by Teena

January 12, 2020

CHRONIC STRESS STINKS!​​​​

When you think about stress, what do you usually think about - work, traffic, kids, family, money?

Let’s make a quick distinction. These are things that cause you stress, but they aren’t stress themselves. Stress is what happens inside of you, as a result of these triggers. It’s normal to think of stress as something that is outside of us. The truth is, there are a lot of things in this world that can cause us stress.

I believe that we are more stressed than ever before. Our lives tend to be overloaded and overstimulated, so much so that we begin to feel like being stressed out is normal.

We are being bombarded with constant stimulus and take very little time to recover and rest. The truth is, stress stinks! Making time to relax and relieve daily stress is more important now than ever.

WHAT IS STRESS?

Stress impacts us physically, mentally, and emotionally. 

  • Physical stress shows up as tight muscles, trouble sleeping, racing heart, or fatigue. 
  • Emotional stress leads to overwhelmed, irritation, or frustrated. 
  • Mental stress makes it difficult to concentrate, remember things, thoughts, race, and push us far away from a quiet mind.

TIP #1—DEVELOP SELF-AWARENESS

Learning how to take a break from stress can improve your life satisfaction. The first step is to develop self-awareness around your stress patterns and learn ways to relax your mind and body each day. 

A challenge for many people is our minds are used to being overloaded and busy. Therefore, it can take some time to get used to a more relaxed way of being. 

You might feel like you have a hard time sitting still and just relaxing, especially if you and your mind are used to being on overdrive all the time. 

In this case, you might feel more stress come up as you pause and take a break. You’re becoming more aware of your stress in these moments. Also note that when you have a lot of tension built up inside, it can take some time to unwind.

TIP #2—NOTICE HOW STRESS SHOWS UP IN YOUR WORK LIFE

Stress can mean something different for each person, and if it affects everyone in different ways. By noticing how it shows up for you, you’re developing self-awareness. Without this self-awareness, chronic stress can just become our way of life. 

Some people notice that their stress pattern is mostly physical. They can’t sleep; they have headaches, back pain, or fatigue. Other people see that their stress pattern is primarily emotional. 

They are anxious, short-tempered, or may even feel numb while others notice that their stress is mostly mental. They can’t focus, they procrastinate, or they make careless mistakes. 

Whether stress shows up for you physically, emotionally, mentally, or all three, the first step to relieving stress and managing it, is to have self-awareness around your stress patterns. No matter how it shows up for you, I want to encourage that you take a break from your daily life and slow down and relax the mind and body. 

Start to notice how stress shows up for you over the next several days. Cultivate an awareness of these things is the first step to feeling less stressed. Notice how your body feels in stressful moments.

What emotions come up for you? What thoughts distract you from what you’re doing?

Sometimes stress can be a general feeling that you want things to be different than they are right now. 

We can get caught up in negative thoughts and feelings associated with stress, and often we don’t even notice that we are stuck in that pattern. 

You may already be aware of how stress shows up for you and what triggers you. If this is the case, continue to observe and be mindful of when it happens. Developing the skill of catching it when it starts to happen is very important.

TIP #3—MOVE INTO A RELAXED STATE

Being in a calm and relaxed state is the opposite of being in a highly stressed state. When we are highly stressed, we’re in a state of fight or flight. As a result, the mind races and cortisol and adrenaline pump throughout our body. We might shut down, get angry or feel dull or helpless. 

When we are calm and relaxed, our mind feels quieter, and we feel good, safe, and content. 

It’s important to know that we’re not creating a new feeling within us, we’re merely reminding ourselves what it feels like to be calm and relaxed. A natural human state that we can always return to when we want to.

Sometimes it takes longer to find our calm state, and sometimes we forget that we can even be in this state at all, especially when stress takes over and becomes the norm. 

So whether you’ve been aware of your stress patterns for a while or you’re just starting to notice what they are now - you can begin to observe when they begin to come up sooner. You might begin to feel a headache coming on or feel parts of your body tensing up or feel irritable or sad or find yourself worrying more or obsessing over things that are outside of your control. 

The good news is that you can begin to catch these stress patterns before they spiral into a full-blown stress response and become overwhelming. You can learn to bring yourself back to this state of calm sooner and with more ease. 

Take a moment right now to check in with how you feel - physically, mentally, and emotionally. By checking in regularly, you can start to notice what state you are in and catch stress creeping up on you and shift yourself into a state of calm. By increasing your stress-awareness, you can begin to relieve your stress much earlier so that it does not grow to be overwhelming.

TIP #4—CHANGE YOUR FOCUS

To shift away from stress and towards relaxation and calm, you will need to change your focus. We can quickly get caught up in stressful thoughts and feelings. When this happens, instead of dwelling on these thoughts or feelings, take a moment to do this simple exercise. 

Pause. Close your eyes and take several deep breaths, letting your focus rest on the sensation of the breath slowly moving in and filling up the lungs, then slowly and gently moving out.

If your mind keeps jumping back to the stressful thought or feeling, be aware that this is happening and gently bring your attention back to the breath each time, breathing deeply, for 30-60 seconds.

You can do this multiple times a day. The more you practice, the easier it will become to shift back into your natural state of peace and calm. Once you’re in a more relaxed state, you can better deal with whatever caused you stress in the first place, instead of just being stuck in it. 

As you develop this awareness, remember not to judge yourself in any way and observe. The truth is, stress is not likely to go away completely, but as you increase your self-awareness and practice shifting from a state of stress into a state of calm, you’re helping yourself change into a more empowered state of well-being. 

Sometimes in life, there are moments where something triggers us into a highly stressed state. Although the state of calm and relaxation is a natural state that is always available to us - in a moment of high stress, nothing can seem further from the truth.

The best way to shift out of a stressed state is first to observe that you are stressed then to change your focus. It’s easy to stay engaged with stressful thoughts and feelings. When we remain stuck in that pattern, it continues to get worse. 

Take a moment to pause. Close your eyes. Take a few deep breaths and take 30-60 seconds to breath and tune into the sensations of the breath.

TIP #5—GET COMFORTABLE WITH SLOWING DOWN

I want to encourage you to get comfortable with slowing down and relaxing a bit more, so that you can take a break from stress. Once you have the awareness that you have become stressed you can catch it sooner and then practice shifting your focus away from stress and towards your breath and body.

As you do this, your state shifts and you see the external factors differently and can more easily deal with them or accept them.

As we grow and improve our work life, problems will never go away; they will simply become higher quality problems. The good news is that we can change how we perceive these problems so that they don’t cause so much stress inside of us.

See if you can find once or twice today where you can do 30-60 seconds of conscious breathing, especially if you have a particularly stressed moment. Then after notice if you see the problem differently.

Much of our stress is caused by problems that are out of our control or inconvenience us. 

Problems will never go away, no matter how much we improve ourselves or our lives. We have this idea that if we just fixed each problem that everything would be okay, but when we fix one problem, it doesn’t take long until another appears.

When we learn to focus on what’s happening inside of us, how to pause and shift our state away from stress, and into a state of relaxation, it becomes a powerful tool to manage how life affects us and how we affect life. Look for opportunities to remind yourself about this so you can experience a natural state of relaxation on a regular daily basis.

TIP #6—DEVELOP A PLAN AND PRACTICE

Remember that managing stress is a lifelong practice. I encourage you to have a plan and a method in place to relax and relieve your stress so that you can get comfortable with taking a break from stress to improve your overall life satisfaction. 

If you would like some support and encouragement to help you manage your stress and improve your life satisfaction, please consider scheduling a FREE consultation session with Teena Evert.

About the author 

Teena

Teena Evert, MA, LMFT, BCC, CCTC, CCC, GCDF, CDBS is a Board Certified Coach, Certified Career Counselor, Global Career Development Facilitator, and Licensed Mental Health Professional. She helps her clients successfully navigate important transitions in their life and career with intention, clarity and purpose. She can help you get unstuck, identify your barriers, and move forward fearlessly into a bright future of your own design.

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