Your Brain is quite capable of learning new ways to override your automatic stress reaction. You can learn to adjust, but like anything else in life worth having, it requires learning some new skills and practice, practice, practice. The payoffs are huge-less pain and better health (in every way), improved sleep, improved moods, patience, resilience, and brilliance....Less Stress.
Are you in?
1. CALM - First use your body to calm your mind and bring your smarter, happier, more creative brain back on line. You have the power to dial down your sympathetic, fight or flight system simply by intentionally calming your body. Mindfully slow down your breathing (try inhale for 4, hold for 4, exhale for 4, hold out for 4). This relaxes your braced muscles and boosts bloodflow to your frontal lobe. Breathwork, guided visualization, and biofeedback all work wonders to help you regain brainpower and the ability to adjust your perspective. I find calling on my Creator to come to my aid is very beneficial!
2. CLEAR - What exactly feels out of control? Is it the nasty email from your boss or the fact you are angry with yourself for not being finished with the project, or something completely unrelated? (Relationship or finacial stress often top the list of simmering subconscious issues!) In the middle of stress you naturally tend to catastrophize and spread "disaster" and failure thinking without asking just what feels challenged.
Stress thinking is narrrowed and often biased or stuck in old stories. When you ask yourself specifically what feels out of control you can better address the situation or the thinking that it triggered. You may need several thoughtful times to drill down to your real concern, but the resulting clarity can be empowering.
3. CURIOUS - Put on your lab coat and get curious about your life, "it is all research" to find the best way of being you and creating the life that supports you. Trial and lots of error are the only way to learn. Ask yourself:
What can be learned from this situation?
How does this fit in the bigger picture of my life and my values?
What in the past has helped me work through situations like this?
What supports my being the best I can be?
How much of my precious time, energy and focus do I want to spend?
Merely asking questions ramps up your frontal lobe, your creativity, and broadens your perspective. Asking questions that put you back in control of your response shifts you from victim to warrior.
4. COURAGEOUS - Think of a situation in which you mustered up your inner warrior. How can you apply courage now? Maybe you need to use your inner voice to have a crucial conversation or stand up for your worth or self respect? According to Kelly McGonigal,PhD, author of UPSIDE OF STRESS," thinking of yourself as empowered by the challenge can improve the outcome and reduce the effects of stress on your mind and body. Make sure you ground yourself in your best self, first. Use your values, strengths, and purpose to fuel your mission and your courageous choices. This feels much better than spinning stories about your victimization."
5. COMPASSIONATE - Compassion, especially self-compassion, provides another frontal lobe boost that will help rally your better self. There is strength, not weakness in self compassion. When was the last time you extended the same kindness and care to yourself that you give to your friends? It will broaden and heighten your thinking. Love your self like GOD loves you!
6. GRATEFUL - Focus on the feeling of appreciation to quickly release chemicals to counteract the stress hormones racing through your body and mind. It turns out that gratitude is one of the fastest ways to reset your mind and physiology, thus improving your performance and your health. Being positive and grateful doesn't mean seeing the world thru rose colored glasses. It does mean that you regularly check all sides of the box and practice the positive emotions that create health and creativity.
Changing your thoughts will most definely change your world and most likely the people around you. Our lives are full of stressors but how we react to them is within our power to change. As you pratice these mindset changes you are giving yourself the tools to move from reactive and stressed to thoughtful and responsive. You can "down regulate" your brain's fear center, the amygdala.
If you are worried about your ability or that it won't work, start off by just changing your breathing. Commit to controlled breathing before you start your car, or before you get out of your car. Intentionally focus on loosening your grip and just breathe.