by guest blogger Doc Childre, internationally renowned stress expert
It’s no secret that a lot of people are experiencing increased stress these days. There are many reasons—financial worries, health challenges, unsatisfying work, and family or relationship problems, to name just a few. Then there are major stressors, often resulting from loss of life or property, as many recently experienced with Hurricane Sandy.
From my years of researching stress, I have seen that when not attended to, stress accumulates and often leads to feeling overwhelmed and uncertain about the future. Fortunately, there are simple tools we can use to transform our stress response and stress accumulation. I’m going to share a few of them with you.
Tool #1: Release frustration, impatience, irritation, anxiety
More people are reporting increased responsibility in the workplace, where time seems to be shrinking as each month passes. This increased pressure creates vulnerability to stress from frustration, irritation, impatience, anxiety, and feeling tired. These emotions left untreated often seduce us into a serious stress deficit because we adapt to them and write them off as “the new norm.” New norm or not, these emotions are stress magnets.
When you feel impatient, stop and still your body and mind; then imagine you are breathing in the attitude of patience. If you feel anxiety, breathe the feeling of calm and inner balance. Do the same with frustration and irritation. This resets your emotional system and stops the stress response. The practice will make you more conscious of when you are out of sync, and soon you can replace many of these emotions quickly and move on.
Tool #2: Say “no” to drama
Another effective way to help reduce stress and anxiety is to practice reducing excessive “drama” during challenging times—or anytime. Adding drama and worry to our challenges heaps on the stress by exhausting our emotional reserves, and more. Most drama serves us like a hole in a gas tank serves a car.
The most important part of this step is to become conscious of when you are preoccupied with excessive worry and drama. Then, when you sense drama coming on, try to slow down and take pause (again, be still in your body and your mind, just for a moment). When we slow down the emotional vibration, it makes it possible to replace the drama with attitudes of peace and calm. When you are calmer, tell yourself, “I choose to not participate in this energy.” Do it a few times when needed, as drama often has a strong magnetic allure. You might not be able to stop all the internal drama, but with this exercise, you can effectively reduce energy drain and offset your stress deficit.
Tool #3: Reduce self-judgment
Constant self-judgment shrinks our self-security and gradually diminishes our heart connection within ourselves and with others. When our heart feelings shut off, we open ourselves to multiple stressors by trying to sort through life using only the mind—without the care, warmth, and intuitive guidance from our heart. Practice releasing judgments of yourself. Be easy on yourself. Try to connect to your heart, release your feelings of self-doubt, and move on. Don’t wonder, “Did I do it right? Are my self-doubt feelings gone?” Just practice releasing and moving on. Be casual about it. When your inner attitude is casual and unstrained, your emotions respond to challenging or disruptive situations with flow and ease. This reduces stress and clears the way for better choices and outcomes.
Tool #4: Reopen the heart feeling
At the onset of a crisis (or drama), it’s normal for some of our feelings (heart feelings) to shut down, especially during the initial shock, fear, and focus on survival and safety. It’s understandable to experience this, but it’s really helpful to reopen our heart connections with others as soon we can. This deeper connection and communication helps to keep our heart open to intuitive guidance about the most effective next steps to take. Connecting with others can’t eliminate all stressful situations, but it can add a quiet comfort. It also provides a collective strength that helps us to move forward in moments when it seems we can’t.
An effective way to reopen our heart feelings (one that you’ve probably heard often) is by offering kindness and compassionate support to others or volunteering to help others in need, though we are in need ourselves. Acts of care, kindness, gratitude, and compassion can make a big difference. These acts of care are behaviors of our spiritual heart and provide a wholeness benefit to ourselves and to others. Research has shown that care, compassion, and authentic connection with others reduce stress and release beneficial chemicals that balance and revitalize our systems—mental, emotional, and physical. Practicing these and other behaviors of the heart should be at the top of our list for maintaining a lower stress level.
Tool #5: Watch and read the news with balanced emotion
The news is one of the most powerful stress triggers in these changing times. And learning to neutralize excessive emotional attachment to issues when watching or reading the news can prevent much of our stress. Statistics are up on the number of people requiring mental health care from emotional overload regarding news reports. Skipping the news can at times be helpful, but sometimes we don’t have that luxury. It’s our responsibility to have compassion and concern for other people’s pain, but self-care is also an essential responsibility. There’s a difference between having compassion for a situation and emotionally obsessing over it until it becomes a personal stress deficit.
The following practice can be helpful in keeping emotional poise while sorting through the news: Consciously prep yourself before looking at the news, setting the intention of maintaining balance and inner poise. Then, consciously observe your feelings during the news and you will become more aware of when you are too emotionally invested in issues. When this happens, stop, and take a time out for a couple of minutes.
It’s our individual responsibility to learn to manage our response to news and other stressful situations. I hope these tips are helpful. Please visit my website, www.heartmath.com, to learn more.
Doc Childre is an internationally renowned stress expert and the creator of the HeartMath System, considered by many hospitals, organizations, and healthcare professionals to be an effective practice in stress management. Doc is CEO of HeartMath Inc. and founder of the nonprofit research and education organization, the Institute of HeartMath, as well as coauthor of a dozen books on stress, wellness, and heart-based living, including The HeartMath Solution, From Chaos to Coherence, and the Transforming series of books, including: Transforming Stress and Transforming Depression.