol, and unhealthy snacking, especially at night
-Take up a hobby, do something purely for enjoyment
-Exercise regularly in ways you enjoy
-Take time in Nature as often as possible
-Meditate for 10-30 minutes daily, to activate your body’s natural relaxation response, connect to your Core, and reset your system
On the Output side:
-Stop adding unnecessary pressure, stress, and judgment on yourself and others
-Be more accepting of how you, others, and situations are. Let things be O.K.
-Keep a gratitude journal
-Express your gratitude to others every day
-Save for the future
-Within reason, be fully insured
-Learn what your emotions of anger, fear, anxiety, self-judgment, and depression are telling you about what you need to do. There are important messages in these emotions. (More about this next week.)
-Adopt a vision of a positive future and take at least one step toward it, no matter how small, each day.
When you get to the end of the day, as best as you can without self-judgment, review what you did to move toward your positive future that day. Then decide at least one step you will take the next day. In this way, each day feels like a little progress towards something good, no matter what else happens that day.
-Adopt a mindset that you are a healer of stress for yourself and others
This last suggestion warrants a section all of its own. This is a powerful mindset that transforms how you and those around you experience stress. As you read through this list, again make note of any suggestion that feels simple, easy, and good for you to implement right now.
How to Become a Healer of Stress
(suggested by p.157, SG)
-Ask others how they feel and really listen to their answers
-Don’t insist on having things your way
-Find the merit in other’s suggestions
-Praise and appreciate what others say and do
-Give up the need to always be right
-Show respect for all points of view,
-Be open to new ideas, especially ones that challenge you
-Don’t belittle or criticize others in public
-Be loyal to win loyalty
-Be kind to receive kindness
-Be loving to receive love
-Address situations as they arise, instead of letting them fester (Take a “time-out” first to step away from the situation and calm down, if you need to)
-Wait until you are calm and centered to address situations that make you angry
-Allow others to make their own decisions and choices
-Let go of perfectionism
Now, take a look at your list of notes. What feels simple, easy, and good for you to implement right now?
What is your top priority? What is one simple action you can take on this top priority this week? Anything you choose to do will begin a positive spiral that will lead to more healing inspirations.
So, what is one way you can become a healer of stress this week?