Freedom from Stress
Modern life is filled with deadlines, expectations of doing more for less money, paying more for less quality in the products and services that we purchase, increasing costs of living that are not in step with our income, increasing crime, escalating threat of war globally, declining health, and so many other concerns that add to the existing complexities of daily life that are already present in our personal life, home life, and the workplace. If asked, most people would admit to experiencing “stress” on a regular basis that does have an effect on their relationships, their job, their well-being, and their sleep.
The human body responds physiologically to real or perceived danger in exactly the same way. We are “hard-wired” with mental triggers that enter our brain through the 5 senses, to immediately activate the “fight or flight” mechanism that in some scenarios, can literally save our life. The body cannot distinguish between direct, imminent attack by a predator (the saber-toothed tiger) or a perceived threat of danger that is generated solely by our thoughts (how am I going to pay the rent this month, what if my boss fires me, will my wife cheat on me when she goes on a business conference, how will I pay for my kids’ college, what will happen to me when I am old, etc.).
Some of us may have experienced a rare event in our lifetime where our life was actually in danger or threatened by someone or something. Some people live in a worn-torn area where this is a more frequent occurrence. Most of us, have never had our life directly threatened in any way. There are many professions where threats or protecting others from real danger or an emergent health issue requiring speed and skill, are a daily occurrence (military personnel, policemen, fire-fighters, paramedics, emergency medicine personnel, and many other professions). We all experience challenges that we interpret as stress that automatically activates this cascade of hormones and chemicals within the body that causes chemical changes that are harmful to our health and well-being. When the stress is chronic, our health begins to decline predictably with poor sleep, fatigue, weight gain, development of diabetes, cancers, and many other health problems.
What can I do to manage my stress?
Firstly, you must realize that unless you are being directly attacked or in a life-threatening situation, it is your own thoughts and perceptions that are creating the trigger that activates the physical and emotional symptoms. Whatever is going on in the world around you (and there is always a LOT going on), simply recognizing that you do not have to identify with it and react to the “content” of life around you, can allow you the space to assess your situation.
Take a couple of deep breaths, exhaling slowly after each breath.
Now, ask yourself… “Where do I think these feelings are coming from?”
If you think that external circumstances around you are “making” or “causing” you to have stress, these thoughts will set the fight or flight cascade in motion and contaminate your thoughts. Negative thoughts and energy will attract more of the same.
The only way that life really works, is from the inside-out.
What this means is that all we are EVER experiencing is thought in the moment, which will generate a feeling attached to it. If we give our attention to the negativity around us, react to it, and create even more negative thoughts about those events, the body will respond by activating the fight-or flight mechanism, generating even more negative thought. This negative feedback loop can keep us in that state of stress for minutes, hours, days, or years, depending on where we allow our thoughts to go.
Once you realize that your reactions and feelings are created by thought in the moment, you can choose how to act. If you are in real danger, you won’t have to think about it….you will get out of harm’s way. This is an instinct. If you can do something immediately about the issue and are safe, you can calmly choose a course of action, by either engaging calmly, not reacting to the behavior of the person or event, or choosing to withdraw yourself calmly. If you are facing something that you cannot possibly change at this moment (someone cutting you off in traffic, your boss yelling at you, etc), accept the present moment for what it is, without allowing the negative event to dominate your thoughts and feelings. Become the observer without allowing the behavior of others to harm you. The most important thing is to protect your well-being.
Just remember, thoughts are random and constantly changing. The brain never turns off, in the same way that gravity never turns off. Your thoughts will quickly change to another and another if you do not give the negative thoughts coming at you, any further attention, energy, or focus. You can begin to observe life and its many forms swirling frenetically around you without participating.
If positive events are surrounding you, you can give these thoughts your attention if you choose. The space between those positive thoughts will connect you with your deeper self and allow you access to the resilience and innate wisdom that is always there within you.
Being IN this world and not OF this world will bring you freedom from stress.
The only thing standing in your way is your perception of the world. Freedom is only a thought away.