Are you, like so many others, suffering with stress right now?
Who would have thought life could change so drastically on a global scale in such a short time.
Four weeks ago I flew back from speaking at an event on the Gold Coast. Our global situation had changed within the five days I was away.
People attending the event had to fly home early because their country borders were closing. It was one of the last events to take place in Australia before new restrictions came into force.
I went into total isolation for 21 days on returning.
Life really can change in an instant and we are seeing that even more as a global collective than ever before.
Rapid change can cause feelings of stress. It’s our body’s natural response to change and it’s part of our survival reflex.
Our survival reflex, initiated by our amygdala, leads us to fight, flight or freeze. During this reflex our bodies become flooded with adrenaline and cortisol and this triggers survival-based actions.
It’s a response designed to help us stay physically safe. And it works effectively when we are physically threatened as we are now with COVID-19.
Problems arise when we continue to initiate this response by feeding our minds with fear-based thoughts. We are physically safe because we are in isolation. But we continue to worry about money, work our business or other things we have no control over.
I totally get this and it is perfectly normal.
The real problem here is this;
Worrying over things we can’t change, or foreseeing future disaster we continue to release those hormones. This can lead us to feel highly stressed or anxious. And over time can cause physical, emotional or mental health issues. It can also lead to burn out.
In addition, stress and anxiety causes us to have cloudy thinking, which means we find it difficult to think logically or creatively. Obviously this will also get in the way of us finding solutions to our problems.
So in effect, if we don’t become aware of our automatic survival reflex and find a way to manage it, then it can actually get in the way of us surviving. Crazy when you think about it, but it’s true.
You may already know that our stress response is caused by the way we perceive something. If we perceive something as a threat then we feel the stress associated with that.
If we change the way we look at something then it will change our reaction and reduce the stress. And this is true; it’s a brilliant practice and we can do this in an instant.
It’s not always that easy to remember to do the in the moment though, we normally do it in hindsight when we reflect. This new pattern can take time to master.
So how do we change this so we can reduce stress?
During the many years of my life and using a variation of practices, I have found self-care to be the key. When we use certain personal practices we nurture our mind, body and spirit.
Some of them change the way we feel in that moment and others can also change the way we see things over time. This means we can change our stress response.
Let me explain by sharing some of those practices.
Meditation increases our stress threshold
Our stress threshold relates to how much unforeseeable change we can handle before we feel stressed.
Some people feel anxious with just a slight change in schedule, whereas others feel calm with even greater life changes like moving home. There’s no right or wrong in this it’s just how we are wired from our early years.
Regularly practicing meditation actually reprograms our brains. It helps us feel calm during the practice and it raises our stress threshold. This means we experience a different response to life situations. What we used to feel stressed about no longer has the same effect.
Mindfulness practices reduce stress
When we practice mindfulness it helps us stay fully present in our bodies.
Most times stress is, in fact caused by thinking about what could happen in the future. Even if we think about the next minute from now, it is still future thinking. We are thinking outside of our bodies.
When we stay fully present in the now moment and in our body we feel grounded and safe. This means we don’t trigger the survival reflex and this reduces stress.
Using daily mindfulness practices can help us stay stress free and calm.
Yoga nurtures our mind, body and spirit
In my experience yoga is transformational. Even during the most difficult emotional events, this ancient practice helps you to release feelings like stress, grief, anger, anxiety and sadness.
Yoga increases feelings of centeredness, strength and flexibility. When we create more strength and flexibility in our body with this practice it also builds these same qualities in our mind.
Creating a ritual that includes yoga will over time change the way you see life in general. This means you will experience less stress and increase feelings of peace. It will also assist you to maintain a strong, toned and mobile body.
TaiChi slows us down internally
TaiChi and similar practices like Qigong train our mind by helping us slow down internally and stay in the moment. In this traditional practice we work in flow with our own energy and this helps us feel calm and centred.
Many people think that if they slow down they won’t achieve as much. In fact it is the other way around; when we slow down internally we get more done, because we are not experiencing excessive stress.
Certainly during our current challenge, making these practices part of your self-care routine will help you sleep and stay stress free.
Journaling offloads stressful thoughts
Most times stress can be caused by repeatedly thinking the same negative thoughts. It’s kind of like a negative news report we keep replaying in our mind.
And our mind keeps replaying them because on some level we think that keeps us safe. Unfortunately over time it can have the opposite effect.
The practice of journaling can help you offload those thoughts, because the mind then feels it can relax after you have documented it. The bonus in this is that often when we start writing we also find the solution.
Appreciation omits stress
Gratitude helps increase feelings of appreciation, which is the closest state to love. And this is the opposite of fear, which causes stress.
It is impossible to feel fear based emotions like stress and anxiety at the same time as love and appreciation. The brain isn’t capable of allowing both extremes to be felt at the same time.
Having a regular gratitude practice will also retrain your brain to look for the good in each situation. This will help you stay calm and means you are more likely to see opportunities than problems.
Nature makes us feel calm
There is a reason we feel good when we go camping, to the beach or out for a walk in the forest. And this is because nature is unspoilt and pure energy.
It is the same energy we are at core and in our natural state. And this is the energy of love. When we connect with nature mindfully we return to that natural state of love.
And remember love is the opposite of fear, which causes the stress response.
Spending time in nature daily if possible will help us access this feeling more easily and because of this we feel calm.
Prayer helps us hand over our stress
When we pray we hand over our stress to a higher source. We feel like we are not alone in our problems and it helps us build trust and faith.
Trust and faith are the qualities lacking during high feelings of stress and anxiety. And the simple act of handing over often creates a sense of relief and a feeling of calm.
Prayer doesn’t have to be a religious practice, anyone can pray. There are many different prayer practices to choose from. By making this very old practice part of your daily ritual you will feel supported and more at peace.
Exercise releases stress
Any form of physical exercise releases endorphins and those feel good hormones like dopamine and serotonin. This will reduce feelings of stress and anxiety.
A good friend of mine used to tell me many years ago, to get up and move whenever I was feeling down. And it works.
There is also of course the mind body connection to be aware of. If we feel regularly stressed it affects our physical health. So if we do an exercise that we enjoy and makes our body feel good then our mind will feel better too.
Eating wisely helps us avoid stress and anxiety
Having a diet high in whole foods, fruit and vegetables, with plenty of water always helps us feel good physically, emotionally and mentally.
In addition to this, there are also certain types of food that need to be avoided as part of our self-care regime.
Processed sugar and stimulants can increase feelings of stress and anxiety. Eliminating or reducing foods like sugar, processed and packaged foods, coffee, high caffeinated teas and alcohol will nurture our nervous system and help us feel clear and calm.
There are so many different self-care practices; I have named only a few that I have personally found helpful.
As an NLP practitioner and coach I have an absolute belief that we can create change in an instant. And that includes our perception and the way we look at things. By working with our mind we can reduce our stress levels in the moment.
However, during intensely challenging times where we have absolutely no control over our situation or environment, we often need more than a technique. And if we want sustained change, then it’s a process and self-care is the key.
Consistent and positive lasting change really is holistic, it must include our mind, body and spirit.
If you would like to be part of an online stress release group practicing meditation and relaxation live CLICK HERE to join. Membership will be free for the next few weeks while we are working through the current global crisis. I do hope you join us, guided group practice is often so much more beneficial.