When something happens in our lives, we automatically assess the situation mentally and try to determine if it is threatening to us. If we feel that we don't have the skills or resources necessary to deal with the situation then we feel stress. We don't feel stress when we think that we have more than enough resources to cope. Not everyone sees a situation in the same way; therefore, no two people react to stress in the same way. I have identified 5 steps for managing stress.
1. Identify the external and interior factors that create stress for you
External factors can include certain people, places, the time of the year, month or day. Interior factors can include when you are tired, hungry, not feeling well, bored or simply out of energy. Events that we perceive as joyful such as bringing home a new baby, moving to the house of our dreams, landing that job you've always wanted or when your children leave home often leave us feeling stressed simply because we don't feel prepared to deal with them.
2. How do you know you are stressed?
Identify the symptoms or indicators. Does your heart beat faster? Does your stomach feel knotted up? Are your muscles tense? Do you have a sense of dread? Do you spend a lot of time complaining to anyone who will listen? Find yourself getting angry easily? I often feel scattered, unfocused, like I'm being pulled in a thousand directions at once. These feelings are associated with the fight-or-flight response causing a release of adrenaline. This is the response that has helped the human race survive up to this point by readying our body to deal with threatening situations.
3. You own it! You are ultimately responsible for your own reaction to the stress at hand.
What goes on in our mind falls within our ownership and control. Even in the most difficult of external circumstances you can create your own thoughts, make any meaning or respond in any way you wish. No one can make you feel stress, if you decide to react otherwise.
If you don't mind, it doesn't matter.
What is behind your reaction to the stress at hand? Do you feel helpless, out of control or victimized? Realize that you cannot control anybody else's behavior but you can definitely control your own attitude and therefore your reaction to their behavior.
We create our own reality by what information we allow to come to our attention and how we choose to interpret it. There are billions of pieces of information fighting for our attention at all times. Based on what filters we have in place, we are only aware of a small portion of it. We interpret the information that we choose to be aware of based on a variety of factors including our beliefs. If we choose to pay attention to different pieces of information, or if we choose to interpret them differently, then we change our attitude or reaction.
4. Cheer up! There are a variety of strategies available to help you cope with stress.
The meaning we attach to a situation or event depends on the frame we put around it. How many of you have a bad script in your head and it's looping over and over? Do any of you have a picture or a situation that you just can't forget about? Let's try some reframing.
? I want you to take a second and think about an incident that has upset you recently. Don't make it a 10 on the Richter scale. Make it lower than a 6. Run this incident through your head frame by frame like a movie. Close your eyes if it helps you. Try and see it, hear the audio track, are there any smells attached to it? Be there in that moment.
? Now run the movie again except that this time it is in black and white.
? Run your black and white movie again only now add an absurd sound track to it. Choose a sound track that just doesn't fit with the situation or make the person in it have a Daffy Duck voice.
? Now run it one last time but change the viewpoint. When you see it in your mind, see it far, far away or be looking down at it so that it appears to be very small from a bird's eye point of view.
? Now think of the situation again. Does anyone feel a difference in its intensity? Less? We simply want to change the meaning of the event that is sent to the brain.
b) What is in your head comes true in your life
Nothing has any power over us except the power we give it in our own thoughts. Feeling stressed can be a direct result of what you are saying to yourself. The quality of your life is determined by what you communicate to yourself. If you are anticipating a certain type of reaction when you see a particular person, go to a particular place or when it is a specific time of day etc. then that is exactly how you will feel.
? What you think is how you feel.
? How you feel is what you say.
? What you say is what you do.
Choose carefully what you say to yourself.
c) Change your physiology
Have you ever watched people when they are experiencing stress? We all have a particular way we hold our bodies when we are experiencing that flight or fight signal. Change your physiology and you will change how you are feeling. Take on the body language that you use when you are confident and in control and that is how you will feel. Put a smile on your face, even if it feels artificial and take deep even breaths.
d) Refocus on your intention or purpose
I often feel stressed when I try and do a dozen things at once and need to stop and refocus. What is my intention here? What am I trying to accomplish? Often simply refocusing on the here and now and accomplishing one thing at a time will calm me down.
5. Your mind and body are part of one system
Take care of yourself. We react differently to stress, based on how we feel physically. All too often we simply don't put ourselves first. The end result is that we end up with no physical or emotional resources left and take it out on everyone around us. In the long run we can also end up with serious illness. In order to cope with stress effectively we have to eat well, exercise regularly and get enough sleep.
We all know what we have to do to care for our physical needs but we also need to take care of our spiritual and mental health as well. Take a course, learn something brand new, write everyday, meditate or find times in the day to be totally silent. Spend time each day doing those things that you are passionate about. Remember to breath, both literally and figuratively!
Lesley Cordero is President of Cordero Consulting offering personal growth solutions in the form of workshops, keynote presentations, and Internet information resources. Subscribe to her free ezine "Deep Linking" at http://www.LesleyCordero.com and begin to connect with what is really important in your life. Are you ready to 'see things differently?'?