It's all about resiliency: Handle it!
This is the third in a series of articles discussing various aspects of stress and how we can learn to bounce back from stressful occurrences.
Knowledge is power but only if we use it to change
In last month’s article "It’s all about resiliency: Cultivate it!" I highlighted what happens when stress levels are high. This month’s article focuses on ways we can handle stress, even transform it into something that supports us.
Rarely are we taught ways in which we can transform or even prevent stressful situations. We’re just expected to "deal with it" and get on with our lives.
That attitude doesn’t take into account the role our thoughts play in sustaining the effects of stress long after the stressor (the trigger) is gone from our lives. It doesn’t take into account that we’ve never been taught how we can become masters of our emotions. Until we do, stress will continue to overwhelm us.
In the first article "It’s all about resiliency: Change!" I gave helpful tip number one: start with making a personal list of the people, activities, and places that nourish your body, mind and soul. Things that give you energy rather than drain it. Refer to this list frequently.
Another important tip is to start identifying what people, activities and places drain your energy. That cause a stressful reaction in you. Forewarned is forearmed as the saying goes.
Write these things down, preferably in a journal. It will become a work in progress because as one stressful trigger is resolved then another will pop up to take its place. You are aware by now that stress isn’t something we can avoid, aren’t you? It is imperative to your health that you learn to handle it. To transform it. To bounce back from it.
Analyse your energy draining list. Can you avoid any of the people, activities or places?
› If you can, do so.
› If you can’t, then you either need to:
- prepare yourself better for these situations,
- address the underlying issues causing the stressful reactions,
- or change your perspective
(more about that in another article)
Once you start to recognise what your triggers are, start becoming aware (mindful) of where you feel it in your body:
› Does your stomach clench?
› Do you get butterflies?
› Do your jaw muscles tighten?
› Perhaps a stiff neck?
› Back aches?
› A tic in a muscle or an eyelid?
› Sweaty palms?
› Flushed cheeks?
› A rapid heartbeat?
Whatever it is, get to know the first signal that appears!
This can also be related to context. One symptom may occur in a certain situation and something else in another. It’s about getting to know yourself. Not a bad idea, right?
In the evening reflect back on your day. If there were any tense or stressful moments make a note of them and how you reacted. Ask yourself supportive questions about your reactions.
Supportive questions usually start with what:
› What could I have done differently?
› What did I feel?
› How could I have responded?
› When this happened what need of mine wasn’t being met?
Rarely do supportive questions start with why:
› Why did this happen?
› Why did he say that?
› Why didn’t she smile back at me?
Questions that start with "why" often keep us in a victim role.
Write your reflections down, preferably in a journal. I’m a great fan of journaling. The written word is very powerful. In this high tech age, the inclination will be to use your iPad or smart phone. If that’s your choice, then go with it. However, you will be more selective with the words you choose when you write with the hand.
What should you do tomorrow? Go buy yourself a beautiful journal to write in. Treat yourself. Buy a journal that "speaks to you" so that you will be enticed to write it in. As Aristotle said: "Know Thyself."
In next month’s article I’ll focus on a specific technique you can use anywhere, anytime to reduce, relieve, release a stress reaction.