When faced with a problem with your car, your computer, or an article of clothing, you know where to go to get it resolved. If you are given a puzzle to solve, you would probably be able to figure out how to go about it. Depending on the degree of difficulty, you might not find the answer, but you would have a good idea about the method. However, when faced with stress, we tend not to go about it in the same way.
We toss and turn endlessly in our beds at night, we go over the issue in our minds incessantly, mulling about this and that aspect of it, we tell our friends and acquaintances about it, in the vain hope that they, perhaps, might know the solution, but generally speaking, our stress not only continues, but it grows exponentially. And we feel worse.
The reason for this is simple. We cultivate our stress, so to speak. We wine it and dine it. We become overly friendly with it, we allow it to invade our personal space, we invite it along to all our activities, both work and social, and we never allow our stress to spend any time on its own. We feed it breakfast, lunch and dinner, and we drive it back and forth with us in our cars. We take showers with it and we take it to the cinema. We even invite it along into our dreams.
This is a choice.
Please read that again. This is a choice. Cultivating your stress is a choice you make with the first thought and feeling you have about it when it occurs in your life - and what life is free of stress? - and then we make that choice over and over again as we carry it along with us. Hans Selye, a pioneering endocrinologist, who did a great deal of work on the initial stages of understanding the mind-body connection, said: It's not stress that kills us. It is our reaction to it.
What are other choices we can make in our reactions to stress (apart from the obvious such as yoga, massage, meditation, etc.)?
Be aware of your feelings and thoughts. This requires some discipline and stick-to-it-iveness. Put some post-it's up on your bathroom mirror and fridge to help yourself remember to be aware.
As you gain more and more awareness, you are able to stop stress thoughts in their tracks and deliberately move your attention to something different (not because you are pretending the stress does not exist, but because you are choosing when to think about it, and then, to do so pro-actively, brainstorming, consulting experts, etc.), and I always recommend finding beauty in your immediate surroundings and then allowing yourself to feel gratitude for the existence of that beauty in your life. This gives you momentary peace, as it removes you from the treadmill of past and future, and situates you firmly in the present. Do this often enough over the course of a day and you will be actively changing neural pathways in your brain that will make this kind of reaction (beauty and gratitude) a default reaction instead of the stress reaction.
Begin a 'mindfulness' walk on a daily basis. Make it last a mere 15 minutes. Do it alone without the company of humans or animals. Become aware of beauty. Feel gratitude for it. Become aware of another cloud, or flower, or perfumed jasmine, or the warmth of the sun on your cheeks, the cooling freshness of the breeze on your neck, the contagious laughter of a child, and again, feel gratitude. Do this over and over for the duration of the walk. You won't make it for more than a few minutes at the beginning, as your thoughts will take over, but if you persist, you will make it longer and longer, and this will change your life. It will change your neural real estate and it will change how you feel about life. Most importantly, it will help you make magnificent new and life-giving choices instead of life-robbing choices when faced with stress.
For much more about gratitude, mindfulness, and beauty, as well as about making choices that enhance your inner well-being, and about feeling good about the self, have a look at my book , available at Amazon as a paperback or e-book for Kindle and all Kindle applications.
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