Welcome to the first of two posts investigating stress. In part 1 we will:
❯ Redefine stress
❯ Identify the source of stress
Discover our own stress response
Ten Commandments for Stress Reduction:
I Thou shalt not be perfect, or even try to be
II Thou shalt not try to be all things to all people
III Thou shalt sometimes leave things undone
IV Thou shalt not spread thyself too thin
V Thou shalt learn to say “no”
VI Thou shalt schedule time for thyself and for thy support network
VII Thou shalt switch thyself off and do nothing regularly
VIII Thou shalt not even feel guilty for doing nothing or saying no
IX Thou shalt laugh more and judge less
X Especially, thou shalt not be thine own worst enemy. But, be thine own best friend
The above strategies seem simple enough in theory – so why is it that they prove to be a challenge for us in reality?
In order to enjoy these strategies in our lives, I believe we must re-examine our understanding of stress.
Stress is generally considered to be the enemy. We are learning to fight it, fear it and wherever possible reduce it using a variety of pills, exercises and techniques. How successful are we? I would say the results, by and large, are disappointing regardless of the efforts made. Stress cannot be controlled in this way; we can only endeavour to choose our own responses to stressful situations. This requires new levels of awareness.
We will refer to stress as tension. This tension is experienced in our bodies and minds. Just as the tension in the springs of a clock keep the clock ticking in perfect time, so does the natural tension in our bodies help to create the necessary rhythm to support and sustain life (e.g. the diaphragmatic tension involved in maintaining our breathing).
When this tension builds up beyond the desired level, it inhibits the free flow of energy in our bodies. We may experience this as an ache, pain or mental discomfort of some sort. When this persists we get stressed out and easily wound up. In this way the tension gets the better of us.
How do we create this build up of tension?
We focus on what we fear (not meeting expectations, not getting what we want, not having things a certain way…) and proceed to tell ourselves a story about it. Then we collect the evidence to perpetuate this fear. We do all this so quickly and expertly that we may not even be aware of it.
I invite you to continue this investigation and consider the following:
At what point does the natural tension in your body become excessive tension that interferes with your ability to function in a productive way?
Where in you (mind or body) does the tension build up?
What is the first thing you notice (an emotion, a physical sensation, a thinking pattern…)?
In part 2 you will learn a new stress response that offers the flexibility of mind needed to observe the Ten Commandments listed above.
“It’s not the stress that kills us, it is our reaction to it.”
Go straight to Part 2!
If you, or someone you know, are struggling with tension / stress, I can help – contact me now to find out more!