Stress, Who Me?
Stress, Who Me?
We are in March now, the daffodils and crocuses are pushing through the earth in all their glory, giving us a feeling of Spring just being around the corner. Next time you are in a park or green space look out for the flowers, stop take a breath and admire their simple beauty. This is a perfect example of present moment awareness, simple as it sounds, by bringing our attention to inspiring things outside of ourselves it becomes the best way to manage stress. If we can understand that wherever we put our focus it will grow and expand, so deliberately choosing to put our focus on nature, children, anything that brings us joy, will be a powerful step towards generating healthy emotional and psychological well-being.
The uncanny thing about stress is that it is accumulative. It starts as little bubbles of anxiety, a feeling of overwhelm and left to its own devises it will grow exponentially unless we make a deliberate choice to ease it. The secret is to become aware of when we are feeling stressed, to recognise the early stages, that way we can soothe ourselves out of it and avoid an escalation. As soon as we begin to feel that everything is just too much, we can’t cope, feel on edge and anxious, that is the time to redirect our focus. Stop what you are doing, if you can go out and preferably in nature do so, if you can stretch, breathe, and do some on the spot exercise do so, whatever it takes to make you feel good. It is all about taking charge of your emotional and psychological state, even taking this first step to being pro-active will make you feel better. Take charge of the stress before it takes charge of you!
Just to confuse matters there is also “good stress,” or what psychologists refer to as Eustress, it’s the type of stress we feel when we are excited. Our pulse quickens and our hormones surge, but there is no threat or fear. We feel this type of stress when we ride a roller coaster, compete for a promotion, or go on a first date. There are many triggers for this good stress, and it keeps us feeling alive and excited about life.
So how can we tell the difference? It’s basically the difference between a positive or a negative emotion. The release of hormones that occur when we are negatively stressed activate the fight or flight part of our brain. This is an ancient part of the brain that is there to protect us from danger, however in our daily lives thankfully we are not about to be attacked by a saber-toothed tiger or normally have to physically fight to survive. However, our body does not recognise the difference, so as the stress accumulates the body is preparing itself to fight or flee. A surge of stress hormones trigger the activation of the fight or flight mode and as this starts to happen the rational part of the brain begins to shut down. Is it any wonder that we feel that we can’t cope or perform the simplest of tasks?
The positive stress on the other hand makes us feel elated, we have butterflies in our stomach, we may have shortness of breath and a hypersensitivity to our surroundings, but it is a positive excitement. We often feel this Eustress when we are stepping out of our comfort zone, challenging ourselves in some way, this is the stress that makes us feel truly alive.
The key here is to learn about yourself and recognise how you are feeling. Take a moment step back and ask yourself how am I feeling, what is going on with me. Is this a good stress and can I enjoy this sense of exhilaration or is this a negative stress that I need to catch early and re-divert my attention from? If in doubt distract yourself with physical movement, appreciation of the things you enjoy and promote a sense of taking charge. This way you win either way.
Take time to understand yourself, become more pro-active in how you deal with your stress and most important of all make sure that you are kind and loving towards yourself. Gently does it wins the race.