Do you feel powerless against stress? Like you are losing a battle against an enemy that has your life in a tangle?
You see claims of how-to “conquer” or “tame” your stress, and that you must face it head on to get “it” to stop attacking you.
This is based on a belief that stress is something outside of you that you control. Maybe even something that is out to get you. This turns a stress into a storybook villain. It also makes you feel like a victim.
The symptoms of stress disorder
Burning your candle at both ends leads to a host of health problems. Here is a list from the Mayo Clinic listing the common effects of stress on your physical body, your mood and your behavior. No wonder you could feel attacked.
As a health practitioner, people come in to my office with these symptoms thinking there is only something physically wrong that needs changing. We do want to support symptom care, but the main course of action is to change the stress response; the root of the ill.
I’m going to give you three direct tools in this article to begin the process of changing your focus to change your stress response.
Distress versus Eustress
Stress has gotten a bad wrap.
Holistic medicine looks at two sides to every story. There is a benefit to pressure and strain. This is called, “eustress”, or good-stress. Without it, we wouldn’t be here. Make a diamond without it, keep the earth spinning in its orbit, get the butterfly out of its chrysalis – won’t happen.
What determines which type you are experiencing?
What lies in the center of these two sides is your viewpoint. Your viewpoint determines your choices and determines how you take action to change your relationship to the stressor. Your viewpoint is that big of a deal.
Just to amplify the two-sided-ness of this topic, when you look the word up in the dictionary, you find the word “stress” is both a noun and a verb. It is a state of being and it is an action. It is your reaction (stress response) and it is the pressure (stressor).
Remove the stress, remove the cause?
When we feel stressed out, we mean we feel under the thumb of a stressor, of being “under stress”. The cause of the stress might not move or change, but if you change your viewpoint, are you still “under” it?
Let me clarify this important principle. It is the reaction to this pressure that causes the symptoms.
Here’s what you are dealing with:
your internal stress response
(what you can control)
the external stressor
(what you cannot control)
“If only they would change, I would be OK”, is the theme song of the chronically unhappy person. Remember, “You’re stressing me out” is a blame statement and blame never ends well.
This may be hard to hear. You may rationalize this or knee-jerk response to keep believing it’s the stressor’s “fault”. At first, it is a load when you realize you have the power, then a joy. Shake it up to change the perspective.
You want to change the stressor to suit you, when the focus to really make a difference is inside of you. Focus on your state of being as the key to dropping the victim role.
Selective interference and the tools of change
Let me introduce a big principle in my coaching style. Selective interference is based on knowing where and when to apply the right amount of pressure to create desired change. It’s physics.
TOOL #1 Realize your POWER OF CHOICE
Here’s an example, your job is a large stressor that you respond poorly to. You have several choices laid in front of you to change or not to change that. Complain, quit, take yoga at lunch, set a boundary with your boss, go to night school, apply for the job you really want; all of these are choices.
Consequences are part of the deal because you are not a victim. This is your personal power of choice.
Just by realizing you can choose, you have accessed self-authority. Even if you can’t change the stressor, you are free to change your mind. When you change your mind, your circumstances will follow.
Much of what I do is help people go through this gradient. Get out of suffering, move up to good coping skills then on up to a huge shift in perspective and ease where the rules have changed and the playing field is fun.
TOOL #2 RESILIENCY through SELF-CARE
Take care of the system that keeps your extremes in check, body mind and spirit, and your ability to withstand or transform obstacles will astound you.
Optimize your health to unearth the diamond at your core.
Line up five people and put them under a stress test. You will get five different reactions. Why?
Because we are all wired a little differently.
What you need to be resilient may not be the same as your neighbor. The first key is to know yourself and your self care needs and work with that. The second key is consistency. Resiliency through self-care works when done regularly.
Here are a few ideas of resiliency tools. Try out something new once in a while, but ultimately keep those that resound with you. These are behaviors that feed you on many levels.
(Help us out and post the tools that work for you in the comments, add new ones – keep the ideas flowing!)
- Quilting circle
- Tai Ji/Qi Gong
- Regular mealtime
- Herbal Medicine
- Hands-on help
- Walk in the woods
- Breathing exercise
- Group meditation
- Audio relaxation guide
- Movie night
- Video game battles
Remember the key is to pre-empt. You are selectively interfering by creating the structure for this in your life. Apply the pressure at the right time in the right amount and you will gain the benefits of regular self-care and become resilient instead of distressed.
TOOL #3 Be Like WATER
Nature is EFFICIENT. It uses a system of checks and balances. It is a wise counselor to show us how to behave.
In Chinese medical philosophy, there are “five elements” that represent natural phenomena.
While the “wood element” is the energy of choice making, the “water element” is your font of wisdom and the source of your adrenal energy (the fuel of the stress response). It is the reflection of your beliefs and your power to react.
Water can change its form, it can give off power or it can be deep and still. If allowed to flow, it will wear down obstacles over time.
Be like water.
Be still enough to see beneath the surface
Allow and absorb go around obstacles and change without struggle
Store energy for deep resources to bank on
You are the candle and you are the flame. Choose how much to burn, keep enough wax in store, and by all means- don’t burn at both ends! Your burning out doesn’t serve the world.
I understand you may be in the “suffer” part of the choice gradient, or maybe in you are in the “fight”. It can be hard to see clearly at that point, I know.
Start where your feet are. Take a breath. Follow along with the video I shared with you in the resources below. Read the New Health Manifesto for more Resiliency Tools and share in the comments below and get some new ideas.