Stress and anxiety let you know you are not in balance. Addressing their message lets you harness their power, enriching your life in ways that put you back in control.
Left unchecked, stress compounds upon itself, and ignoring it can result in physical symptoms, from a headache to a heart attack. By taking the steps to understand the messages of your stress, you can learn how to make them work for you.
The Reason for Stress
Stress is based on the Flight or Fight impulse. This inbuilt response increases adrenalin, sharpens the senses and provides energy and alertness to escape threatening situations. Its purpose is to promote your survival.
Originally this impulse helped people escape from the threat of wild animals. As societies evolved, the threats changed. Modern day ‘threats’ are more psychological than physical. They include things such as divorce, overcrowded trains and financial worries.
So, what you have is an inbuilt impulse designed to protect you, but it only offers two ways to respond; Flight or Fight. With modern day threats, you can rarely do either, so the pressure you feel is effectively a build up of adrenalin and energy that is unreleased because there is no suitable inbuilt response to your situation.
Exercise or meditation can help but the effects can be temporary if they do not address the ‘threat’ that led to this response in the first place. Continuing to ignore this threat leads to psychological denial and this can lead to problems such as road rage, high blood pressure and over-eating.
The Language of your Body
Panic attacks, acne, and insomnia are some more ways stress appears in your body. They are signs that there has been a build-up of unreleased pressure over a period of time. Training yourself to notice fluctuations in your body’s messaging system helps you to catch stress before it impacts your body. Consciously make the effort to recognize when your body is calm and when it is stressed. Focus on your body and notice how it feels at various points throughout the day. Notice your head, your stomach, areas of tension, and your breathing. Aim to become familiar with the changing state of your body in different situations. With practice, you can tell when changes occur, and the thoughts that caused them.
Recognize the Alert
Stress represents imbalance. Not all imbalances are bad and fluctuations are vital. You need some stress playing rugby or when rushing to catch a train. But if you feel out of control or frozen as your debt grows, then your stress levels are negatively imbalanced.
Establish if the imbalance you are feeling is appropriate to your situation. An easy way to do this is to observe your behaviour.
If you have clear focus and your actions are in harmony with your goal, then your stress is working with you. The adrenalin being produced is finding a suitable outlet.
If you are irritable, angry or teary, if your thoughts are confused or spiralling into pessimism, if you are taking things out on someone else, then your stress is asking you to understand the nature of the threat.
Identify the Threat
Mark is a good salesman but suffers greatly from stress in his job. He used to dismiss this ‘work pressure’ but now, he pays attention to the stress signals arriving in his body. He discovers this occurs when something reminds him about the monthly performance review.
He realizes he is living with a fear of losing his job. This fear gives him the drive to excel at his job, but it also makes him miserable.
Sometimes you will find the hidden message quite easily. Sometimes this step is the hardest because the conflict caused by the Flight/Fight response can be immobilizing.
Implement an Appropriate Response
To neutralize his stress, Mark must neutralize his fear of losing his job. Logic may help. He may realise his savings will support him, or he may decide to learn new skills to increase demand for his services. He will know logic has worked when he can think about his threat without experiencing a stress response.
When logic does not help, an emotional blind spot could be present.
Mark may have an underlying belief that he MUST provide for his family or be labelled a ‘loser’. Such a belief contains a level of stress that is integrated into his identity and lies just outside conscious awareness. It prevents Mark from seeing his options. Even worse, this belief spreads its hidden stress to other areas in his life; showing up in his relationship with his wife for example.
As blind spots are so integrated into identity, it can be difficult to have enough detachment to isolate and identify them on your own. Additionally, if you suspect that your blind spot is due to a sensitive or traumatic incident in your past, be cautious if dealing with this alone. The emotional release may contain layers that could overwhelm you. For these reasons, it can be prudent to find a therapist to help you.
Once the blind spot is identified, one of the most effective ways of neutralizing it is through EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques). EFT realigns the disruption stress creates in your body. It works on similar principles to acupuncture but there are no needles. Essentially, it involves gently tapping a few meridian points on your body while you are emotionally tuned in to the problem.
If this sounds too easy, it’s because this is a method of re-balance built in to your body the same way as your Flight/Fight threat response system.
Stress is the emotional messenger of your thoughts. By learning to understand the messages within your stress, you can learn to make stress work for you.
By: Rita Luthra Pindoria
Reeta Luthra Pindoria is a Therapist and Peak Performance Coach specialising in lifestyle issues. She uses EFT and NLP as extensively in her work. Her website is at: www.paradoxofreality.com