Dealing With Stress

What are some ways of dealing with stress?

We can define stress as the way that our body reacts to a stimulus. The stimulus can be physical, or it can be mental (through our thoughts).

Our bodies need the mechanism of stress in order for the human species to survive. Back in time (and simply put), if you were attacked by an animal in the wild you would need to react to it so that you wouldn't die.

Therefore, the stimulus (the attack from the wild animal) would generate a response of stress in the body which would translate as to fight or to run away (the fight or flight response).

Many people nowadays live in environments that constitute little threat for their physical bodies. However, we still get a lot of stress from our thoughts alone.

For instance, you may be taking a shower and at the same time thinking of what you're going to do afterwards. Those thoughts are causing a certain type of tension in the body, mainly because you cannot do anything else while you are taking a shower.

The same thing happens when you worry about something. Worrying means that you are thinking about the future in a way that feels bad. The stress here is created because you're imaging something that feels unpleasant, and you cannot do anything about it because you cannot deal with the future. You can only deal with the present moment.

The problem with the stress caused by our thoughts is that we can seldom take any action (there is no fight or flight response involved), and the stress response gets stored in our bodies, causing prolonged tension and physical illness.

Dealing with stress at a mental level

Dealing with stress at the thought level is the first step to relax. I love Byron Katie's way of doing that: her method consists in four questions, of which the first two are asking "Is it true?", and "Can I absolutely know that it's true?" to any thought.

As you follow Byron Katie's process, you will find that you cannot tell if a thought is absolutely true. When you take the 'trueness' away from the thought, it loses weight.

You can choose to challenge any thought that feels painful, whether by questioning it or by staying with it. When you take the time to be still and to really look at any thought that causes pain, the thought starts to subside.

Other ways of dealing with stress

Sometimes, when you have repetitive thoughts that make you feel bad (for instance, "I'm not good enough") and which cause a large deal of stress, you may not be able to deal with them at a thought level.

This is, you may notice that no other thought serves you in the moment to counteract the stressful thought and to relax. This is specially true if, more than with just a thought, you're dealing with an ingrained belief.

I have certainly found myself in many situations in which this was the case. My solution? At those moments, the only thing that really helped me to eliminate all stress was to fully let go.

Because the stress response gets stored in our bodies, you can also use your body to let go of tension and relax. Many therapies, such as the Alexander technique, focus on releasing the energy stuck in our bodies and they help to undo painful beliefs at the thought level.

Even moving your body through a different physical environment can help in a given moment to let go of stress - simply going for a walk or a run already puts your mind in a different, more relaxed state.

Follow this link to find affirmations to help you deal with stress.

"Stress is basically a disconnection from the earth, a forgetting of the breath. Stress is an ignorant state. It believes that everything is an emergency. Nothing is that important. Just lie down."

Natalie Goldberg

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