As humans we all experience stress a little differently from one another. I don’t think it’s realistic, or even possible, to live in a modern world and expect a stress-free life.
So, rather than hoping the world outside will change so you don’t have to deal with stress, instead, our mutual goal is for you to be empowered so you’re better at responding to life’s stressors.
To be sure we’re on the same page before we dive into the 3 Step Formula for Creating a Powerful Shift, let’s revisit where stress comes from.
Stress Responses Are Autonomic
As you may remember, your 2 million year old brain is designed to keep you safe (not happy). The key portion of the brain responsible for protecting you from danger, the amygdala, is like a built-in radar. It’s trained to spot danger around you.
When you put our attention on something that is categorized as dangerous by your internal radar, the brain is sent the “fight or flight” alert. This alert then triggers a series of signals to the body to release hormones into the blood stream and to initiate a series of physiological shut downs and activations throughout the body. These physiological changes create the uncomfortable sensations we label as stress.
When you experience something stressful, it’s not your conscious mind that thinks, “Oh, this is stressful, time to turn off digestion and send that blood to the heart, feet and hands, increase the heart rate, and tighten the muscles”. Nope, it happens so fast you probably don’t even notice all of the changes the body has automatically done to prepare you to fight or flee the situation. Just like you don’t have to tell yourself to get scared of spiders or heights, you just feel scared.
Stress is an automatic and subconscious response to a stimulus. Now let’s look at where it arises from and how it manifests.
Causes & Symptoms of Stress
What stresses you is probably a little, or a lot, different from your friends. Let’s face it; we each have our unique situations and pressures that drive our stress response.
The manifestations in your body and mind may look and feel a lot alike, but a situation that stresses you out may be not stressful at all to your best friend.
…And your stress triggers can arise internally or externally.
External stressors are a bit more obvious and can include; mortgages, flat tires, hectic work schedules and tight deadlines, or the ups and downs of juggling parenting or intimate relationships.
Internal stressors are often less visible. We know they’re there, they’re just a little harder to detect and put our fingers. Internal stressors come from things such as negative self-talk, perfectionism, unrealistic personal ideals, and fears about speaking up, to name a few.
Common symptoms of stress include:
- Emotional: Sadness, loneliness, frustration, anger, irritability or feeling [intensely] overwhelmed.
- Physical: Body aches, headaches, nausea, diarrhea or constipation, muscle tension, trouble breathing, exhaustion, decreased libido, reduced immunity leading to more susceptibility to colds and flus, and in extreme cases, auto immune diseases.
- Behavioral: Lack of motivation, avoidance, insomnia or excessive sleeping, forgetfulness, procrastination, drinking/drug abuse, nervous habits, and increased eating or lack of appetite.
- Mental: Negative thinking, racing thoughts or ruminating, on-going worry, lack of focus, trouble remembering, or making poor choices.
Now that we know where stress comes from and what it can look like, let’s dive into how to create a powerful shift when you feel stressed.
Stuck With An Old Strategy for Managing Stress
As a life coach and hypnotherapist, I work with people every day who come in with dysfunctional and disempowering relationships to stress and anxiety.
If they’re coming to see me, often they’re even more stressed and anxious because what they’re trying just isn’t working. When I’m seeing people, it’s usually years or even decades they’ve been struggling with a lack of effective tools and resources to handle stress.
Sadly, they tell me they haven’t been able to figure out healthy strategies to deal with stress or find a new outlook to approach life (hint: it’s often because they’re on autopilot recreating their past and they don’t realize they’re in it).
Often clients will turn to overeating, over drinking, drugs, avoidance, overwhelm and a number of other unhealthy and ineffective responses to deal with daily stress. Let’s just say stress and anxiety are quickly becoming a common phenomenon. If you feel regularly stressed out or anxious, you’re definitely not alone.
My 3 Steps to Create a Powerful Energy Shift When Stressed
My intention is to give you a simple formula, a repeatable process, you can use to adjust how you are going about responding to your daily stressors. Instead of wishing life wouldn’t be stressful, it’s time to change your approach.
p.s. if you want help implementing any of this in your life, you can always sign up for a free phone consultation to learn how I can help.
Step 1: PAUSE
One of the most important components of being better at responding to stress is being willing to recognize when you’ve been triggered and are experiencing stress in your body…and not allowing yourself to immediately distract, avoid, add momentum to or push aside your emotions. Greater self-awareness is the key to being able to stop, take a moment and pause. This split-second awareness gives you an opportunity to create space between the situation, your autonomic response and how you want to respond. Noticing the common symptoms of stress and taking that moment to pause interrupts your autonomic responses and unhealthy coping mechanisms from kicking in.
Step 2: PRESENT
Next, get present in the moment and drop into your body. Often stressors raise our adrenaline causing us to want to run or move away from the stressor. The body is signaling to us to move, run, get away…just go! Instead, we want to lean into the response we’re experiencing by taking a deep breath, or just be still, reflecting inward (going inside with ourselves) so we can then explore and examine what’s taking place inside. Once we’re focused inward, then we get curious. Asking ourselves things like…” What’s just happened? What’s the story I’m telling myself about this situation – or about myself? Where did this response come from – is it about the past, present or future? Is it a response to a person, place, thing or situation?” When we get present with ourselves we can choose what to do from there now that we have a little more information. Our conscious mind can participate in the outcome now.
Step 3: PIVOT
The final step is to choose and act on an empowered response. This may look different in every situation, including with the same person or situation. What works best today could change so it’s best to have multiple, healthy strategies for handling stressors. I find one of the best ways to pivot is to be open and curious and to feel around for what would feel best for us in that moment. Creating a pivot could include:
- Telling yourself a new story. The story you made up – or your mind made up and you bought in a split second – caused you upset and stress. Start by asking yourself “What else could this mean?” or “Where’s the gift, gold or good in this situation even if I can’t yet fully see it clearly in this moment?” Choosing a positive outlook will lead you to different responses that a negative outlook ever will.
- Creating a physiological pivot could look like taking a few deep breaths, standing up, sitting or lying down, relaxing your shoulders down from your ears, looking up instead of down where negative emotions tend to live, etc. Where are you holding onto the stress in the physical body and what can you do to release it? It might mean letting some of that anger or upset out (without hurting someone else). Allow that emotion to flow through you and let the energy pass instead of shoving it down.
- Creating a new focus. Telling yourself something like “I don’t have to think about this right now” or recognizing you’re ruminating or worrying about something in the future and deciding to do something about it, or shifting back to the present, putting your attention on something else here and now.
- Common physical activities you probably already know about such as going for a walk, taking a bath, leaving the situation, giving ourselves a hug or pat on the back, or any number of self-nurturing strategies are also possible. Stress creates inner resistance in the body so movement is often helpful to shake it off, burn it off or settle the energy down. My clients are taught to write out a list of 10 – 20 things they can do instead so when they’re triggered they already have a nice list to choose from.
There you have it. My suggested steps for better managing stress. Just 3 things to remember and practice each day: PAUSE, get PRESENT, and then PIVOT.
I say practice because creating a new response to stress will take practice in the beginning. It’s like learning a new language. You’ve forgotten that you learned one way for how to respond to stress and are now on autopilot – running an old program. A long time ago you came up with a winning formula for responding to stress and you’re just running that old program.
Just imagine yourself practicing these strategies and learning new ways of responding to stressors in life.
I believe in you. You can do it.
…and as you begin practice this…and act like your life depends on it…soon you will have a more empowered response to stress. It will be your new normal.
Stress, Anxiety and Hypnotherapy
I believe many of you will take me up on my invitation to take this into your life and begin practicing now. For some of you, while I have streamlined a complex process into a simple 3 steps, I realize you may need or want additional support.
That’s where hypnotherapy is such a powerful and helpful tool for if you want more rapid results when you have tried on your own and just haven’t been successful.
A New Approach
Negative thinking patterns and what you identify as “stressful” is deeply ingrained in your subconscious mind. When you realize your stress responses and negative thinking are not something you consciously control, you recognize there’s underlying work you need to do if you want a better outcome.
I believe most of us would like to be better at responding to life’s upsetting moments.
And, even more so I know we all want to see the world in new ways that have formerly stress-producing situations and people who stress us out not trigger us…or at least a lot less.
Good news…both are possible.
Where the problem arises, for most people who haven’t yet learned to see the world with an open mind or optimistic outlook, is that over their lifetime they’ve conditioned their mind to revert to negative thinking patterns. We created limiting beliefs that have us seeing the world through a cloudy lens or see ourselves as less capable than we truly are.
For example, say you have a deadline around the corner…and rather than saying, “It’s ok, I can do this,” …and going into high gear with focused attention your mind screams, “Oh heck, I can’t possibly get this done. I’m toast!”
Stress is the result of a disempowering story you made up in your mind a long time ago and reinforced over and over and over. You’ve got to break the pattern and create a new association and response.
Stress and Your Health
There’s even research to that proves negative thinking creates stress. According to The Mayo Clinic, positive thinkers experience much lower levels of stress and anxiety. And in today’s modern world, stress has become the leading cause of a long list of illness, disease and early onset death.
How is that?! Simple Actually.
Positive thinking empowers you to have an open mind and curiosity about life, people and situations. Plus, you’re better adjusted to navigate through stressful situations when you have an optimistic outlook. Positive people believe in themselves and in things working out for them in the end.
When you’re not trapped by dogma, limiting beliefs and unhealthy expectations, you adjust to life’s events and keep moving forward. You can go with the flow. And when you imagine a river current going downstream, there’s no resistance. Our inner resistance to the flow is stress.
Stress vs Anxiety – So How Are They Different
Our stress response is related to the same fight, flight, or freeze response as an anxiety response. Even the physical symptoms and sensations of anxiety and stress may be similar.
Where these two differ is in that their causes and duration.
Your stress response generally comes from external situations that arise from outside of you. When you experience stress, you usually know what you’re stressed about.
Stress and anxiety also differ in duration. The symptoms of stress typically disappear after the stressful situation is over. For anxiety, the symptoms (negative thoughts) persist.
Anxiety can also seem elusive, vague or hard to pin down. Anxiety is a fear or worry about things that could threaten us in the future. For some the anxiety is so deep and beyond our conscious mind we aren’t quite sure what’s causing it. It’s just there. We can also experience anxiety about stress or even being anxious about our anxiety itself.
I want you to remember anxiety is your body’s normal response to trouble or danger, it’s completely normal, functional, and necessary for your survival. It becomes a problem when your response is too severe, happens too often or is out of proportion given the amount of real danger. It’s also disempowering when it interferes with your daily life.
Yes, anxiety is uncomfortable, but it’s not dangerous!
The Subconscious Mind Is Responsible for Your Anxiety
Your mind is powerful, complex and the best super computer on earth. Here’s the rub: The critical thinking mind you think is you – your conscious, rational mind –isn’t often in control of your behavior. The rational mind takes a back seat to the subconscious most of your day.
The subconscious mind informs and influences much of your behaviors. Let me explain…when you feel cold, your body reacts to the stimuli taken in from your five senses. Say there’s a cold breeze blowing.
That stimulus signals the brain to search for meaning – to identify and associate the sensation with something it’s experienced in the past. Thus, we don’t consciously think: “I feel cold.” Nope, that thought is created automatically. The subconscious mind searches the database of experiences based on your entire life experience – i.e. what you learned, lived and know from your past experiences with cold or breezes.
See how it works?
When stress or anxiety is your programmed response, it’s a lot like that automatic feeling of cold. We experience a stimulus – say, a family or work situation – that triggers an automatic response, the fear, panic and ultimately anxiety program take over. Click, whirl…on autopilot you go.
The underlying worries, fears or memories – the root causes of your anxiety – still exist.
With hypnosis, you can begin to remove the information in your subconscious that’s telling you to feel fear and panic in certain situations. You learn to reframe your past learning with new understandings about yourself, the world and others. When you think differently and recondition it in your mind and body, you’ll begin to run a new program.
How Does Hypnotherapy Help Anxiety?
Because anxiety is an autonomic response that lives in the recesses of our subconscious mind, it’s often tricky to treat with conscious thought or talk therapy.
Hypnotherapy is a wonderful process that empowers people to examine and explore their subconscious thoughts, memories and beliefs that lead to the resulting anxiety. Working with clients, we work with their subconscious mind in hypnosis to reframe and then release these automatic responses.
My goal with hypnotherapy is to work with clients to replace what was stored in the subconscious with new, empowering thoughts, ideas and pictures that allow them to see, hear and feel situations differently. When you perceive yourself and the world differently, the anxiety doesn’t even arise.
Through hypnotherapy, I can also train you to gain greater emotional mastery and a new response to previously triggering and stressful situations.
In the end, the result is a conscious and subconscious mind in harmony, aligned in thought and execution. Your actual response or behavior matches your desired response.
Persistent stress and anxiety are not in keeping with our birthright of wellbeing. We can and deserve to live our best lives. You’ll only know for sure how good life can be if you’re willing to do something to get started.
Take the first step now…and sign up for your free phone consultation today.