Stress. We all know it. We’ve all felt it, especially these past few months. BUT, what can we really do to help colleagues, our family and ourselves during times of stress? By the end of this article, you’ll have a few practical tools and maybe a new view of how stress really acts in our lives.
First off, what is stress? Stress is a perception that demands are going to exceed our resources. It’s a feeling that we aren’t going to be able to handle what is coming. Or, it’s a threat…real or imagined. Now, when we’re walking down a dark street and someone jumps out at us, that is a real threat (perhaps) and we should absolutely have that fight or flight response. But we’ve all had a situation where we’ve freaked out about the snake just find out it was a garden hose. The fight or flight response is incredibly helpful in ensuring our survival. But today, so much of our stress is that perception of danger. The boss says, “I want to see you first thing Monday morning.” Ack! There goes your weekend and you make up stories as to what she wants. Are you in trouble? Are you getting fired? Did she find out I’ve been taking post it notes and pens home? Sure this situation may lead to something negative (or not, we don’t know) but is it fight or flight worthy? Not really. As you find yourself having a strong reaction to something ask yourself is it fight or flight worthy? Often not. It’s about training ourselves to recognize our reactions, responses and behavior and making a conscious choice and effort to make changes.
Now, right now, I want you to stop reading this article. Well, in a second. Right now, I want you to take a deep inhale and exhale and then come back to reading…I’ll wait. Great, that might have been the first conscious breath you took today. What that breath does is anchor us back in our body, signal to our brain that we are okay so it stops the stress response and triggers a relaxation. It also allows us to take a pause. And in that pause, there is power. It allows us to decide whether we are going to respond to something or react to something. And isn’t it the reactions that get us in trouble? That pause is power and it’s one of the most important things you can do. Now, I want you to do that breath again, but this time really observe the breath. See if you can notice where the inhale starts and stops, and there’s a little pause before the exhale starts and stops. You’ll notice when you do that that you slow down. Go ahead and take a second to close your eyes and do that slower, more focused breath. The breath is more intentional and again, stops that flight or fight. If you have no time to do anything else during a stressful situation, this will be enough to help you relax and regain control.
Let’s talk about the here and now for a second before the next technique. So, the key to this stress reduction thing is that stress isn’t the problem. WHAT!? I know, it sounds crazy. But it’s really not the problem. The reason it’s not the problem is that you can’t control the stress. It’s some outside thing. We only have control over our thoughts and responses to that thing. This is where the breath work and the other techniques help. It gives the power back to us to make a different choice about how we respond to the things that are thrown at us.
The other technique is the mini meditation. This is one of my favorite techniques and I’ve taught it around the world. So, do that breath again and this time on the inhale think, “I am.” And on the exhale think, “at peace.” And repeat over and over. If other thoughts intrude, dismiss them without judgment and return to the breath and the mantra. This can be done anytime, anywhere by anybody!! Including you. And as Type A as I am? If I can do it, I know YOU can.
I hope you find this info helpful. Please reach out if I can be of any assistance to your organization or team if you’d like to grab a copy of one of my books. You don’t have to do this alone!
www.KathyGruver.com or www.KathyGruver.coach
Written by Dr. Kathy Gruver, our March 2021 Seminar Presenter