Stress is something that we all experience from time to time. It’s a part of being human. However, in today’s modern world it can be all too easy for feeling stressed to become the norm. Our lives our busy, we are constantly stimulated, and many of us can feel pressured to keep working harder, do more, or respond to every little thing that calls out for our attention.
When this starts to happen, the stress response in our bodies starts to go off as a way of telling us to slow down, be quiet, and take a moment to breathe.
When we ignore that voice, we can get into trouble.
What exactly is stress, and why does it happen?
Stress is our body’s way of keeping us safe.
The stress response developed back in primal times as a way of keeping us away from danger. When our bodies noticed that we were faced with a life or death situation, such as being chased by a bear, it would signal the stress response in our bodies. When the stress response was triggered, our adrenaline would spike up so that we were able to run faster, fight harder, and have a better chance of survival.
The problem is that we no longer live in a world where we are faced with this type of dangerous situation, but our bodies continue to fight everyday stressors in the same way.
When it comes down to it, stress is just trying to keep us safe. It is not our enemy or something that is working against us. It is our body’s way of making sure that we are out of harm’s way.
Knowing this, we can start to recognize that the best way to keep stress at bay is by showing our bodies that we are safe.
The first thing that we should do when we feel stressed is to give a voice to how we are feeling. Say, “I feel __________.” (Fill in the blank with a word to describe how you feel).
It sounds so simple, but it really works!
Most of us respond to stress in the opposite way… we hide from it, ignore it, try to numb it out, or keep going despite of it, pretending that everything is fine.
The problem with doing that is that when we ignore our body’s stress signals, they continue getting louder. They are trying to keep us safe so the stress response keeps getting stronger until we feel so stressed out that we can’t ignore it.
On the other hand, if we start to recognize our body’s stress response quickly and give voice to it right away, it starts to quiet down.
Why is saying how we feel the first step to managing stress?
1) It gives us permission to feel whatever it is that we are feeling. When we state our feelings out loud and acknowledge them, we immediately feel seen, heard, and understood. We stop making ourselves wrong for not being happy-go-lucky all the time and give ourselves permission to feel human. The simple act of giving ourselves permission to feel our feelings helps to validate them, and as a result, we start to feel better.
2) It empowers us to do something about it! Once we have recognized how we are feeling by stating it out loud, we are put back in the driver’s seat of our lives. By voicing how we feel, we take responsibility for our life experience. We recognize that we are capable of changing how we feel and we are empowered to do something to feel better!
Next time that you notice that you are feeling stressed out or overwhelmed, try it for yourself! Stop whatever you are doing and take a moment to say how you are feeling. Say, “I feel __________.” (And insert a word to describe how you feel; i.e. stressed out, anxious, overwhelmed). Notice what happens next. Do you feel better now that you got that off your chest? Are you now thinking of the next steps that you can take to feel better?
Getting into action and doing something that makes you feel better is the second step toward relieving stress, but it always has to start with acknowledging how you feel first!
Yesterday I lead a workshop on using meditation & mindfulness to relieve stress. I taught 11 different meditations, breathing exercises, and mindfulness practices to relieve stress and anxiety in just minutes. If you want to learn some simple, practical, and doable steps to take to stop feeling stressed, you can still sign up! Just sign up for the workshop here, and you will receive immediate access to the recording, + a printable worksheet of all of the different exercises that we covered.
I hope that you find this helpful!
Wishing you a stress-free week ahead!